[The Only] Three Times When Using a Treadmill Makes Sense
The Workout: Easy6
10 minutes in Z1.
35 Minutes in Z2.
10 Minutes in Z1.
There’s no way around it: a treadmill is a terrible torture machine that is most definitely not where you should go looking for your passion of running. Having said that, there are a few situations where I think running on a treadmill, for someone who’s already into running, is the right move:
You’re coming back from an injury. When you’re coming back from an injury, and you’re trying to be particularly careful about monitoring how quickly you’re re-entering the running world, how fast you’re running, or you want the option to pull the plug on a run at any minute, a treadmill is a great tool. Not only can you get an absurd amount of precision on speed, incline, etc, but you can also pull the plug (literally) on any run, at any time, without the downside of having to walk 4 miles home in the rain (because, we’ve all been there).
You live somewhere where the winters suck. I’m talking to you, Chicago (with your icy sidewalks of death). And you, Seattle (with your dark before and after work and 36 degrees outside and raining weather). If you’re in either of those camps, or another one like either of those camps, running indoors is just safer. It’s not glamorous, it’s definitely not sexy - but if you’ve got a day job, and you can’t sneak out for a lunch-time run, hopping on the old hampster wheel after work isn’t actually pretty practical.
You’re looking to develop your running in a very particular, controlled environment. For instance, you live in a particularly flat part of the world and you need to train for a race with lots of elevation change. Or, let’s say that you’re trying to adjust your gate from being a heel striker to a mid-foot striker. Or, let’s say that you’re trying develop your ability to run while reading a book (a skill I’m yet to attempt, but have observed an alarming number of times…). If any of those situations applies to you, a treadmill can be a great tool for you.
But please, for the love of God, go run outside. The fresh air is good for you. Running in the rain will make you feel like a kid again (and prepare you for adverse conditions). And, running on a treadmill is hardly something that a healthy, reasonable person would look forward to.