Treadmill Running:

'Checking it's real' at the Finsbury Cancer Research 10K 2008We’ve just had one of the coldest weather spikes in British history. For the first weeks of January 2009 the weather was so cold that worried pensioners up and down the country were given an extra £25 per week to help with their fuel bills.

Now, technically I’m a northerner. When I was a wee bairn I’d be fetching logs in for the fire in a pair of flip-flops and a tank top. But, one of the things they don’t tell you about moving to London is how hot the city can get and you quickly become acclimatised to it. So this cold spike hit ‘us’ southerners quite hard. I have a pair of jogging bottoms but they’re heavy and I haven’t quite plucked up enough courage to sport these ninja tights I keep seeing people wearing (I still look like a pigeon). So, to keep warm (and for convenience sake), I took up treadmill running at my local gym.

There are several advantages and disadvantages of running on a treadmill. But before we get on to these we first have to follow some rules:

  1. 20 minutes only at peak-time.
    From the hours of 5 – 7pm (in most gyms) you may run for a maximum of 20 minutes to allow others to have a turn. This rule is not displayed anywhere in the gym but is widely known (by everyone except yourself and will unwillingly be instructed to you by some know-it-all). I got thrown off the treadmill half way through a 40 minute stint the other day by a guy who then ran for 15 minutes at just above walking pace and did nothing but check out the local talent. Seething. My view is, if you can’t get to the gym fast enough to get a free treadmill then run faster.
  2. No comparing.
    You must never look at the runner next to you to compare their speed setting to yours. If you do you will instigate a level war. This is where you nonchalantly increase the speed of your treadmill to one setting above that of your neighbour. Your neighbour will respond but only when you’re looking the other way. This will continue until one party can take no more and hits the dreaded ‘Cool Down’ button.
  3. Look straight ahead.
    Look behind you or turn your head to the side at your peril. Your body will follow the direction of your head and before you know it you’ll be on the edge of the belt or falling off of the back.
  4. Let go of the hand-rails
    This is fine while walking, but if you hold on while running (some treadmills have heart-rate monitors that require you to hold on to two metal sections of the hand-rail) you’ll end up looking like either Frankenstein or the Lone Ranger.

If you follow these steps you’ll be able to reap the advantages of running indoors. You’ll be avoiding frostbite (in all seriousness), wind chill and, in wet weather, chafing. For advice on Winter running see this article from About.com. In the case of marathon runners, your training will take place in the Winter months. Then, come April and race day, the sun decides to shine like it did in the London Marathon 2007. All of a sudden you’re out of your comfort zone. You’re not used to the dry and hot conditions and you become dehydrated. Running indoors will acclimatise you to that heat.

The treadmill will also be softer on the joints than running on tarmac and can help you keep up the training while trying to relax those jarred bones. However, some experts tell us that it can be too soft on you. It’s all in the physics. When running on the ground, your legs are working hard to drive your centre of mass forward. You accelerate as you push off (when your leg is behind you) and decelerate as your front leg meets the ground. On a treadmill your centre of mass is static and your legs are positioned to keep your centre of mass stable. In essence, the ground is moving your legs, dramatically decreasing the work load. Where a treadmill is good for overall fitness, it may not be as beneficial to the competitive runner.

I’ll be sticking with it until the sun decides to shine after work. If it’s not your thing then I suggest you go out and buy eight treadmills and make yourself a kick-ass music video

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No Responses to “Treadmill Running:”

  • Jess:

    Ah, points 3 and 4 are so true! Treadmills can be scary places! Another advantage to running outside if you can find somewhere off-tarmac is that the uneaven terrain builds up your knee muscles/joints. Talk to Tom about lycra. Once you try it you’ll never go back! He does wear it a bit too much though…
    I’ve got some skins-I reckon you could pull them off! Have you looked into compression tights?

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