When it comes to talking about the use of the treadmill for training this coach has lots of good things to say. But I also think that constant use of the treadmill is not to our benefit. So how do we determine when we should or should not be running on the treadmill?When we do or don’t use the treadmill is not so much the issue as to how we use it. In the Midwest the winter months sometimes force us inside due to weather. There are safety factors involved with the snow, ice, and cars that do not give us a choice. The decision to run inside on the treadmill is a simple one when it means avoiding the risk of slipping, falling, and playing chicken with cars. Having the treadmill to run on is a great alternative.When not having to contend with using the treadmill as an alternative it can be used as a very valuable piece of equipment for strength and speed workouts. Do not be fooled, you can put in a great hill workout on the treadmill as well as some good interval work. Will the other people in the health club think you are crazy watching the treadmill go up & down every 60”, maybe...but try it this winter when you start adding hill work to your training. Not only is the workout you can do effective from a physical standpoint, but also from the immediate feedback you can get for your cadence, arm swing, foot strike, etc. Many health clubs have treadmills in front of mirrors. This is a great opportunity to run in front of a mirror to evaluate your running gait/posture. When my coach put me on the treadmill 5 years ago I moaned & groaned. “EC, I have run my whole life, I don’t want or need to run on the treadmill,” I said.
“Amy, trust me. Give this a try for a couple workouts and then we can change things up if you still feel the same way,” I recalled EC saying. What a nice surprise 5 years later to find myself on the run during a race and being able to remind myself to shorten my stride and think about cadence.With that said, you also need to be able to put yourself in the racing environment and work on hill repeats, speedwork, and recognize postural changes and cadence without the feedback of the treadmill and a mirror. We race on the roads and therefore need to be able to learn the feel of pace and adjusting our HR to the “real world race situation” outside of a set-up, controlled environment.
Another thing to consider with the controlled use of a treadmill is the speed factor. A treadmill moves you forward, it propels you and can force you into fast run paces. This can be a good and bad. Good if you have gradually worked up to these faster intervals and bad if it is too fast as it can cause injury. If you have to use the treadmill to “force” this speed, then what is the likelihood of being able to simulate it out on the road and more importantly, should we be running at this speed with the possibility of causing an injury? We should be running speeds on the treadmill that we can carry over onto the roads. We do not want to use the treadmill to force speeds, but to improve them.So, how do we use the treadmill effectively? This is a personal choice if you are following a training plan and would like to add treadmill workouts into your plan; or if you have a coach it is a worthwhile topic to discuss. Most of us think of using the treadmill during the winter, but it can be very effective in training as you work into your base phase coming into race season. You could use the treadmill for shorter type workouts of 30-45’, two times over a 3 week block of training throughout the winter months and then drop it down to one time as the weather improves and you need to be in on the roads preparing for a race. However you choose to use the treadmill, just know that it can be a very effective tool when used with the right combination of workouts for you.