It’s Colorado winter time! The trails in Boulder and beyond are cold, slippery, and muddy. These are the perfect ingredients for a delightful run for some Colorado movers but for others not so much, for me, depends on my mood but the snowy days can kink up my rhythm so this year finds me getting a gym membership to prevent slacking.
That said the main thing I am after at the gym is the dreadmill treadmill. Actually I don’t mind it that much in comparison to everyone else. Beyond the mental stimulation (or lack of) hardship is there a difference between the treadmill and the trails or streets?
Running on the treadmill is unique because you are essentially running in place which means there is no air resistance. This does alter your bodies experience and can reduce some “difficulty” out of your run. Do you care? Probably not because you’re no longer training for the Olympic gold however for curiosities sake, this study states that should you want to match running on the treadmill to the effort of running outside, cue up the grade of the belt to 1%- but other studies such as this one have debunked this if you run slower than a 7:05 mile (which is most of us).
A large habit people make on the treadmill is to “set it and forget it” regarding the pace, which is rarely what happens when running (or hiking) in natural settings. This can result in a couple of things- it can keep you at a certain pace without much progress or push, but it can also really work you out with endurance at a certain pace possibly making you work harder. It all depends on your awareness in varying your speed. Sometimes I feel lazy on the treadmill because I can set the pace and go on automatic pilot and it forces me to go the speed. You can really mentally check out in this way.
Interestingly enough, running on a treadmill has been shown to shorten your stride as your body is aware of the front rail. Unless you are mindful, the chances are likely that your stride will be different which can reflect in aches and pains for some either running of the mill or outside (if the long stride is problematic for them).
Tips on making it happenErica Sigel is the co-owner of Boulders own Inspired Athletic Movement Fitness Studio and she shared some tips on making sure you stick with your goals…My favorite being this 1st one:
“Try writing down your pace/distance/treadmill grade to have as a reference- you’ll be able to track improvements and have goals to work towards. It also helps to schedule your workout on your calendar ahead of time, take time to use plyometric box they’re designed to increase speed, power, and explosiveness and are a great supplement to your regular strength training routine, it’s way more likely to happen this way!” I love this, because getting your workout already carved into your daily schedule means you not only reserved the time, but you also get to “check it off the list” which can also be motivating. She also points out the reminder that treadmills now come equipped with TV’s “watching a favorite TV show will definitely help pass the time.”
Ultimately, there are so many variations in the difference between treadmills and running outside and they mostly lie in how your outside running is tailored- be it mountainous, pavement, hillside, etc. but if you play with both your treadmill grade and speed during your workout, there’s a least some possibility of similarities for your body so remember to mix it up to make for a more natural cardio, and more seamless transition between indoor and outdoor experience.