Friday, August 7, 2009


We recently got a treadmill which was given to us by my parents. They were downsizing and will have access to a gym in their new community. Let me just say, bringing this from Tennessee to Maryland was no easy task - it is big and heavy!

I am very excited to get back into treadmill workouts and hopefully do some running.

If I am walking, I prefer to be outdoors, unless the weather is terrible - too hot or too cold. I find walking on a treadmill pretty boring. But I do like running on treadmills because I can really measure my workout and my progress. Also, it feels easier. And finally, I always feel a bit embarrassed as a runner and I can run on a treadmill without being in public.

The reason I feel embarrassed is because running is hard work for me. After about a month of running, I start to enjoy it because my body has adjusted. But I still look like I am about to die when I am running -really and truly. So I ask myself why I choose to run when I am a better swimmer, walker, stepper, etc? For some reason, once I get going (after that month of training), I find it very rewarding. I will never forget running my first 5K, which was outdoors in the park shown in my blog picture.

Finally, treadmills work for me because, if I am exercising after work, I don't have to worry about whether or not it is dark (I do not exercise in the morning), and I get very hot when I run in the summer.

But, I have always wondered about that part about it feeling like it is an easier workout on a treadmill than outside. I looked it up...

I found two sites that I thought explained the differences well, and I don't think (although it is hard to tell) that they were selling anything. I say this because my google search brought up many sites that provided information and tried to sell a treadmill at the same time.

The articles I read are Treadmill Training versus Outside Running and Treadmill vs Outdoor Running.

I learned that form is very important on a treadmill and somewhat different from outside running. Upper body should be relaxed (I tense my shoulders), hips should be forward but not the upper body leaning forward, and the stride should land directly below center of gravity. This is one more part I really need to pay attention to: with treadmill running, I should be landing on the ball of my foot or flat footed, but not on the heel. I thought I was supposed to be landing on the heel and learned to do this because I used to land on the ball of my foot. The problem with heel first is that it probably means the foot is ahead of the center of gravity and caused too much strain on the knees and hips. Stride, not making it too long, is also important.

In terms of the workout seeming easier, the articles write about the lack of wind resistance, variation in terrain, and then, of course, the moving belt. Apparently the moving belt makes it easier because it works out a different muscle group that is not as major. Outside running causes the hamstrings (major muscles) to have to work harder to propel the body forward. The hip flexors do most of the work with stability on the treadmill.

If I want a workout on the treadmill that is equivalent to an outdoor run's workout, and I take into account energy difference, lack of wind resistance, the moving belt, etc., I should run on an incline of 1%. In the past I had guessed that increasing the incline might make up the difference so I always ran on 0.5%. I guess I can bump that up.

Before I begin, I need a goal. I always measured progress by distance, but I don't want to get into super long runs on the treadmill. It is hard on my joints, and when I am back to teaching in the fall, I am not going to want to spend longer and longer times working out. So I think I am going to limit the running, minus warm-up and cool-down, to 30 minutes. My goal will be to increase the distance within 30 minutes by increasing speed. My first goal will be to achieve a 10 minute mile, or 3 miles in 30 minutes (which is about a 5K). That will take about 6 months!

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