[Originally posted on Bristol Running Resource, 13/02/11]
I don’t know many runners who like the treadmill. Most people who have experienced the joys of running outside, either on- or off-road, tend to find the treadmill a little bit tedious. And if you’re training involves long runs it can be worse than that.
I’ve a friend who once did all his training for the Bristol Half on a treadmill. It required regularly spending two hours or more staring at the same wall. The degree of commitment required to keep that up week after week is, to me at least, mind-boggling. Much easier to pull on your trainers and head out the door for a change of scenery. Each to their own I guess.
But on days when the weather is pretty manky all but the hardiest souls are tempted to take the indoor option. I succumbed today. And that got me thinking.
The treadmill has undoubtedly got a place in a structured training regime, especially if you live nowhere near a track. It can be used to practice negative splits, do pyramid sessions or interval training, and develop a stronger sense of effort-based pacing. It can be used to find your VO2 max and run consistent threshold runs. I seem to recall that one of my best periods of running included running a weekly treadmill session of 5x500m intervals with 500m recoveries. If you’re at maximum effort for half the distance, and gasping for breath the rest, you don’t have time to get bored. And it makes a massive difference to your speed.
But I’m not in that sort of territory at the moment – and possibly never again. It struck me for the first time today that the treadmill allows for another type of run. You can dissociate from what you’re doing without worrying about tripping over loose paving slabs or dogs, sliding in dog crap, or getting poked in the eye by low hanging branches. Dialling in the required speed and just setting everything to autopilot allows you to switch off. Or switch over to a different channel and think about something completely different. I never quite manage that when out in the fresh air. So the treadmill opens up the possibility of having a bit of a moment, while giving everything a work out. Tai Chi is moving meditation. I guess running on the treadmill can be too.