[Image source: Canadian Running Magazine]
Treadmill. What does that word mean to you? Does it excite you? Make you nervous? Can you not help but cringe a little? I’m the cringer. Treadmills, to me, seem inadequate. Why run inside when we can run outside? Yet there are many reasons (yes, me included) to why runners need to hit the “dreadmill” every so often, some even more than others. These reasons might include: time, children, safety, preference or even because your coach has told you to.
I had to learn to adapt to the conditions of the treadmill, just as I would adapt to running a new route outside, or in unusual weather conditions
When I first started running on a treadmill (during a tropical Darwin storm), I hated it. My calves hurt (which had never happened before), time dragged on (I was staring at a blank wall), I sweated more than I usually did outside and really, I couldn’t finish quick enough. It was a nightmare.
Although my first experience wasn’t ideal, and I will always prefer outside running versus treadmill running, it isn’t all that bad. For me, I had to learn to adapt to the conditions of the treadmill, just as I would adapt to running a new route outside, or in unusual weather conditions. Once you learn a few tips and tricks to running on a treadmill, it isn’t actually THAT bad. So here are my tips to help you change your treadmill experience for the better. Enjoy!
7 Ways to Improve Your Treadmill Run
- Be prepared
There are a few essentials that one needs when running on a treadmill. The first is fitted shoes – this comes before aesthetically-pleasing shoes. If they look good, great! But good looking shoes aren’t always the best thing for your feet. Go into your local sports shop and get fitted for your run.
The next thing is light, technical clothes that are comfortable to sweat in. Heavy gear will feel saturated and heavy after a good treadmill run. You don’t have to spend a fortune – even Kmart has some great choices.
Water and a towel are the final essentials. As mentioned above, you do tend to sweat more in a controlled gym environment, so having something to wipe with and replenishing your fluids along the way is a must.
- Warm up
It can be easy to just get into it on a treadmill and forget about a warm-up. If you forget your warm-up, you are risking injury to tight muscles and, at the very least, your first kilometer or so will be extremely uncomfortable while your body tries to catch up. It doesn’t have to be much, just a brisk walk/light jog for 1 minute or 2, preferably with some dynamic stretching before the treadmill has even started. Warming up is also a good way to find a comfortable incline. Yes, I said incline.
- Run with an incline of 1-2%
When you run at 0% incline on a treadmill, it is the equivalent to running slightly downhill on an open road – it is an unnatural flat. Combined with the treadmill’s inertia, this can compromise your normal running style and work different muscles for longer periods of time (hence why I was getting sore calves during my first, flat treadmill run) by tempting you to over-stride
- Follow the same rules of running as you would outside
There are certain rules to running that cannot be changed, whether you are running inside your outside. These are:
- Hold your head high. This opens up your lungs and lets you breathe efficiently (but remember to keep your eye-line about 2-3m in front of you!)
- Keep your hands loose, like you are trying to just hold onto the tip of a feather between your thumb and forefinger – this will stop you from fist clenching, which restricts blood flow
- Tuck your hips in under your body – this will stop you from hunching forward
- Keep your knees high. If you shuffle, you will be losing efficiency and probably losing touch of the other rules
- Stay light on your feet. Always try to strike more with your mid-foot than your heel – you can do this by running with as little noise as possible (but do not run on your toes!)
- Use visualisation
Visualisation on a treadmill can be very similar to meditation, and have the same benefits. If you can find a constant pace, you can zone out and visualise your run. I do a lot of this (mostly remembering a time I ran around Central Park in New York or even the last few kilometers of the Melbourne Marathon). On days when I am finding it hard to get the imagination running (haha), I get up YouTube (some gym treadmills even have this option) and look up some GoPro vision of someone running somewhere I haven’t been before. It is distracting, helps the time pass, and even leaves me with a sense of achievement at the end – like I actually did the run I was visualising! Give it a go – your next destination may surprise you.
- Listen to music
I have written before on the benefits of listening to music while working out. While I think music is better left behind when running outdoors, I highly recommend it for a treadmill run. The right beat, the right song, the right lyrics, might just be what you need to get you through those last couple of kilometers. Be sure to invest in headphones that are going to stay on your ears, or your saviour could quickly become your nemesis with every step you take (now there’s a good song…).
- Vary your workout
You know how the saying goes – variation is the spice of life! You’d be surprised at how easily time can pass on a treadmill when you change speed every minute or so, even if only by a little bit.I like to start at a base speed, move down by 0.2km/h every minute for three minutes, and then back up 0.2km/h until I am 0.6km/h past my base speed, and so on. You will cover the same distance, but have something to do every minute to keep you interested. Why not give it a go? Maybe you could make up your own “game”?
So now that you know some of my favourite tips for running on a treadmill, now is your chance to go out and give them a go. Whether you’re a treadmill lover or hater, I know there is at least one tip there that will resonate with you. And who knows? You may even end up converted to treadmill running forever (not me, though – long live running outside).
What are your go-to tips for running on the treadmill?
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