Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Treadmill: The 1% Incline Debate



Now that it’s winter, more of us are using and blogging about running on treadmills. Inevitably, well-meaning readers will remind everyone that the incline should be set at 1% in order to more closely mimic the outdoor effort. Heck, back in 1996 the National Center For Biotechnology Information disseminated a study stating just that. I must admit that I was initially a proponent of the incline, since much of what I had read seemed to support it. However, after a while, I started having more trouble with my feet, feeling plantar fasciitis-like effects and similar discomfort. Turns out that the incline may have been the culprit.

So who’s right? Incline or no incline? What’s the answer for an average runner like myself?

Researchers at the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom wondered the same thing 15 years ago, so they tested a group of trained runners on treadmills and an outdoor track, measuring their signs of exertion. "The energy cost of running outdoors is always greater than running indoors whatever the pace," says Jonathan Doust, Ph.D., one of the study's authors. "The faster you run the greater the effect."

This is most clearly seen in the tactics of races like the Tour de France, where the peloton saves energy by sharing the cost of breaking the wind. "At the slower speeds of running the effect of air resistance is much less, but still measurable," Doust says. For instance, running at a pace of 6:00/mile outdoors will add 5 percent to the total energy cost due to wind resistance. This would show up as roughly five extra beats per minute on that runner's heart rate.

The study's final verdict? At paces slower than 8 mph (7:30/mile pace), no adjustment is necessary. "The difference is so small as to be meaningless," says Doust. Between 8 mph and 11.2 mph (5:21 pace), a 1 percent treadmill grade provides the right adjustment. At higher speeds you will need at least a 2 percent grade to offset the lack of wind resistance. Don't worry if you choose to ignore your well-meaning friend's advice. You'll simply run at a slightly faster pace than you could outside with less effort. Consider it a confidence boost.

Sources:

14 comments:

  1. So any connection to the trouble in your feet?

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  2. No problems since I stopped setting the 1%. Hill repeats don't seem to be a problem either.

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  3. I like this study. I never boost up the incline on the treadmill unless I am doing hill work. Seems pointless to me. If you were running on an indoor track for winter training then it would be flat, so why should we raise up the incline on the treadmill?

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  4. Interesting study, if I ever have to run on a treadmill will keep it in mind!

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  5. That is very interesting. I found myself the other day running on the treadnill and forgot to ser the incline to 1% but I was running a 9:13/mi pace. I will say that it felt much better than other runs on the TM that were slower than 7:30/mi and at the 1% incline.

    Thanks for the info.

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  6. I randomly switch between 0-2% just to have something to do and in an attempt mimic actual outside running.

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  7. I quit bumping up the incline. Ifound that it affected my hip. As long as I dont incline my hip is fine. But even when I'm outside running alot of hill, my hip bothers me after wards for a couple of day. NO Incline for this girl.

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  8. I've always ignored the 1% incline thing. I don't feel like I run on the treadmill enough for it to matter, and whenever I've tried the 1% incline, I have a much more unhappy run. My running happiness isn't worth that.

    So, my solution is to make sure that I don't run on the treadmill more than 1x per week (sometimes I'll do 2x in a weather pinch, such as a blizzard), and to use Cardio Coach (http://www.cardio-coach.com/) to challenge myself and get a great workout in.

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  9. I only use the treadmill when I absolutely must, which these days isn't often (thankfull). So--since I use it so infrequently, I don't worry about the incline too much. Maybe I should, though!

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  10. Interesting stuff, when I run in the gym on the treadmill I generally put the treadmill at 1%, believing that I should put it there to mimic the wind resistance just like the article said. I guess leaving it at 0% it almost feels like I'm running downhill or something. Maybe I'll cut the difference and choose .5% or something from now on.

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  11. Interesting. The way I see it, my 1% doesn't seem to be hurting me so I think I'll stick with it because whatever I'm doing on the TM, when I run 8 min mile pace on there and then hit the road, a 7:45 feels easy. I like the transfer from TM to road. But thanks for the info. I'll have to pass this along.

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  12. But I switch between -3% and +3% to mimic hills in the outdoors. And Boston will have lots of hills. Unfortunately, a lot of my running is on the TM due to having small children and not a lot of time to get outside. Optimal training time means TM time.

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  13. Interesting. I hadn't heard about a link between the incline and increased problems. I rarely run on the TM, but when I do, I leave it flat. I run plenty of hills outside. :)

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  14. Interesting info. I hate treadmill, but I am doing it because I know how good it is for fat loss. TV is the only thing that saves me from get bored to death while running. I was also suffering from the lack of endurance, but after I've started taking Navy Seal Formula (by MGNutritionals) I was getting extreme results! Now I'm running on a treadmill not less than 15-20 min before my basic workout, and feel top notch!

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Leave a comment, tell me what you are thinking!

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