The Treadmill: Is it the devil?

Victoria-Lavinskas

Victoria Lavinskas PT, MScPT

Registered Physiotherapist
Running Consultant

We’ve all had those days when it’s pouring rain or there’s a nasty winter storm out, but we need to get that run in so we opt for the treadmill instead of the good ol’ outdoors.

Some of us actually prefer running on the treadmill, especially in the winter. Maybe it’s just more convenient than putting on all of that winter gear to head outside.

So what’s the deal? Is it OK to run on a treadmill? Should you be running outside instead?

Let’s have a look at the treadmill’s pros & cons:

Pros:

  • You can more easily control the speed/incline on a treadmill
  • It’s easier to combine a run with a gym workout when using a treadmill

Cons:

  • There is no variety in the surface, therefore leading to more repetitive use injuries (e.g. IT Band Syndrome, Patellar Tendonitis)
  • It is not a good representation of road running conditions because of this lack of variety in the surface, as well as a lack of environmental elements such as wind and rain

So what does this mean?

  • If you’re using running as a (10-15 min) warm-up before your gym workout, a treadmill is a perfectly good option
  • If you’re just running to stay fit, you should favour running outdoors to minimize the risk of developing repetitive use injuries (e.g. IT Band Syndrome, Patellar Tendonitis)
  • If you’re training for a race, whether it be a 5km/10km/21.1km/42.2km, the vast majority of your runs should be done outside in similar conditions as the race conditions (e.g. it might be raining and windy on the day of the race, so you shouldn’t shy away from heading out for a run in those kinds of conditions)
  • You can use a treadmill during race training to work on speed/hill intervals, as long as most of your training is done outdoors

In summary, is the treadmill the devil? No! Just don’t overdo it and remember to let your body train in similar conditions as your race conditions so you don’t add any unnecessary stress on race day!