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(Photo by Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio) 


Maybe you avoid running on the treadmill because you find it boring. However, know that this misunderstood machine has a lot to offer in your training routine.

Road or corridor? If you ask a runner what they prefer, chances are they will take a clear stand in favor of one or the other. Some prefer street running and image switching and others want the structure and precision that the machine offers.

The truth is, I used to watch people running on treadmills in gyms and wonder how they could stand looking at the same screen, the same wall all the time. How come they don’t get bored? Then I started running and realized that the treadmill is a bit of a misunderstood instrument . OK, I may not love it as much as the roads of Hymettus,  but it is definitely a useful addition to my training schedule , especially when the conditions do not allow me to go outside ( it is very hot or snowy or it’s dark). But is it as effective as running outside?

You learn to keep pace

First, treadmill training offers a controlled environment , where you can control the pace, the incline, the distance you will run. The belt that moves under your feet helps you keep a steady pace, which will eventually carry over to running outdoors.

What happens to energy expenditure

Regarding energy expenditure, Bas Van Hooren , a researcher at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, reports that it is slightly lower in treadmill running . However, he points out that this small difference can add up to a big one if you do most or all of your training on a treadmill.

Also, a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that VO2 max (how much oxygen your body can use during physical activity) is the same whether you run on a treadmill or out on the road. In other words, running outside may seem more difficult, but what is happening inside your body is similar.


Pexels  Anastasia Shuraeva


Is it important to use gradient?

Obviously, you can’t fully replicate the conditions when you run outside. However, research has shown that setting the treadmill to a 1% incline  more accurately simulates outdoor running (when the speed is above 7), compensating for the lack of air resistance and assistance provided by the moving belt. Also, the incline adds variety to your workouts and increases the degree of difficulty .


Pexels  William Choquette


It is better for the joints

The smooth and soft belt is a better choice for your joints than the hard pavement or cement. This can be especially useful when recovering from an injury or if you want to start running again after an injury. Also, exercise that involves body weight transfer and bouncing helps build stronger bones .


Pexels  Anastasia Shuraeva


Treadmill running has its downsides

Besides being boring for some, the treadmill belt takes away the advantage of running on rough terrain (like Greek sidewalks). Even if the ground outside looks flat to you, it is not and the leg muscles are constantly adapting to the different surfaces . These adjustments are important for coordination and balance.

Additionally, because there is a machine that feeds the belt, the muscle mechanics are different when running on the treadmill. On the road, you usually rely on the hamstrings to complete the stride cycle and lift the legs behind you. On the treadmill, the moving belt does much of this work. You’re using your quads to push, but your hamstrings aren’t doing what they would if you were running outdoors.

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