Happy Friday, runners! Sorry the Versus train missed the station last week, but I made sure we got one in this week!
Quick housekeeping item – I am now going to change the Versus schedule from weekly to every other week. There are just too many other things I want to write about, and I don’t have time to post every day, so to make more room Versus will have to be every two weeks now. This is probably for the best, since at some point I will run out of hotly-contested topics and we’d rather delay that point as long as possible!
For my third versus topic, we’re going to take on the seasonally topical debate of treadmill running: love it or leave it?
Ahh, the ‘mill. Some runners swear by it. Others just swear at it. Deemed “only as a LAST RESORT” by some and actually enjoyed by others. Many will risk snow, sleet, and frostbite before logging any miles on the human equivalent of a hamster wheel; others find it an invaluable resource that allows them to stay in shape and keep mileage up during difficult winters and tricky family schedules.
I wouldn’t say I love the treadmill, but I’m not at all against it. I don’t mind hopping on the ‘mill for a few miles here and there. If someone prefers the treadmill, or enjoys running on it, or wouldn’t be able to run without it, I say, more power to ’em.
I think the treadmill is great for is doing speed work, or any other targeted workout where you need to hit and maintain a certain pace. Because the machine is gonna make darn sure you do that. I swear by the treadmill for doing speed interval workouts. It’s not only a great alternative during bad weather, but it has some advantages too: it ensures that you are hitting and maintaining your target interval paces, you don’t have to worry about uneven terrain or less-than-ideal weather, and you have it all to yourself – no need to swerve and dodge around other runners on a crowded track.
Up until the last couple weeks, I was not lucky enough to have consistent access to a track, even in the summer. The treadmill was the only reliable way to get my speed work in. Thanks to the treadmill at my gym, I have done speed work almost every week these last couple months. You may not think it’s ideal, but I have noticed improvements in my running times since I started regularly doing treadmill speed work and, well – you can’t argue with results.
With that said, the treadmill has the lion’s share of disadvantages, too, when it comes to running. Some notable ones:
- It’s hard to maintain good, efficient form on the mill. For example, whenever I start a treadmill workout, I feel like I’m flying all over the place. I find it really hard to stay in a straight line at first as I struggle to get acquainted with the belt and catch up to it.
- It’s not the same as outdoor running. I mean, besides the obvious. When you run on the treadmill, you don’t have to push off like you do when you’re running unassisted; the moving belt does much of this work for you. Also, on a treadmill you don’t get the benefit of training yourself to run in wind resistance, varied weather conditions, or different types of terrain. This is not to say that a treadmill run can’t be beneficial; we all know it is one heck of a workout and it beats not running every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But anyone training for an outdoor race would be wise to do as much of their training as possible, well, outdoors.
- It’s boring. Even if you pop in some headphones to listen to music or a podcast, the feeling of not actually going anywhere can be maddening. The passages of time and miles are achingly slower on the treadmill than they are outside. I’m sure it’s not as bad if you can plop it in front of your TV in the comfort of your own home and binge-watch Netflix while you run, but unfortunately, I don’t have this luxury.
So, in sum: I am what I like to call selectively pro-treadmill. It’s great for certain types of workouts, but in my opinion, it’s not a good one-size-fits-all method for the variety of running workouts in a runner’s training regimen. Or maybe a better way of saying it is that I’m simply not anti-treadmill. I’m very grateful that it exists because otherwise I would not have been able to keep up with my speed work in the off season, but honestly, I don’t care to use it for anything else. And having access to an indoor track now pretty much eliminates any need I have to use the treadmill. But, still, mad props to the mill. It’s a good thing.