I haven’t used a treadmill consistently in over 11 years. Back in high school I used to run on it and loved it, but once I stopped running after falling off my horse and hurting my knee, I never got back to it. I find it really boring, hot, and unchallenging. I’ve never felt like running on a treadmill can firm up your legs as much as the good old outdoors. The treadmill feels softer than pavement, though.
That’s why I decided to change my ways and use it. I asked my PT about it a few months ago and he told me it won’t create the same metabolic burn. But I’ll tell you why it’s working for me these days.
I live crawling distance to an absolutely beautiful trail. It goes alongside a lake, to a mountain, and to the other nearby town. I think you can run 20 miles on it. But there are a few challenges for me on the trail. Most of it is relatively flat, but there are some down and uphill parts. Uphill doesn’t bother me at all, but I didn’t realize just how much of it was slightly downhill. There is enough downhill to feel like it bothers my knee. I only want to run uphill or on flat ground. I know that when you do a race you can’t pick the terrain, but I just want to build my miles on what feels good. My friend did a half marathon on this hill, and her legs were shredded.
Here are the reasons I decided to switch to running on a treadmill for the remainder of my half training.
Speed & incline
In terms of speed, you can’t beat the “set it and forget it” style of running on a treadmill. You really just pick a speed and go. I like not having to look down at my phone and check how fast I’m going. Sometimes I have felt like I was going fast and looked down to see I wasn’t, and vice versa (well, not too often;).
I set the incline to 1 or 1.5% incline. I was reading somewhere that a slight incline can help make treadmill running more like running outside.
Form: sound & mirrors!
When I run on the treadmill I think of the same things I think of outside, “land soft and quiet, take shorter steps, lift from the ankles, lean slightly forward,” I can go on and on. But on a treadmill it’s so much easier for me to hear my steps. You can hear if you are pounding the treadmill like a zombie, and make yourself run more like a gazelle. This is really beneficial to me as my running form has been my biggest challenge on my journey to my half and solving my runner’s knee. I have always been really heavy on my feet.
I’m not one to stare into the mirror or take selfies, but it is so awesome to look in the mirror and correct your form. Sometimes running upright just comes natural, but if I glance in the mirror I can correct it.
Breaks count, as Regina told me months ago. When I run on the trail and hit a downhill, instead of killing my knees and quads, I take a break. When I need water, I stop at the fountain. Too many things get in my way, and I have a hard time running for x amount of miles STRAIGHT when I have enough roadblocks to cause me to walk. When I run on the treadmill, I have a full water bottle with me, and I’m ready to go. It’s easier to keep going. I like having a water bottle on the treadmill and sipping as I get thirsty, instead of waiting until I see the next fountain. There is a couple mile stretch without fountains on the trail and that’s where it always starts to feel like the Sahara desert!
I do own pepper spray, but I would rather not have to use it. I know there are bad guys anywhere and everywhere, but I feel the gym can be safer than the trail. It’s very hot here still.. Monday will have a high of 97!!! In order to run I need to go early. Early mornings are not the safest time to be out on a trail all by yourself. After the two female runners were killed recently–one in Boston and one in NY–I am trying to be more careful.
I do believe running outside is a better workout, but I do think there’s a time and a place for a treadmill.
Do you use one?
Which do you like better?