Do Treadmills Have a Place in My Training?
Whether you are a slave to the treadmill or view it as a torture device (aka the “dreadmill”) it is important to recognize that it does have a place in effective training. One of the most common questions we get as coaches is “Is it okay to run on the treadmill?” While our answer is, “yes,” It is a little more complicated than a simple yes. We want to address when the treadmill is not appropriate and when can it be used effectively in your training.
First, the treadmill was never intended to be the home of all of your training runs or workouts. Most of us are not training for a treadmill world record so we believe it is important to train on the surfaces you will be racing on and also be willing to change up our surfaces. Secondly, the treadmill reduces the amount of natural push off you are applying into the ground as it is doing some of it for you. Next, when trying to develop pace sensitivity, the treadmill kind of allows you to “cheat the system.” You get to learn to lock in but you are not setting that pace yourself. Lastly, if you are running on the treadmill all the time you are not improving at adapting in conditions. Race day is not always going to be still weather, 55 degrees and slightly overcast. We must know how to run in rain, wind, heat and the cold.
On the flip side, treadmills do have their purpose. Extreme weather conditions is obviously where coaches say “go ahead” jump on the treadmill. Extreme lows and highs that alter your safety and health while running are the obvious times to hop on the treadmill. In unfamiliar locations, dangerous times of day or in unrunable areas the treadmill has its place.
Now if you enjoy running on the treadmill, go for it but that should not be the only way you train. Here are some things to consider if you do choose to run on the treadmill.
Do your “quality days” on the roads, trails, track or whatever surface you are racing on.
When running on the treadmill make sure to change up the incline. It should be at 0.5-1% at all times to make it similar to running outside due to surface deflection on treadmill impact.
Change up the pace a bit. Even if it is an easy run. Let’s say you are running 10mph on the treadmill change it up between 9.8 and 10.2 MPH. We are rarely ever running the exact same pace during a run on a treadmill it should be the same.