jump to navigation

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Land Walking or Running February 3, 2007

Posted by Lisa Sabin in boston marathon, fitness, Injury Prevention, marathon, running, Treadmill Running.
trackback

1. How is treadmill walking/running different from land walking or running?When walking/running on land, you have to contend with specific environmental conditions; for example, weather conditions such as wind and rain, the changing cant of roads, other traffic, hard sufaces and wet slippery terrain.Treadmills cannot prepare you completely for running outside. The variation of running outside on different surfaces is actually healthier for your body. Changing the surfaces, speed and incline or decline keep the body from suffering from overuse.When on a treadmill, your mind and body must contend with a running in a confined space, belt lag, vibration and possible boredom.Mechanically, your body must contend with landing on a surface that is moving in the opposite direction. The rearward rolling treadmill decreases the need for your hamstrings to pull your upper body forward; however, your hip flexors have to work harder to control your foot being dragged backwards and in pulling your lower leg forward. A decrease in push off ability (caused by the moving belt) further increases the load on your hip flexors.The treadmill sets an artificial pace that is unchanging in light of indirect factors (e.g., headwind, terrain changes etc). It’s easier to maintain a running pace that would be more difficult outside. For this reason, many who do a lot of training on a treadmill have difficulties in applying the same speed to the hard surface. They may find that they aren’t able to maintain the same pace, and as their mind wonders, their pace decreases.The impact on skeletal bones may be less on a treadmill because the surface is more flexible and the stride belts cushion the impact.In terms of energy usage, most research suggests that there is no significant difference between treadmill and land surface running.2. Is running/walking on a treadmill dangerous?As with any form of training, overuse injuries are a concern. Mixing up running and walking surfaces help prevent repetitve overload injuries. If possible, alternate between walking/running on the treadmill and walking/running on land. Try utilizing different cardio machines to add variety.Natural gait and proper body alignment can also be adversely affected. These alterations in gait techniques can be caused by an incline which is too steep or a pace which is too fast or too slow. Body alignment and posture can be compromised. Incorrect alignment can alter the correct force transfer along the body and increase the stress on joints and muscles.When your foot strikes the treadmill belt, the force through the limb is transferred to the belt, which is travelling in the opposite direction. This impact force causes the belt to stop momentarily (even reverse direction slightly) before belt speed is reinforced by the motor. The amount of belt lag varies with the power of the motor, looseness of the belt, belt speed and weight of the individual. The sharp, reverse-direction acceleration, for a high repetitive duration, may not be complimentary to your body.The smaller and lighter the treadmill, the more the vibration (especially at the higher speeds). This can be clearly felt when running on a cheaper domestic treadmill compared to the more expensive treadmills found in health clubs. Whole body vibration (over a long period, like truck driving) has been linked to lower back problems.3. Can muscle imbalances result from continued use of treadmills in training?This depends of the individual’s technique, previous injuries, speed of training, and type of treadmill. If you have an existing muscle imbalance or injury, the treadmill may not help. The lack of variation may will only prolong recovery.Thus, in order to prevent muscle imbalance, variety is the key. Either alternate training surfaces or cardio machines. If the treadmill is your only option, alter your training methodology (Inclines, Speed, Interval, and Long Slow Distance, etc).Sources:Dave Schmitz PT, LAT, CSCS, PESHealth Services at Columbia

About these ads

Comments»

1. hopeful - February 4, 2007

I’m so glad you posted this. I’ve just spent another week at MIL’s house, and could only use the treadmill for exercise. I generally would prefer not to, but when it’s the only choice, it’s the one I choose. I find that I get very dizzy, especially when coming off the treadmill. I also notice a marked difference in how my muscles and joints feel, compared to how I feel after a road or trail run. Now I know why!

You asked about Hobble Creek 1/2 marathon: Hobble Creek is in Springville, Utah, about 1 hour south of Salt Lake City. It’s a lovely little canyon, and the race is on a paved trail most of the time. The last couple of miles are through a residential area, and it finishes at the Springville High School. It’s very pleasant and beautiful. It’s definitely not a big ticket race, though, just one for fun.

2. lsabin - February 4, 2007

It looks like a beautiful course. I am always looking for fun races. Is this one you would recommend?

3. hopeful - February 7, 2007

Hi, I’ve been trying to reply to this for a couple of days, but our ISP is having issues. Anyway, yes, I would recommend HC. The downhill is not so steep, especially after the first mile or so. It’s just a really beautiful run. I did it two weeks after doing the Provo River 1/2, which is very steep for the first 3 miles, and my knees suffered, so my time for HC was 20 minutes slower than my time for PR. I know, what the heck was I thinking, doing 2 half marathons in 2 weeks? I honestly don’t know. I won’t be doing that again. It was a month before I even wanted to run again after that. Are you thinking of doing HC?

