Treadmills. You either love them or hate them. And most runners…well they hate them. With a notorious nickname like “dreadmill,” there is no denying that treadmills have a pretty bad reputation in the running world.
Well, for one, the time spent on a treadmill can be painfully monotonous. When running outside you get to take in the sights, whether it be a bustling city street or a calming stream next to a peaceful trail. But on a treadmill, you take in one sight: the walls that surround your treadmill. If you’re lucky, you’ll get in some always fascinating people-watching at the gym, or catch up on some missed TV shows or movies. But for the most part, treadmills take away the sense of freedom, the almost primal feeling of flying down the trail or streets that so many runners experience outdoors.
Instead, you feel like you are on a mechanical hamster wheel, putting in a ton of effort yet going absolutely nowhere.
Now that I’ve completely tarnished the reputation of a treadmill, I’m going to step back and tell you that they are actually not that bad. In fact, there may even be valid reasons to go out of your way to train on one from time to time. I know that sounds like running blasphemy, but hear me out.
They Are Available 24/7
Well, this assumes you have a treadmill at home or belong to a 24-hour gym. But the point is, treadmills are mighty convenient. The long list of things you no longer have to worry about includes: finding a babysitter, the weather, hitting the roads before dark, safety considerations when running alone, traffic…the list goes on and on. A treadmill gives you a safe, warm, dry, and always available running option. So you can cross those excuses off of the list of why you were going to skip your run.
A treadmill can give them to you. Believe it or not, there are places in this world where you can run 20 miles and never climb more than 15 feet. ( I can vouch that the coast of South Carolina is one of them.) Running up hills can be a fantastic workout, as it helps increase leg strength, cardiovascular endurance, and overall speed. And if you are training for a race that contains a lot of hills, it is imperative to replicate the hilly course during your training, or chances are you will end up miserable on race day. (I can also vouch for the “I don’t know how to run uphill” misery from past personal experience.) Most gym-quality treadmills can reach an incline of up to a 12 percent grade or higher. Don’t be afraid to use the incline.
Though it can certainly be considered a “con,” the fact that treadmills set the pace for you can be a helpful training technique. On a treadmill, you choose a specific pace–typically displayed as miles per hour–and run at that exact speed until you push the buttons signaling you would like to slow down or speed up. Your pace is consistent and predictable.
Outdoors, you propel yourself forward without the aid of a moving road under your feet, thus your pace can vary greatly at any given time. And when you get tired, your pace typically slows.
A treadmill forces you to maintain a specific speed for the duration of your run or risk falling off the back. Want to train your legs to maintain a specific pace even when tired? Let the treadmill help.
Avoid texting teenagers, disgruntled drivers, lightning storms, rogue dogs, or things that go bump in the night. A treadmill provides a controlled, safe, well-lit environment. That’s not to say you should fear outdoor running, but when in doubt, go with the safer alternative.
I’m sure some of you are still shaking your heads saying, “I don’t know Heather, I still really dislike the treadmill.” I’m certainly not telling you to ditch your outdoor training plans. Instead I’m providing just a few of the many reasons why you shouldn’t dread the tread…mill.
In the end, it all boils down to attitude. You can dread the treadmill, or you can take it for what it’s worth: an amazing training alternative when outdoor running isn’t available. I am a trail runner at heart, but even I’ll admit that it’s pretty fantastic that we have the technological capabilities to run indoors whenever we want.
So toss those preconceived notions aside: Run happy, whether outdoors or in.