I am not a fan of the treadmill (a.k.a. the “dreadmill”).
When I was in high school and law school I had one in my bedroom and used it almost daily. In college, I used the one in my in-building gym, despite living in one of the most beautiful places in the world to run outdoors (Boulder, CO).
But in my post-academic life, any time that I have been in to running, I have been in to running outside.
Following my injury, however, I have been on the treadmill a couple of times per week. A couple of weeks ago, I started working a few outdoor runs back in to my routine. I prefer to run outside, but for now I see some value to running on a treadmill, as well.
So without further ado, I bring you:
Three Reasons Why This Outdoor Runner Has Taken to the Treadmill
My first run back post-injury was on a treadmill. Mainly, I had absolutely no idea how far I would be able to go, and made my attempt while in a gym after finishing a rather extensive warm-up. I ran a half mile and felt good. I didn’t want to push it. The next day I went back and did the same, and two days later I ran a mile.
Running on the treadmill has given me a venue for building my distance gradually. When I take to my favorite outdoor routes, I feel the need to finish the full route. It adds pressure. When recovering, I need to be able to focus on my body and how it is responding to the tasks that I am asking it to perform. When I am unconcerned with covering a particular distance and more concerned with how my body feels after a certain distance, the treadmill is clearly the better choice. I can hop off any time I need to.
Which brings me to point 2:
If I feel an onset of pain when I am two miles away from my apartment, I still have to walk or run the two miles back. If I am on the treadmill, however, I can just get off. But more than that; it doesn’t put an end to my workout. I can move on to something else in the gym. Or stretch. Or rest for a few minutes and then try again.
Running on the treadmill takes that “what if” component out of my workout. If, for whatever reason, I can’t finish it’s okay because I am already home.
3. Speed Training
I have heard other runners talk about how great the treadmill is for speed work. But since my preference has been to train outside, I haven’t used the treadmill as a tool for speed training until recently.
Though it does not simulate race day conditions (because it isn’t on the road, of course), the treadmill has some advantages over the road.
In particular, you can (to some degree) force a pace. If your training plan advises you to hit a particular pace for a particular interval, you just set the treadmill to that number and you have no choice but to keep up. I suppose that you do have another choice, but falling off doesn’t sound like much fun.
On a related note, you can actually see what your pace is at any given minute. When running outdoors with a GPS watch, you only know what your average pace is over the course of a mile. Unless you are doing mile repeats, it is very difficult to determine whether you have hit your goal pace for a particular interval with a distance shorter than one mile. Unless you have invested in a watch that enables you to pre-program your intervals, the treadmill is clearly better for calculating pace during speed work.
So maybe I have come around to the treadmill a little bit.
Though, my preference will always be to be outside and enjoy the day.