CLINIC: What to Expect of Your Treadmill

Tue, 6 Dec. 2011 - 1:29 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association


QUESTION:
I have always been curious to know what effect on my training treadmilling has instead of road running. Do factors like surface irregularity, wind, and weather significantly increase outdoor workout benefit? Can I “level the playing field” by running on an inclined treadmill so it more closely matches my exertion on a typical day outside? 
 
Kathy McCarthy
Forest Hills, NY

ANSWER:
To a large extent, it depends what you mean by “typical day.” Factors like humidity and altitude vary significantly from region to region, but assuming you’re running outside comfortable in shorts and a tee shirt, on a flat surface, on a moderate, sunny day without high winds, the treadmill is still a little easier because there's zero wind resistance and a more giving, perfectly flat surface to spring against than you’d find out of doors. The treadmill may make it easier to put one foot in front of the other, too, instead of having to propel yourself forward on the roads. Mentally, it may be a harder workout to complete because you are much more likely to get bored.
 
On the roads you are constantly adapting to surface changes, even if it seems completely flat, and your pace varies constantly. These factors give you the opportunity to work out different muscle fibers in slightly different patterns. On the treadmill, you call upon the same muscle fibers over and over (if you maintain the same speed and incline).
 
Stephen Holt, BSE, CSCS, PES
Lutherville, MD

ANSWER:
Treadmills provide good cushioning and a safe environment to run. I like doing hill workouts on a treadmill because you get the advantages of running uphill without having to deal with the pounding of running downhill. Some research suggests that if you want to get a comparable effect to running outdoors, you should set the treadmill at a 1% grade. You may want to have a fan going in the room to help keep you cool as well. The lack of wind resistance can actually backfire, leaving you uncomfortably overheated.
 
Blair Gorsuch, MD
Peoria, IL
 
(RUNNING & FITNEWS® January / February 2011 • Volume 29, Number 1)
 
DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.
 
The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.

 



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