Are Treadmill Workouts Worth the Time?

They can be if you do the right workout.

Stacy asks: I’ve recently moved to a practically polar climate, and I’m wondering if doing workouts on the treadmill are a waste. I want to stay on track with my training, but –1 degree Celsius temperatures with wind-chill and icy roads restrict my outdoor running sometimes. Suggestions?

Treadmill runs or workouts are absolutely not a waste of time. In fact, they offer a very effective training alternative for a variety of reasons, especially when running on the road is not an option. Road running and treadmill running do have their differences, but there are ways to compensate for those differences.

Running on the treadmill, in general, is somewhat easier than road running because it requires less energy. Why? For one, the moving treadmill belt assists with leg turnover.

By assisting the large muscles of the lower body, some of the effort required in order to run is reduced. In addition, the treadmill starts level – unless we change that – providing easy terrain for running. Treadmills are also in climate-controlled environments, which means we don’t have to deal with wind, cold, heat, or humidity, which can also affect energy expenditure.

Here’s how to use the treadmill to your advantage:

1.  An easy way to make a treadmill run more comparable to a run on the road is to simply add a one to two per cent incline. This slight incline will better mimic the energy demands necessary for an outdoor run. For a hill run, add more incline.

2. Since the treadmill belt assists with leg turnover, use this to help you increase your turnover by setting a faster pace on the treadmill. By speeding up for small increments of time, you can do speed workouts and develop faster leg turnover.

3. With run paces on the treadmill and the road not being equal, run by perceived exertion. If you need an easy run, go by feel, and keep it simple regardless of what the pace or mile per hour on the treadmill may say. Likewise, if you need a hard workout, go by feel rather than pace.

And here is one of my favourite treadmill workouts:

  • Begin with a 5 to 10 minute warmup and put a one per cent incline on the treadmill.
  • Start with an easy effort for 5 minutes.
  • Bump up to a medium effort for 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Increase to a hard effort for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Repeat this sequence as often as desired for time or mileage.

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