Treadmill running can be a useful addition to your training, especially if the roads are icy during winter, but there are a few factors to consider. When running on a treadmill, the belt is moving towards you and there’s no wind resistance, so there’s less effort required to propel your body forward. If you did all your training on a treadmill, you could feel some weakness when racing outdoors. However, research has indicated that if you use a treadmill on a one per cent gradient, it will help to address this disadvantage.
Your running biomechanics may also be affected on a treadmill – you may run with a flatter foot and a shorter stride length, and lean forward more. These issues are not a big concern if you’re mostly running outdoors and using a treadmill for just some of your training. It could even reduce the stress on certain niggles.
Treadmills are also useful for setting a consistent pace and your stride will not be interrupted. They can, therefore, be a useful training tool, especially when you’re doing a sustained effort. Monitoring your progress is easy – the read-out allows you to gauge the pace you’re able to hold for a set period of time.
However, you need to practise pacing during outdoor running too, to develop or improve your instinctive pace awareness. Interestingly, studies have shown that runners run slower on a treadmill if asked to match an outdoor pace; this is because a treadmill can make you feel as though you are running faster than you actually are. Because of these differences between treadmill running and outdoor running, I find it best not to relate my treadmill pace to my outdoor pace. Instead I use them as a separate means of measuring my fitness.
You may get hot when running on a treadmill, especially if you’re not in an air-conditioned room. This could help with heat acclimatisation if you’re training for a warm-weather event, but you may find it difficult to do a long treadmill run.
Finally, treadmill running can be boring, as you won’t have the stimulation of scenery or landmarks, but working out to your favourite tunes will help.