In a world where Americans spend over 72 billion dollars on sports equipment and workout gear this is a legitimate question. Yes, you read that right! 72 BILLION DOLLARS…with a B. So, if you are going to invest $500 to over $15,000 into a treadmill you need to know the suckers going to be really awesome. Or at least that’s what I’m assuming.
The purists of runners generally protest that running on a treadmill is nothing like running outside. The analogy that is often used is a pasta machine. Yes….a pasta machine. The pasta machine does all the work. The chef just adds the ingredients, the flour, oil, etc… But the chef doesn’t actually create or “make” the pasta. The pasta maker does. The purists would say, “Sure, it looks like pasta, it taste like pasta, but it’s not true pasta. It would be so much better and yummier, if it has made by hand.” While those who support running on treadmills would say running is running, whether you’re running on a machine or you’re going outside, you’re still running. Kind of like pasta, it looks like pasta, it tastes like pasta, it must be. In short, that is the issue.
Some of the pros of running on a treadmill are you can control the temperature of your running environment. That alone is enough to sell it to people in the north in my biased opinion. Who really wants to run in the cold and snow? Also, your footing is always sure. You don’t have to worry about stones or the surface being slippery. Plus, you can even pace yourself quite easily. You just set the speed you want and it automatically stays at that same speed until you change it. That is a pretty awesome feature. Maybe the best feature is you can watch a big screen TV at the same time and multitask. Those are just a few of the benefits.
On the other hand, if you run outside you have ever-changing scenery. You get to breathe the fresh air, assuming you’re someplace that has fresh air. You get an ever-changing surface of ups and downs, dirt, pavement, etc. It just seems, as most people who run outside would say, more authentic. Dare I say more, “Organic?”
After 30 plus years of research there are basically two schools of thought on this issue. The first believes that running on a treadmill is different because you’re just whipping your feet back and forth. This means that you’re not moving your center mass as you would be if you were running outside. You aren’t propelling yourself forward. The second side of the issue maintains says as long as you’re running at a constant speed there’s really no differences except for a lack of wind resistance. That’s the 50/50 split. In short, one side says you’re just moving your feet back and forth without moving your center mass and the other side saying there is no difference except there is no wind resistance because you’re not outside in the wild blue yonder.
Most studies state that there is a significant difference in your knee orientation and the peak force that is generated. However, in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2008 they stated that the biomechanics of running on a treadmill we’re close enough to running outside that the difference really didn’t matter.
Interesting enough, most running coaches testify to the same exact thing with first-hand experience. The only major difference most coaches seem to report is that running on a treadmill is slightly easier because of the lack of wind resistance. It is also noteworthy to mention that running on a treadmill is softer than running on sidewalks or on roads. Yes, this means that it’s easier on your knees and on your joints, but the lack of pounding on hard surfaces and being unable to run on of uneven surfaces means your stabilizer muscles won’t be as developed. This means when you run on a treadmill you don’t activate the stabilizer muscles that keep you upright when you’re running on surfaces that are uneven.
As is the answer in almost everything, variety is the key. Try not to run exclusively outside or exclusively use the treadmill. But use each, using their given strengths to your advantage.
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Go be awesome!
KELLEN LAKE – At the end of the day, you were created to be GREAT!