4. RunningKate - February 8, 2007

I’m thankful for this post. I am currently training for a half-marathon and so far the first month and a half of training has been on the treadmill. It’s been rather cold out here and also it’s scary to run at night (since I work til dark most days) outdoors.

So, I appreciate your post in breaking down the treadmill and what it means for the body. I do do speed workouts, tempo runs and long runs on it three times a week. I hope to get outside for my longer runs soon in order to keep the outdoor training going so when I go race day, my legs are road ready!

Thanks again!

5. lsabin - February 8, 2007

You are welcome. Sometimes it’s tough to get outside, but it really is better for your body.

Sometimes I just want to avoid the rain and get on a treadmill. I like doing intervals on the treadmill because you can force yourself to run faster.

Now I’m avoiding the treadmill until I’ve recovered from my plantar fasciitis. I’m sure I’ll run on the treadmill again, but not regularly,

6. Awesome Run, Sick Stomach « Running Kate - February 8, 2007

[...] article that Lisa wrote was excellent. It really helped me understand why my hip flexors have been sore [...]

7. Decent Run… weird inspiration « Running Kate - February 15, 2007

[...] Also, it feels good now, which is a good sign. My hips though felt weird, but I know from reading Lisa’s blog that that is just because of running on a treadmill (the hip flexors work too hard with the [...]

8. Plantar Fasciitis Progress « Boston Marathon or Bust! - March 8, 2007

[...] Posts Elliptical Trainer Vs Running OutsideTreadmill vs. Outdoor Land Walking or RunningSelf-Myofascial ReleaseRecovering From Plantar FasciitisHyponetremia-Water Intoxication3 Ultra [...]

9. Staying Fit On The Road « Boston Marathon or Bust! - March 26, 2007

[...] Posts Recovery-Longest Run So FarPlantar Fasciitis ProgressElliptical Trainer Vs Running OutsideTreadmill vs. Outdoor Land Walking or RunningSelf-Myofascial ReleaseRecovering From Plantar, Moving Towards My Next GoalHappy Day!Lose Weight – [...]

10. blog.dahanese.com » because this pissed me off. - April 16, 2007

[...] 1. How is treadmill walking/running different from land walking or running? When walking/running on land, the mind and body will have to contend with some environmental specific conditions; for example, the hard surface, the natural cant of roads (slight inverted “U” shape to help water drain from the road), other traffic (having to weave through other people or cross roads) and wet slippery terrain. Treadmills cannot prepare you completely for running outside. The variation of running outside on different surfaces is actually healthier for your body. Changing the surfaces, speed and incline or decline keep the body from suffering from overuse. Conversely, when on a treadmill, the mind and body must contend with a confined movement space, belt lag (see below), vibration (see below) and possible boredom. From a mechanical point of view, at a normalized pace, the rearward rolling tread decreases the need for the hamstrings to pull the upper body forward; however, the hip flexors now have to work harder to control the foot being dragged backwards (eccentrically) and in pulling the lower leg forward (concentrically). A decrease in push off ability (caused by the moving belt) further increases the hip flexor load. The machine sets a selected pace that is unchanging in light of indirect factors (e.g., headwind, terrain changes etc). It is artificial. With this in mind, the mental concentration required to maintain a running pace is reduced. For this reason, many who tend to train to a greater extent on a treadmill have difficulties in applying the same speed to the hard surface. They may not have developed the mental fortitude to maintain a pace, and as their mind wonders, their pace decreases. The skeletal (bone) impact may be less on the stride machine as there is a flexible striding surface located underneath most stride belts cushioning the impact. The continuous pull of the treadmill can also make existing problems worse. In terms of energy usage, most research at this stage suggests that there is no significant difference between treadmill and land surface running. 2. Are there dangers involved with treadmill use? As with any form of training, overuse injuries are of concern. If possible, intersperse the treadmill with land-based walking/running or alternate with other cardio machines. Variety helps prevent pattern overload injuries. Natural gait and correct body alignment can also be adversely affected. The undesirable alterations in gait techniques can be caused by inexperience, an incline which is too steep or a pace which is too fast (or even slow). Body alignment and posture can likewise be compromised; for example, by holding onto the rails with an incline that is too steep or a belt travelling at too high a speed. Both of these factors alter correct force transfer along the body and increase the force placed through the joints and muscles. Rather than just dangers, I will also include some considerations: Belt lag. When the foot strikes the treadmill belt, the force through the limb is transferred to the belt, which is travelling in the opposite direction. This impact force causes the belt to stop momentarily (even reverse direction slightly) before belt speed is reinforced by the motor. The amount of belt lag varies with the power of the motor, looseness of the belt, belt speed and weight of the individual. The effect on the body is yet to be scientifically studied; however, the sharp, reverse-direction acceleration, for a high repetitive duration, may not be complimentary to the body. Vibration. The smaller and lighter the treadmill, the more the vibration (especially at the higher speeds). This can be clearly felt when running on a cheaper domestic treadmill compared to a more expensive industrial treadmill. I have found no research regarding a treadmill specific effect; however, whole body vibration (albeit over a long period, like truck driving) has been linked to lower back problems. Cleaning agents used/old belts. Cleaning agents (I have seen belts cleaned with furniture polish) or old tread-worn belts may cause the belts to become slippery. 3. What muscle imbalance might result from continued use of treadmills in training? This is truly individual and depends on numerous factors, from the individual’s technique and previous injuries to training speed and brand of treadmill. Thus, in order to prevent muscle imbalance, as alluded to above, variety is the key. Either alternate training surfaces or cardio machines. If only treadmill training is available, alter the training methodology on the treadmill (Interval, Fartlek and Long Slow Distance, Inclines, Speed etc). (http://lsabin.wordpress.com/2007/02/03/treadmill-vs-outdoor-land-walking-or-running/ [...]

