Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Hate the Treadmill

It didn't used to be this way. The Treadmill and I used to have an understanding, hell, we used to be best friends, but several months ago, things took a turn. Now I'm dreading the thought of winter because it means that I will be forced to make friends with The Treadmill again.

About a year ago, fall softball was in the final stretch and in the 2nd game of a Sunday double-header, I broke my wrist. Actually, I shattered my wrist, both the ulna and radius, in a freak accident sliding into third base. I was trying to stretch a double into a triple and in my haste to get down, my body landed on my left arm and, well, that was that. It hurt a lot, I'm not gonna lie, I freaked out just a little bit. I had someone call an ambulance only to realize a few minutes later that I really didn't need one. Just a couple weeks before, a girl on one of the teams we were playing had seriously broken her ankle and ended up requiring an IV on the there was precedent for my concern. Anyway, they came, I told them I didn't need them and they left...crisis averted. The bottom-line was that I ended up having surgery and well, that was the beginning of my serious foray back into running.

About 3 or 4 weeks after surgery, I was getting really antsy. Since about 2006, I've been keeping a regular workout schedule, working out anywhere from 3-6 times/week. After 3 weeks of downtime I was downright stir-crazy so I had to do something. So I started doing pretty much the only thing I could do which was...running on the treadmill. As time progressed, I enjoyed it more and more but this Spring, when the weather started to turn, I started running outside. And that's when my relationship with the Treadmill began to deteriorate.

Running outside is wonderful - the fresh air, the beauty of nature, open spaces, hills, valleys, etc. When you run outside, there is no display in front of you, mocking you and tempting you to go faster. When you run outside, you're actually GOING SOMEWHERE, not just running in place like an animal on a wheel. I guess I don't really have any good reason to dislike the treadmill, it serves it's purpose when it's needed - it's just that the great outdoors are so much better. My main issue with the treadmill is that it's boring - like that dull cousin you see at the once-a-year family get-together. The outdoor are like the "cool" aunt, always helping you get away with something without mom and dad seeing.

Someone commented on Daily Mile today that the treadmill felt more difficult to them, than running outdoors. That got me thinking so I did a little research and found the following treadmill facts:

- Americans spend about $2B a year on treadmills (source)
- On the treadmill the body is stationary relative to the air around you and no air flows past your body [duh]. This is why you will feel hotter, and you will sweat more compared to outside running. So you need to hydrate more. (source)
- On the treadmill you should set incline from 1% to 3% so you simulate the body movement as it would be in overground running. [in other words, despite the treadmill sometimes "feeling" harder, its easier to run on a treadmill than it outside because a) it's perfectly flat and b) you have no air resistance (source)]
-  Cool infographic about treadmill running
- An interesting take from someone who believes the "1% to 3%" incline rule is a myth

In the midst of my research I found an article/study that might answer the question of why it FEELS harder to run on a treadmill despite the FACT that is is easier. What is comes down to is Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) - which is a touchy-feely term for "how hard people think they're working". Personally I think most people are just happier outside and that makes all the difference. That and there's the fact that you get hotter more quickly (and thus, more uncomfortable) when you're inside on a treadmill. I don't expect to provide the final say on a decades-long argument however, I just know that for me, I would pretty much rather run outside, in any kind of weather, than run inside on a treadmill.


  1. Very interesting!! I know exactly what you mean about the "dreadmill". I'm purposefully buying lots of winter running gear in hopes it will keep me outdoors and away from the 'mill!

  2. Meee too. I don't care if it's 10 degrees out, if I can somehow run outside, I will do it. Thanks for the comment!