Running outside is irreplaceable, but treadmills have come a long way over the years.
If you’re moving your running workout inside until the spring thaw, try these tips for getting the most out of your treadmill workout.
Check out all the options
Runners can now select different programs and settings to simulate rolling hills or even running down the streets of Paris—if you like using the map feature.
Not enough people take advantage of these program options, and I think they’re missing out.
Running outside offers a range of variability, whether it’s hills, turns, bumps, or angry dogs. If you don’t select a treadmill program, you’re not taking advantage of variations that increase the strain on the body, leading to better results.
I recommend trying a few of the pre-programmed speed variations, or incline changes that simulate a hill. These variations challenge your cardiovascular system much more than running straight for X-amount of time.
You’ll need to strengthen your hips
Treadmills don’t work your hips as efficiently as running outside. You probably never thought of it before, but when you run outdoors, you’re forced to push off the ground and propel yourself forward. This is, in fact, the most important part of running.
People usually don’t use their hips enough, and switching to a treadmill can make the situation worse.
I’ve watched people trying to use their hips with a treadmill by placing it on its lowest speed, holding onto the handrails, and forcing the tread backwards. This should be avoided because it may damage the treadmill motor.
A better idea is to supplement your running with hip-strengthening exercises. These could include lateral stepping with resistance, dead-lifts, lunges, squats, and bridging exercises.
Expect some changes
Treadmills can alter your running in other ways. Changes could include variations in stride-length, cadence, or overall speed. These changes may happen for many reasons, but they probably aren’t important unless they create pain or discomfort.
Running on a treadmill may also lead to stiffness in the front of your leg because the back of the leg has little work to do. When you run on a treadmill, you’re forced to lift your leg and extend your knee, requiring those muscles to work. With the surface moving beneath your feet, however, it requires little work from the hamstrings and glutes. Stretching your quads and hip flexors becomes very important in treadmill running because of this flaw.
It’s difficult to replicate running outside, because the demands are slightly different due to the surface moving beneath you, so it’s normal for things to change when moving indoors.
Remember to replace worn shoes
Footwear is important, regardless of where you are running. It’s commonly said that you should replace your shoes every 200 to 500 miles.
Your shoes don’t know where you’re running, so it’s important to count the mileage on the treadmill as well. You don’t need to record it on a spreadsheet, but doing a rough calculation will get you close enough. Tally the numbers of days running multiplied by your average mileage.
A worn out set of shoes can cause you to move differently in the foot, which will cause your knees, hips, and back to move differently as well. These changes are compounded in individuals who require supportive shoes.
There isn’t good research supporting a lot of trendy footwear, such as minimalistic shoes, so don’t spend hundreds of dollars thinking new shoes will make you amazing. Use what works for you. If you’re running well pain free, stick with what you’ve got. No sense in creating more variables.
Cross train to change things up
Running on a treadmill can get boring and repetitive, and that combination could keep you away from the gym.
Try something different, whether it’s biking, elliptical, stair stepper, swimming—whatever interests you. It will keep things fresh.
Cross training also helps prevent injuries. I see countless people with overuse and repetitive-stress injuries. This is a direct result of performing too much of the same exercise, placing stress through the same parts of the body in the same ways. It’s the cause of many stress fractures, but can cause soft tissue injuries as well.
The winter is a perfect time to step away from running a bit and give the body a break, even if it’s stepping back from five days a week, to three, and replacing it with other cardio workouts.