11. lsabin - April 16, 2007

It’s getting pretty technical huh? Blog.dahanese.com provides more information on the subject. I like running on the treadmill when the weather is bad. Heck, sometimes it’s just more convenient. You can get a good work out on the treadmill and I have done a lot of training on the treadmill in the past. One thing I have found though, as I am recovering from plantar fasciitis, is that the sameness of the treadmill doesn’t help me. I need a surface that stresses the muscles differently..

12. bullrunner - May 28, 2007

Finally some time to read more of your blog…even if it’s back to the archives. Thanks for this article too. I started running on the treadmill and only started running consistently outdoors a month ago. The difference is significant. I can’t imagine training for a race purely on the treadmill. Thanks for this article.

13. lsabin - May 29, 2007

You are welcome. Happy Running!

14. Adarian - June 9, 2007

Treadmill training can be closer to ground running, if you actively run on the treadmill. Actively running on a treadmill is the same running mechanics as ground running.
The better your ground running mechanics are the better you can actively run on a treadmill.

Just as in ground running keep your feet moving backwards towards your body and make the ball of your foot the initial contact point with the treadmill belt. This way your foot and the belt will be moving in the same direction.

this would also lessen belt lag and vertical bounce.

15. Niki Dobbyn - September 2, 2007

Hi There,
It’s wonderful to be quoted, but can you please reference the original article that’s on TriathaNewbie.com, not About.
Thanks,
~Niki

16. Ritzyjingles - January 3, 2008

Treadmill gradient should be set at an incline of 1% to reflect the energetic cost of outdoor rinning (Jones and Doust, 1996). A gradient of 0% at your usual outdoor running pace is like running outdoors but slower because less effort is involved.

17. lonerunner - February 6, 2008

there should be gradient of at least 2% otherwise you wont be able to simulate road runs, 1% gradient may not be enough. Road runs uses some leg muscles that you wont be able to use if your are on treadmills. Expect some muscle pain on Quads and shin, muscles we use to propel ourselves that often is not needed when you are on treadmills. good article!!!

18. TriathaNewbie.com - March 10, 2008

The reference to Niki Dobbyn has been misrepresented in the article above. Niki Dobbyn is the owner of Triathanewbie.com. About.com has permission to republish the article. Could you please update your website to reflect this?

Be Well.
TriathaNewbie.com

19. Marc - June 18, 2010

Wow. What a post….wait a minute…isn’t it plagerised from a ptonthenet article…almost word for word.

20. Kathy - December 8, 2010

I’ve been running on the treadmill for about a month now and my hip flexors have been sore and it’s not going away even with only doing it every other day. Now I know why. I will mix in running outside now.

21. sole f80 - January 10, 2011

Thanks for this post. Very useful information.

22. Dolores F. Curry - January 11, 2011

I have been using the treadmill consistenly for 8 mos. w/ the desired result of maintaining my weight. I also walk at the ocean. I recently pulled my sweater on my head covering my eyes, I fell, my feet hit the back walk. I fractured my the bone over the ball in my shoulder. I am in a sling for six weeks. At least 15 people have told me they had the same experience or know someone who fail on the treadmill fracturing their shoulder. I am 72 years old. BE CAREFUL!

23. richa - January 21, 2014

nice post.outside running which helps you to give natural healthy fitness

24. Karen - October 9, 2014

Hi
I am thinking about taking pro hormones, do you think this is good idea for advanced bodybuilder like me?
Bodybuilders are satisfied with the results after prohormones cycles, just google for – 100% pure muscles without side effects – worth a try?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: