Advice for treadmill running

Running on a treadmill

The treadmill offers a convenient solution for running when faced with extreme weather conditions, late-night sessions, or the need for elevation training. However, it also alters the biomechanics of running, requiring specific considerations for optimal use. Let’s explore how to make the most of treadmill running with some key recommendations.

I adopted a routine of regular treadmill runs during my time in Boston, where winter temperatures can plummet to as low as -20 degrees Celsius. In the face of sub-zero temperatures, opting for intense indoor running sessions often proves to be the wiser choice.

Contrasts between treadmill and outdoor running

Outdoor running benefits from natural heat dissipation facilitated by the air flow generated as the runner moves. However, when running indoors on a treadmill, the runner essentially remains stationary, leading to less effective heat dissipation. Many treadmills address this by incorporating a fan.

Personally, I activate the fan during active endurance or threshold workouts but keep it off during low-intensity fundamental endurance exercises. For long interval training or endurance, I prefer running on solid ground, as constantly adjusting the treadmill speed can be impractical.

Staying hydrated is crucial indoors, with a recommended intake of 50 to 80 centiliters per hour to counteract dehydration. Always have a water bottle within reach on the treadmill.

Biomechanically, it’s advised to set the treadmill at a slight incline of +0.5%. This subtle slope alters the stride, as outdoor runners aim to propel themselves forward, while treadmill running involves a more vertical stride.

For first-time treadmill runners, starting with approximately thirty minutes and gradually increasing by ten minutes per session is ideal. While treadmill running may feel unnatural initially, adapting typically occurs after 4 to 5 sessions.

Admittedly, running on a treadmill can be monotonous, but listening to music or a podcast proves to be a great distraction, making the time pass more swiftly!

Precision challenges in treadmill speed

Treadmill speed readings are often approximations and may lack precision. While calibration is recommended, it’s a step frequently overlooked in practice. Speed accuracy can vary by around 1km/h, meaning that if you set the treadmill to 12km/h, your actual pace might be closer to 11 or 13km/h. Additionally, each footfall mechanically slows down the treadmill, introducing further variability.

As you spend more time on the treadmill, your body adapts, fine-tuning your stride and increasing your effectiveness on this equipment.

Surprisingly, the treadmill mode on GPS watches doesn’t always guarantee greater accuracy. In this setting, heart rate emerges as the most reliable indicator. It’s worth noting that the relationship between speed and heart rate is influenced by biases, especially since heart rates tend to be higher indoors due to less efficient heat dissipation. More than relying on external metrics, place emphasis on tuning into your own sensations and feelings during your indoor runs.

Trail running on the treadmill: elevation strategies

For city dwellers devoid of hilly landscapes, the treadmill emerges as a valuable tool for incorporating positive elevations into trail running. For an extended workout, consider initiating with a 2% slope and incrementally add 1% every 6 to 10 minutes.

If your treadmill doesn’t automatically adjust speed with the slope, manually decrease the speed as the incline increases. Due to heightened dehydration indoors, it’s advisable to cap your sessions at 1.5 hours.

The only drawback for trail enthusiasts is the inability to simulate negative elevation and practice descents—integral aspects of trail running. To compensate, consider incorporating weight training or jumping exercises at the gym to focus on descent training.

Choosing your fitness equipment

If you’re considering getting a treadmill, the key criteria to look at include the maximum speed, maximum incline, durability (especially if you plan on running on it multiple times a week), and the width of the belt (generally, a wider belt tends to be more stable and comfortable to use).

When it comes to setup, it’s advisable to leave some space behind the treadmill to avoid hitting a wall in case you get carried away by the speed, which can happen during fast interval sessions leaving you exhausted.

Attaching the safety key to your shorts (connected by a cord) can be helpful in such situations because the treadmill automatically stops when the key is removed, preventing any mishaps if the runner moves away from the center of the machine.

I trust these tips enhance your treadmill trail running experience. Personally, I still favor running in the rain over indoor sessions. Confronting challenging conditions also fortifies the mind 😉.

If you want to improve in running, the RunMotion Coach app allows you to have a diverse training routine and break the monotony of treadmill workouts.

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Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for communication management.