Treadmilll Training Myths

It’s getting cold outside.  That happens in the winter time, and so does the treadmill.  When the weather is very cold, windy, slippery and damp, running outside can become just plain dangerous.  That means it’s time for some quality treadmill training time.  There are lots of rumors out there about the differences between running on a road and running on the treadmill but which ones can you believe?  Here’s the truth about 4 treadmill training rumors:

Myth #1: Treadmills have to be set a 1% incline to simulate outdoor running.  Nope!  Outside you have to push through the air.  On a stationary treadmill, that resistance isn’t there.  treadmill trainingThat is what makes treadmill training runs slightly easier.  To make up for this lack of air resistance you can increase your speed.  And that might not even matter.  This study shows that incline only matters at paces of 7:09/mile or faster, leaving most of us OK to run flat.

But it’s still not the same!  Myth #2: Your running motion is different on a moving belt.  According to this study, and others, it’s actually not.  It might feel different because of the treadmill’s springs but your muscles and joints move the same way during treadmill training as they would over pavement, trail or track.

This ties into Myth #3: You take more (or fewer) steps on the treadmill per mile.  As demonstrated with Myth #2, your motion on the treadmill is virtually identical to how you move over a stationary surface (road, track, field).  This also means your step rate (cadence) is the same.  Winter treadmill training runs can be a great time to figure out how many steps you take per minute at a given pace and can certainly benefit your future training.

Myth #4:  Holding on doesn’t affect your workout.  Yes, it does.  Holding on or pushing yourself up with your arms does not, in fact, decrease the stress on your lower half.  The relief you might feel in your knees, ankles, quads and hamstrings will lead to tension in other places on your body.  Undue stress leads to injuries.  Slowing down and letting go on your next treadmill training run might just save your spring race season.  And trying to use the metal sensors to figure out your heart rate?  Forget it.

Myth #5:  The treadmill tells the truth.  It does not.  The readouts for calories burned, speed, heart rate and distance can all be wrong.  Unless the machine is calibrated to your body on a regular basis, it’s going to be off.  In the ballpark?  Probably.  Your best bet is use a heart rate monitor that straps to your chest or wrist to determine exertion levels and simply run (with no incline) for your desired amount of time.

Now you’re ready to go!  Stay healthy, improve fitness, increase speed and keep running all winter long with these treadmill training myths dispelled.

Coach Meredith

4 thoughts on “Treadmilll Training Myths

  1. Kyle

    Great article! I NEVER trust the speed on the treadmill! Today for example, I ran for 70 minutes and I just take my average easy pace and use that for my total distance when I log the workout. I bet that machine I was on has NEVER been calibrated after leaving the factory.


    Good article. I always use the treadmill on 0.5% incline, and I’m not sure I’ll stop. Interesting to note it doesn’t really matter.

    Anyone else think their gait does change slightly on the treadmill?


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