Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running

I actually had to Google this when I got back from the gym.  The treadmill confuses me. It hurts my body in ways that the outdoors doesn't. My knees ache, my abs get really tight (not that that's necessarily a 'bad' thing). Anyway, I couldn't make it to the beach tonight so I thought I'd drop into the trusty gym-bo instead. I guess after running outdoors for the last few months, it's bound to be a little awkward scrambling one foot in front of the other on a rotating rubber mat. I'm sure it didn't help that I ran without headphones or a TV screen in front of me, making me acutely aware of every bone, muscle and nerve in my body.

Tonight, Running Planet tells me "...a slight, whole body, forward lean will enlist the help of gravity just enough to assist with directing your momentum smoothly forward. Keep your hips pressed forward and your butt tucked in." Check. At least my form is correct.  It also says that, "...studies have estimated that outside air resistance creates an increase in your workload between 2% and 10%, depending upon your running speed." So, apparently I'm performing between 2% and 10% less on a treadmill?

Well, what I did tonight was something that Frankie taught us last week at Run Club. Sprints. Last week, I thought I was going to ...die. We ran 1 mile to the track, then we ran 4 laps as fast as we could, with a 2 minute break in between each lap. I came in as one of the 1st girls for each sprint! To be honest though, I only ran 3 laps since I felt entirely too nauseous and dizzy to attempt the 4th. Wouldn't want to be that girl - vomiting on the track in front of 100 people that you only see once a week! But I digress. So, tonight I ran 10 minutes at a steady 6.4mph then alternated between an 8.0mph sprint and the steady 6.4mph at 1-minute intervals for the next 10 minutes. So I was only up there for 20 minutes, but like Frankie said, "If you want to get faster and faster in the long runs, you gotta do the sprints." So here I am. I'm a-sprintin'.

In my immediate research of a few other websites, the seemingly obvious difference between treadmill and outdoor running comes down to the fact that on a treadmill you will have:

  • Decreased wind resistance (unless... what? the fan is blowing on you...?)
  • Assistance via the propelling belt
  • No terrain changes
Therefore, the only way to comparably use the treadmill in place of the outdoors is when you maintain the same effort as if you were outdoors. It's funny when I think about this. I was only breathing through my nose until 8 minutes in. Not exactly the huffing|puffing outdoor momentum encountered on those  boardwalk runs. Time to step it up. According to the Journal of Sports Science "...a 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running." Okay, so we'll up it by 1% next time. Though I don't see myself doing long runs on the treadmill. To be perfectly honest, it is really boring to stare at the same traffic lights, BP gas station, 6 palm trees, giving an occasional, awkward wave to the same guard circling the terrace for 20 minutes. So maybe I'll just use it for sprint practice nights. But what's nice about the gym is that I can pack in those isolated muscle exercises as well with the free weights, that giant, bouncy, neon orange exercise ab ball thing...y..., and of course the leg press machines.

Best part about tonight? One night away from Nike South Beach Run Club on Thursday nights!


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