Many people do most or all of their running and walking on treadmills with great success. However, as with life, moderation and common sense is the key. If your plan is to complete a 10K event, then the body needs to prepare for the impact of the "road".
Ideally, you would complete only one session on the treadmill per week, one session on the road, and then perhaps a nice recovery session on a softer surface, such as grass or trails.
Some people are able to tolerate a lot of treadmill running, and others cannot. The "bounce" impact can trigger different aches or pains than when on the roads. Other people report they remain injury-free on a treadmill. But generally speaking, more variety in the terrain means there is less chance of over-use injuries because the angles of impact change.
A concern I do have with treadmill running is that because the pace is set on a treadmill, it feels easier than having to do the work of setting your own pace on the roads or trails. So if you’re planning to do the Sun Run, it's important for you to learn how to set your own pace. A big part of comfort and efficiency while walking or running on the road is in the ability to find one’s own rhythm.
Suggestion: Set the treadmill at a 1% grade. It will help compensate for the fact that the treadmill sets the pace. The effort at a 1% grade will be a more realistic representation of the effort it would take for the same pace on the road. Also, with a brisk pace, the stronger heel-toe foot plant can actually stall the treadmill belt when it’s on a Zero incline.
Does the program need to be adjusted if many of the sessions are done on the treadmill?
No. The program can be followed exactly as it is. However, you may find yourself adjusting the time and intensity during the first few workouts until you set a pace that you are comfortable with. With all sessions, your warm-up, recovery and cool-down stages need to be set at a “talking pace.” The change-of-pace intervals need to be just a little bit faster, at a “brisk” pace. Each individual will have to try different speeds on the treadmill to determine the pace they are comfortable with.
Regarding a cool-down on the treadmill…
Because of the constant movement of the treadmill, participants may find they are dizzy and/or light-headed when they step off the treadmill after completing a workout. To help avoid this, slow the pace down significantly during cool-down. Even if the participant is an experienced runner, include a 5-minute “walk” as part of the cool-down.
One final comment…
Part of the joy of walking or running outside is the fresh air! And part of the experience is exploring the parks, trails and quiet streets in one’s neighbourhood. Some treadmill training will keep the program interesting because it adds variety, and it’s a nice option if the weather is not cooperating. However, one of the greatest positives about walking or running is the fact that one can do it anywhere, anytime; with only a good pair of shoes (and a good program)…No treadmills are required.
SportMedBC Run/Walk Coordinator
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