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Running on a Treadmill

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 18 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Some runners meet any discussion about treadmills with a derisory snort. Who wants to suffer the indignity of bouncing up and down on a glorified conveyor belt effectively going nowhere?

Well, yes and no. They are indeed glorified conveyor belts, but don't kid yourself that they don't represent progress in terms of potentially significant fitness levels, when used correctly.

But let's start with some practical reasons for choosing to use a machine. For a start, they are not subject to the vagaries of the weather, so you can still run irrespective of whether it is blowing a gale outside or melting snow has left it treacherous underfoot.

Avoid Embarrassment

Running outside also brings you into contact with “pedestrians”. This in itself may be a disincentive to run because you feel self-conscious overtaking them in your shorts; alternatively, there is always the chance you may run into a person or persons who see you as a potential target.

On the treadmill, there is no chance of embarrassment: if you have one installed at home your privacy is assured; if you are using one in the gym, everyone in close proximity is involved in the same activity, and there'll be more attention paid to the nearest TV screen than how you are performing.

Structured Programme

However, these issues aside, a treadmill remains a valuable piece of equipment simply in terms of training capabilities. At the most basic level, they can be adjusted in terms of speed, time and gradient so that a structured programme is easy to both draw up and manage. Individual runs can also be controlled so, for example, you can up the pace or gradient at any time and for whatever duration you want - and at any point in the session - to mirror the demands on whatever course you are training for. More sophisticated models include advanced settings that can involve cross-country and hill challenges as well as heart-rate and pulse monitors.

Not only will the treadmill protect your knees from the buffeting they receive when running on the road, but they are very useful in terms of posture because they help the runner settle into a rhythm both physically and mentally.

Physical Challenges

Many runners who use a treadmill for any of the above reasons tend to mix up their training between the machine and the road or on parkland. Running outside is a more exhilarating experience and lacks the monotony of running on a belt - or watching Hollyoaks on one of the gym's plasmas - while the indoor sessions give their knees a chance to recover.

However, there is nothing to stop an individual deciding to do all their training on a treadmill. The physical challenges of varying gradients can be mimicked using the features of the machine, so training for events such as cross-country can be completed indoors.Even running with a partner is achieved just as easily indoors as outdoors by using neighbouring machines in the gym and agreeing on a common programme or settings. However, unlike outdoors, try to keep the exercise banter to a minimum because it doesn't pay to disturb others in close proximity who are trying to concentrate on their own goals.

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