Treadmills: love em or hate em?
Treadmills definitely seem to be polarizing among runners. I’d almost say either you love them or you hate them, but there is a middle ground, and that’s where I think I fall.
My treadmill story in a nutshell
So what’s my treadmill story? In a nutshell, when I first started to run, most of it was on my trusty treadmill. Which I’d bought so that I could walk during the hot Austin summers (and yes, it got a lot of use when I was a walker). Then I began to run more on the road, and the treadmill got relegated to bad weather days. Eventually I noticed some improvement when doing speedwork on the treadmill, but it’s still relegated to bad weather days. But should it be?
A Useful tool in the beginning
When I started running, it was just at the tail end of our time in Austin. I don’t think I actually ran on the treadmill then. What I did was just throw a little bit of running intervals — with absolutely no plan whatsoever — into my daily dogwalks.
I even remember taking the dogs to the “track” at a nearby grade school. And by track, I mean an unpaved circle that I guess was for the kids to either run or walk around. It most definitely wasn’t 400 meters. But I’d put the dog in a stay and I run around it once. Then twice. And so on. It was a win-win: I was running and training the dogs at the same time.
Then we moved, and I eventually decided to train for the Freihofer’s 5k. Initially all my training was on the treadmill, because, you know, I wasn’t really a runner. Eventually I knew I had to run on the road since it was a road race, and so I did.
Bye-Bye treadmill — except for weather
Nowadays it’s no longer scary to run on the road. Or the trails (kind of). Or on a track. A very small percentage of my runs are on Old Faithful (because she’s about 18 years old and has been resuscitated more than once).
I don’t love her, although I love the fact that she’s an option. I don’t hate her, either. But I do prefer to run outside when I can.
Is the treadmill a handy tool?
One thing I’ve come to realize, though, is that running on the treadmill allows me to better control my pace. It makes speed work easier — not because of the moving belt I’m running on, although there’s that, but because I set it at a certain pace so unless I stop or fall off, I’m going to hit that pace.
I’ve also noticed benefits beyond simply easily controlling my pace: I feel it actually helps me get faster. I’ve noticed when I’ve had a period when I’m forced (or choose to, let’s be honest here) to run on the treadmill once a week, at a pace I might very well not hit out on the road, I find myself actually running faster, easier, when I am out on the run.
Oh, not every run, to be sure. But I have noticed a definite pattern of improvement with steady treadmill use. In the back of my mind, sometimes I think that I should run on the treadmill once a week — to help me with paces and to give my body a break from pounding the road. I don’t think that will actually happen, mind you, but I do think about it.
It also amuses me that some of the runners I know would never, ever set a foot on a treadmill but wouldn’t think twice about hopping onto a stationary bike or bike trainer. Bike trainers don’t seem to evoke the same emotions as treadmills do. Maybe because there are tools to help us runners battle almost any weather, but it’s absolutely far more treacherous to be on a bike in the same conditions.
Talk to me:
Where do you fall in the great treadmill debate?
Have you noticed benefits to running on a treadmill?
Do you feel differently about a bike trainer than you do about a treadmill?