With the increasing sophistication of machinery in gyms and more keep fit mechanisms for sale in shops, the use of the treadmill is becoming a popular part of this revolution. Treadmills provide the safety factor of being able to run indoors rather than facing outside dangers and can be used for walking as an addition to running. Mastering the display panels is the only visible problem but from that a treadmill running program can be devised.
But why use a treadmill as opposed to going outdoors. Rick Morris a qualified running coach has identified a few pros and cons for their use…
- Adverse weather is avoided especially when conditions underfoot are marginal
- Consistent and a comfortable pace can be achieved by the pressing of a button with no external interference from traffic.
- The machines can be adjusted to provide a mixture of hill and flat work, where there is an absence of significant hills outside.
- There is no scope for running into the wind which is often beneficial for increasing endurance levels.
- There is no fresh air in the gym or in the house, and heat levels in a gym can rise quite markedly.
- Concentration levels are restricted to pressing a few buttons and staying on a treadmill, whereas by running outside mental alertness levels are increased with the changing of direction and potential changes in the running surface.
Another factor to consider is the greater privacy both at home and to a lesser extent at the gym, where there is freedom to walk or run without being spotted by potentially sarcastic neighbours. Treadmills are also a great alternative for maintaining a winter mileage schedule especially in extreme weather when it can be dangerous to go run outside.
At a gym, there will always be staff available to offer advice on how to use the machines and to formulate treadmill running workouts. They will need to be assured of your own personal safety before allowing any substantial increase in pace.
For treadmill usage, especially for beginners, it always best to start slowly to become used to the mechanics of the machine and then build up to the required speed. At home, there is the advantage of being able to run whenever it suits and without the need to wear any specialist clothing. It can also form a good initial preparation for running outside in more amenable weather.
When used by beginners in preparation for a spring half marathon, the first few weeks of running and walking can be combined and the distance covered gradually increased. At the onset of fine weather, the body has become used to running and the ventures outside can be approached with increasing confidence. Yet, buying a running treadmill is often viewed as preferable option for those people who prefer the comfort of their own home and have a reluctance to exercise outside. Its use as a means of gaining fitness or maintaining weight levels in complete privacy has some merit.
On using the equipment some of the more expensive treadmills, especially at the gym, can offer some rather complex pre-set programs at the push of a button and can even be custom designed. A treadmill running program may cover weight loss in addition to hill work, endurance and speed intervals and the display will show the number of calories burned, current speed and distance covered. Distance can usually be expressed in kilometres or miles.
When stepping onto a more sophisticated treadmill, the initial display normally asks for the required goals for the session and thereafter there are panels which go into more specifics. At first it can be quite daunting, but if in doubt, there will always be somebody available to explain the displays.
Once the machine starts there are a few other factors to consider…
- If confidence is low when initially stepping onto the treadmill, there will usually be safety rail to hold.
- Only increase the pace when comfortable with the current speed.
- Try to run in the centre of the machine and not too close to the display screen as this will lessen the chances of an accident.
- Ensure that you can still touch the controls without stretching.
- Most gym treadmills usually allow for a few minutes of gradual warm down before the pace is reduced to a walk. Take advantage of this.
- It may be a good idea to keep a towel on the front of the machine as gyms in particular can be warm.
- Similarly, a bottle of water should be stored within easy reaching distance.
- Take care when stepping off a treadmill. Many runners have claimed to have felt unsteady for the first few seconds bordering on seemingly drunk. This soon passes but holding onto a rail for this time is good advice.
One of the great advantages of treadmill running is that the pace can be adjusted to suit personal needs at any stage of the session. Many runners have complained of the boring nature of these workouts in that it is just a case of running on the spot for minute after minute. However, treadmills can be used for the more intensive interval sessions, leaving the long steady running for outdoors. Setting up a pre- defined program of 30 minutes to include substantial increases in pace in a random sequence ensures that any runner will not be able to forecast their imminent speed. Such a program would surely eliminate any thoughts of boredom.
As many advocates of treadmill running workouts have stressed, they can be tailored to suit all individual needs, and can be as mundane or exciting as required. There is the freedom to explore the range of controls available and use them to create the appropriate intensity and variation.
The only downside to using a gym treadmill is that there is charge per session or, if available, a discounted monthly rate. Similarly, a home treadmill must be purchased whereas running outside is completely free. The choice for this will depend on the anticipated personal benefits of running and whether it is preferable to run indoors or to face the uncertain external elements.