Tricks of the Trade: Treadmill
I’m sure many of you have had some awful and awesome workouts on this piece of machinery. The treadmill is an incredibly useful tool in the fitness arena. You can do intervals, walk “uphill” relax after a weight session. All kinds of good things
But some people are using this incorrectly
What it is
The Treadmill is a piece of cardio training equipment that mimics running. That's it.
What it is not
The treadmill is NOT running. These are two different movement mechanics.
The treadmill is a belt that continuously rolls your feet out from underneath you. You do not have to generate any force to move forward. This mean completely different muscle are being fire in your body - namely, only the ones in front.
If you use the treadmill for ‘running’ training, you are going to be sorely disappointed on race day.
Real running is much more difficult: the terrain varies requiring more muscle movement, attention and adaptability, there is wind resistance, your speed naturally varies, the pavement is less forgiving meaning you body has to adapt to the impact. Running is how our body is supposed to naturally move. It uses the full body and promotes healthy movement, strong posterior chain and a more open and free body - when done correctly.
Running coach and personal trainer Rick Morris explains, "The challenge of running over these surfaces improves your proprioception or the ability of your neuromuscular system to correct for the effect these types of surfaces have on your muscles and the position of your body parts and joints." (from The Nest)
The treadmill encourages bad form. People hang on the handles, there is no posterior chain engagement, lack of space leads to short strides, the boxed in feeling leads to a more tensed running gait. And excess tension in muscles nearly always leads to injury. This coupled with the fact that treadmill running is not a natural running pattern, means that your risk for injury due to excessive treadmill use is increased
BUT IT'S NOT ALL BAD
Like I said before, the treadmill is a tool. If you know how to use a tool, it can greatly benefit you
How to Use it Like a Pro - or at Least Someone Who Likes Exercise
Firstly, never hold on to the handles. Again, NEVER HOLD ON TO THE HANDLES.
This totally nullifies your effort. If you are walking on an incline, quite quickly, but are holding on to the handles, you are leaning back and letting your arms do the work while just moving your legs. The belt moves under you but you are making nearly NO EFFORT to move other than to lick your legs up. You aren’t even trying to walk upright as you are holding yourself.
Instead, just lower the speed of incline. There is much to be said about long, slow up hill walks. If you don't hold on the to the handles, I guarantee you will be sweating in under 10 minutes.
Always walk with a slight incline. I keep my warm up walks at a 2.5-3.5 incline just to mimic a bit of resistant in the movement. Walking flat on a treadmill is pretty easy - and when it comes to fitness, simple maybe good but easy is not.
Do not do running training on the treadmill. As in, do not get mileage on a treadmill. Use if for nearly any purpose other than that: 10 minute warm up, 10 minute cool down, sprint set/HIIT training, steep incline walking. There are a number of way to use this tool but training for a race or calculating miles is not one of them.
Focusing on the numbers from a treadmill is never a good measure of fitness. Firstly, you don’t know that treadmill. It could be incorrectly calibrated. And Half the numbers are made up anyway. Like that CALORIES BURNED number? Total BS. the number of calories burned depends on your weight, age, muscle mass and fitness ability. The machine doesn't know that. Start looking at these numbers as units of measurement and not facts.
Try to get comfortable on the machine. Experiment with doing track drills: side skipping, walking backwards, grapevine, skipping, lunges. Yeah, you might feel like you look like the crazy one at the show but trust me, you will have the nicest game, be the most comfortable on the machine and put people in awe.
Use as a tool. Warm ups and cool downs are good for this machine. Getting those last steps in for the day is another good use. Every workout I do at the gym is started by 10 minutes of walking, to side stepping to running. It gets my mind in workout mode.
Another use is for actual workouts: 10 DB thrusters followed by a 30 second sprint, 10 rounds. A great workout! You can use this in your training just as you would jump rope, burpees or lunges. Or maybe if you just don't feel like working super hard, you can crank the incline up, set it at a slow and steady speed, turn on a podcast and just walk. This is a great way to get some hot legs and be burned out without moving too fast or trying too hard.