Focus on your reaction when you hear this sentence: This weekend, you have to do your 10-mile long run on the treadmill. Did you just cringe? Sigh? Try to think of a way to get out of it? Well, you’re not alone.
A quick search of ‘runners who hate the treadmill’ brings up forums on Reddit and LetsRun.com full of people coming together to publicly declare their disdain for the machine, citing everything from lack of airflow indoors to the difficulty of switching up the pace.
The treadmill does have benefits — like being easy to work on form and speed — and runners may be missing out on these by dismissing it as a training tool. Learning how to incorporate the treadmill into your regular routine — as well as tips for making the time more enjoyable — might make you look at it in a different light.
THE TREADMILL’S BAD REP
According to Leanne Pedante, head coach at Stride, a fitness studio in Southern California dedicated to group treadmill classes, history may have something to do with why we hate the treadmill. “In the 19th century, treadmill-like devices were used as hard labor punishment in prisons,” reveals Pedante. “Somewhere deep in our memory, we’re still holding that against them.”
However, for those runners who don’t know that dark history, boredom has a lot to do with it — running without actually going anywhere can be monotonous. Mix that with the lack of scenery indoors, and you’ve got a combination that can make long runs seem even longer.
“When people run on treadmills, they tend to get bored — and this makes it easy for them to give up and stop running,” adds Kris Cueva, trainer at Burn 60. “Not being able to experience the great outdoors can also inhibit their performance and attitude toward indoor running.”
Additionally, both coaches bring up myths surrounding the treadmill: Many people think their form is negatively affected by the treadmill, for example, or believe they are more likely to face injury due to the running surface. There are a few key things to know about form and pace before hopping on the treadmill that can make your run more effective and keep you from injury down the line.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU RUN
First things first, getting comfortable with the treadmill is key. This means choosing the correct pace, and being aware of the space available on the belt.
“Fear of slipping off the back sometimes translates into people running with their torsos almost pressed against the treadmill console (while they have 4-feet of room on the belt behind them),” notes Pedante. “Running so close to the front of the treadmill inhibits a natural arm drive and then disrupts your stride. I’ll often remind people to back off their panels and let their arm swing open up.”
As you get used to running within the confines of the treadmill, you’ll be able to easily monitor your pace and form. It is important to warm up and cool down just as you would if you were running on the road or track. You can do this with a few minutes of light jogging before upping your speed and elevation.
“One of the biggest things that people should understand about running on treadmills is that it is much easier for you to correct your form and there is less impact on your body,” includes Cueva. “People can work on their speed, pace and endurance using different intervals on the treadmill.”
Cueva adds that when first starting out on the treadmill and making it part of your routine, you should select a running program that will help you build your endurance and performance, just as you would when training on other surfaces.
TIPS FOR LOVING THE TREADMILL
Cueva says that all it takes is 20 minutes 2–3 times per week to help reach your goals. As you start introducing the treadmill into your training, you can start using some of these coach-approved tips to enjoy your time running indoors.
1. USE THE TREADMILL FOR INTERVALS
Unlike running on the track, interval training on the treadmill allows you to be more in control of your pacing and allows you to create even more of a challenge down the road by training with an incline. “There are a lot of interval timer apps available for free,” shares Pedante. “Pick a low-, medium- and high-speed for your current ability and make up your own interval workout. The time will zip by and you’ll find you can increase speed faster when doing it in smaller chunks.”
2. PLAY WITH INCLINE
Pedante adds that if you use the incline you will become a faster runner, and even if you are walking, you can create your own high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout thanks to that incline option.
3. ENTERTAINMENT IS OK
Having a playlist or setting aside a few television shows that you only watch while on the treadmill can help those who prefer a distraction while running. Finding an app that adjusts your music based on your pace and cadence can keep you running strong through your entire workout.
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4. GO TO CLASS
Search locally to see if you have a treadmill studio or gym that utilizes treadmills in its training to help make it a social activity. Not only will you get in a great workout, but you’ll be doing it alongside others to help make running on the treadmill a more road-like experience.