5 Myths About Running on the Treadmill

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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5 Myths About Running on the Treadmill

Can you imagine running 50 miles on the treadmill? Jacob Puzey, coach at Peak Run Performance has done it — and he even holds the world record. In fact, his time of 04:57:45 was an hour faster than the previous record. Once you reel in your amazement that he lasted almost five hours on a treadmill, take in just how fast that time is!

What is his secret? The first thing he does when he gets on the treadmill is revel in the fact it exists in the first place. “I start by being grateful for the miraculous machine that the treadmill is,” shares Puzey. “Even the most basic treadmills are quite remarkable if you think about it. Brilliant people have found a way to make running possible indoors when conditions outside or busy schedules simply don’t allow for it. How cool is that?”

The treadmill often gets a bad rap and quite unfairly. Not only is it a remarkable machine, but it also offers some major benefits when it comes to your training. We break down some of the most common myths so you can take a cue from Puzey and use them to train with a purpose.

This may easily be one of the longest-running myths surrounding the treadmill. What’s the enjoyment in running and never really going anywhere?

Reality: With the right mindset and some creativity, running on the treadmill can be enjoyable.

“In some people’s minds, treadmills are still synonymous with the mind-numbing task of trudging through boring, monotonous, steady-state cardio,” admits Leanne Pedante, program director and head coach at STRIDE, a fitness studio in Pasadena, California. “However, the treadmill’s reputation has changed a lot in the past five years with the growing popularity of treadmills in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.”

In fact, treadmills have now begun to take the spotlight in fitness classes — think ‘spin’ class but on a treadmill — with frequent changes in incline and speed, dimmed lights and a playlist carrying you along. Running on the treadmill keeps evolving year after year.

Reality: The treadmill is also a great tool for those who prefer to walk. Going for a walk every day comes with some serious health benefits, and the treadmill is a great tool to take those workouts to the next level.

“I think the treadmill is a really valuable, under-used tool for non-runners,” insists Pedante. “Walkers can get amazing results from high-intensity hill-walking workouts. In fact, at STRIDE, many of our clients walk their HIIT workouts and burn over 500 calories while strengthening their legs, glutes, cores and upper body.”

Reality: You may think you need to run outdoors as much as possible when training for a road or trail race; however, even if you solely trained on a treadmill, you’d be ready!

“[There’s a myth that] treadmills do not provide an authentic running experience and therefore don’t allow one to prepare well for the challenges of an outdoor race,” remarks Puzey. “I have personally trained for at least two marathons almost exclusively on a treadmill and run just as well — or better — than for those that I have trained for outdoors.”

Pedante agrees, adding that the treadmill provides the added benefit of controlled conditions. If you have to train for a hilly race while living in a flat area, you just have to crank up that incline and do some hill work! By having control of the terrain and intensity, you can train for even the toughest race course on the treadmill.

“I have found that it is often easier to mimic race-like conditions on a treadmill than running outside (and it often takes less time and effort to do it),” adds Puzey. “For example, if I am training for a spring road marathon, I can get in more consistent quality training on a treadmill than if I were to try and do all of my runs outdoors in the snow and ice.”

Reality: Pedante reveals that running on the treadmill is actually easier on your knees than the pounding they receive on the road.

“Running on concrete is harder on the joints than running on a cushioned surface, such as a treadmill or a trail,” she notes. “Some treadmills use a belt system, which some link to your foot slipping and causing knee pain. However, new models of treadmills — like the Woodway — use individual shock-absorbing slats instead of a belt, which helps reduce shock in each step.”

Reality: There are a lot of benefits to the treadmill, and if you choose, you can do all of your running indoors. Puzey uses the treadmill for training benefits, such as filming and reviewing his form, and for safety benefits, such as avoiding vehicles and other pedestrians.

“Since [my] first run on a treadmill, I have actually used the treadmill to avoid traffic, traffic lights, ice, sub-zero temps, bears, cougars, elk, moose, etc., during my key workouts and long runs,” he stresses. “The treadmill has not only become a safer option for me, but has actually helped me save time and avoid injury.”

About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.

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