This morning I was tired, it was 31 degrees, and I just didn’t feel like getting bundled up to run outside. Plus, I’m trying to finish a DVD that’s due at the library today (“Knight and Day” – seen it? Goofy, over-the-top - all in all, pretty enjoyable.) So I hopped on the treadmill. It’s the first day of many as we move into winter weather. Though I love getting outside, sometimes it’s just too dark and cold and wet and windy and I just don’t feel like it. Treadmill to the rescue.
Some runners consider treadmill running a lesser substitute for running outdoors. Going nowhere on a machine is not their first choice. It is only done when outdoor running is impractical. Some runners even refuse to run on a treadmill--dismissing the activity as not "real" running. Other runners view the treadmill for favorably.
There are Pros and Cons to Treadmill Running.
- Treadmills are convenient.
- One of the great things about running is that you can do it almost anywhere, anytime. But there are situations in which outdoor running is impractical and treadmill running is preferable. For example, if you often run before the sun comes up, a treadmill can spare you from having to run in the dark. If the sidewalks get icy in the winter in your area, a treadmill can spare you from a nasty fall.
- Treadmills facilitate controlled and precise workouts.
- Even when you can run outdoors, running on a treadmill may be preferable in certain circumstances. For example, if you want to practice running at your goal pace before an upcoming race, you can take advantage of your ability to dial in a precise pace on the treadmill and use it to get your body and mind accustomed to holding that pace steadily.
- Treadmill running is effective.
- Some treadmill haters argue that treadmill running is easier than running outdoors, hence not as effective. Research has shown that heart rate is slightly lower at any given pace on a treadmill than it is outdoors, but the difference is very slight, and you can counteract it by running at a 1 percent gradient on the treadmill. A recent study, however, shows that the difference between running outdoors and on a treadmill is pretty negligible, unless you run 7:30 minute pace or faster. So the 1% is probably unnecessary for most of us.
- Treadmills are boring.
- There is no denying the fact that, except for those few treadmill junkies, running on the treadmill simply is not as fun as running outside. One can argue that runners need to be willing to put up with a little boredom in their training once in a while, but there is evidence that the tedium of treadmill running could make it slightly less effective than outdoor running.
- Treadmill running lacks physical variation.
- Even for the most diehard treadmill junkie, treadmill running cannot wholly substitute for running outdoors. For example, the maximum speed of most treadmills is 12 mph, which is slower than sprint speed for most runners, making it impossible to perform sprints and very short, very fast intervals on a treadmill. Also, it is impossible to simulate downhill running on most treadmills, so one cannot use a treadmill to prepare for races with extensive downhill sections such as the Boston Marathon.
Whether you love or hate treadmills, for me ours is a go-to when I’m lazy, the weather is inclement, or I really want to watch a movie that’s not appropriate for my kids. At 4:00, when I usually run, the family is usually asleep, so my workouts also don’t take away hubby or daddy time.