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When Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway broke the women's world 10,000 meter record, I remembered two things that she said: 1) She had done all of her training on the treadmill. 2) She had just had a child about 6 months before the record.
The deduction that I drew from those two facts were that 1) You can get fit on a treadmill (world record fit). 2) Childbirth can give you a new tolerance for pain that you can transfer to a running application.
The second case example that I'll site is a recent correspondence with former NDSU great Tom Stambaugh. He said that he ran a sub 31 minute 10,000 meters at age 39 doing 90 percent of his running on a treadmill.
I've had a little struggle with this topic. For all of my running life until about 3 months ago, I had only been on a treadmill for a grand total of about 20 or 30 times. Most of them while staying in hotels in strange towns when the weather was bad.
We live in ND and MN. Is it cowardly to go inside in the winter? Norwegians eat lutefisk because they're Norwegian. Northern runners run outside in all elements, right? I still do most of my running outside in the winter, but for speedwork and conditioning...
The problem for me in running outside is not so much the cold, it is what it does to my training.
1) The footing can be impossible
2) The shoes loose their resiliency.
3) Muscles are tighter.
4) Some people don't shovel their sidewalks.
5) Cars don't stop as fast if they need to to avoid you.
I justified my purchase with it giving me the ability to run speedwork in the winter without having to sneak into the Bison Fieldhouse.
I knew that I needed a treadmill that went to 12mph.
One with an incline that could be shifted with a button while I was running.
I wanted something good, but I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg, just in case I ended up not using it as much as I thought I would. I knew that an expensive treadmill was a tough resell for anything close to the original price.
The names that I kept coming up with that fit that category with the exception of the last feature (low price) were: Landice, Trotter, Quinton, Precor and Image.
Image has a reputation for being made a little lighter and cheaper, but was anywhere from 1/2 to 1/4 of the price of the other four makes. I was willing to risk it. I don't get to brag to my friends about the Landice treadmill that I own, but my wallet is a little fatter. I ordered an Image 1050SE off of Ballystore.com. Their shipping time was horrible and it came with some parts that needed tightening, but once that was taken care of, the fact that I had spent only 700 dollars for what I have found to be a good treadmill has more than made up for it.
The Difference Between Treadmill running and "Real" running.
The elements missing in treadmill running:
Don't believe your eyes. 10 mph on a treadmill is not the same as 10 mph outside.
1) wind resistance. This is huge. Running on a treadmill at 10 mph is the same as running with a continuous 10 mph tailwind.
2) The "push" factor. I don't know how describe this as I'm not an engineer or a physics major, but I know that it's there. There is a moving treadmill below you and there is more energy required to push yourself over the ground (outdoor running), than is required to keep up to the treadmill.
3) There is a chance that the Treadmill 10 mph might not be accurate. Actually a good chance if it is a well-used machine.
4) Depending on the weight of the person, the treadmill may be faster or slower @ 10 mph. A 90 pound person with a large treadmill motor is not going to slow it down much. A 250 pound person with a small treadmill motor is probably going to slow it down a little. If you want to, you can probably stop your treadmill by grabbing the handles and bearing down on it.
All of the above can be taken into account to make it a great machine with which to get in shape.
Measure the "real treadmill speed".
#1 Get a flexible tape measure and measure the exact outside distance of the treadmill surface. Measure it about 1/2" in from the edge all the way around, not slack or kinks. Mine measured 119" exactly.
#2 put a piece of white tape on the treadmill to mark a spot to count off of when it is moving.
#3 You might need help with this part. Get on the treadmill and count revolutions of the belt at a certain speed for a minute.
Mine @ 10 MPH had 90 rpms.
@ 11 MPH had 99 rpms.
@ 12 MPH had 108 rpms.
Do the math. 10 MPH is a six minute mile. 90 x 6 minutes= 540 rpms x 119"= 64, 260" or 5355' divided by 5280' (mile)=1.014 miles times the part of an hour that you took to run this (inverse) 10 = 10.14 mph.
My treadmill goes a little faster than it actually reads.
How to Offset the Factors
There are two ways to do this.
I do a combination of both to keep my interest. To get on a treadmill and run the entire workout at one speed and one incline would be excruciating. I tend to change the incline and speed every mile or two. This is my best estimation of what you have to do to replicate the difficulty of outdoor running, considering that the belt speed is accurate.
On my machine, you need a 2 1/2 to 3 percent incline.
Treadmill running just gives you another option for the cold winter days.
Things that I've found out about running since I've gotten a treadmill.
I don't miss many days anymore. If I've worked a long day, it is 9:30 PM, zero outside and windy, the chances of me going running that day are pretty slim. The chances of me stepping on the treadmill are pretty good.
I can catch the news and kill two birds with one stone.
I have a lot of friends with kids that say that they are too busy or can't get away for a workout. This takes a lot away from that excuse. You don't have to leave the house. You can get an excellent workout in about 30 minutes if you need to.
When the weather subsides and Spring breaks out all over the place...go outside and have some fun. Watch out though! I speak from experience that you are going to be sore. It is not because you are not conditioned or out of shape, it is because the roads are harder on your legs than the treadmill. It will take a few days to get the soreness worked out. There is nothing wrong and it doesn't mean that all the treadmill work that you did was not good for you. It just means that you have gotten used to the cushioned treadmill.
Outdoor running is still the best overall, no doubt. There is a time and a place for another option sometimes.