IN DEFENCE OF THE DREADMILL

In Defence Of The Dreadmill

Think of the treadmill and dull, sterile and boring springs to mind. It has had a bad rap but like the stationary bike, it’s having somewhat of a renaissance. Treadmill classes are springing up in gyms such as Equinox, Virgin Active and boutique studios like Barry’s Boot Camp, 1 Rebel London, Mile High Run Club and The Run New York, reinvigorating the unfair reputation of the “dreadmill.” I’ve recently become a big fan of adding treadmill training into the mix for numerous reasons:

Yes, the treadmill controls the pace but you control the treadmill.
It’s the perfect tool for precise reps and recoveries, intervals, hill reps and tempo sessions. Spend a few minutes pre-programming the machine and you’re more likely to commit fully to the training session, no cheating, no excuses. Plus no need to worry about road junctions, potholes, pedestrians, wonky paving and so on to slow your pace or interrupt your run. Raising the gradient to 1-2% will help replicate running on a flat road surface.

It’s best for bouncing back.
The sprung surface is softer on the joints making it ideal for bouncing back from injury or to help prevent injury in the first place by swapping one road run a week for an interval treadmill session.

Road running can be a fair-weather friend.
Even if you’re game to go out in all conditions, sometimes the weather is just not conducive to a quality training session. With winter approaching, icy conditions can be a recipe for disaster and at the very least will affect your gait and pace. And with our increasingly busy work lives, squeezing in a road run late at night or very early in the morning can be a safety concern in the dark.

Form follows function.
Running on a treadmill, often in an environment with lots of mirrors is a good opportunity to analyse your form, style, posture, foot strike and gait, therefore improving efficiency and preventing or treating injuries. It’s also a great way of monitoring performance and progress giving an accurate perspective of fitness gains.

Only boring people get bored.
Well, so my grandmother used to say, or something to that effect but the boredom factor lies squarely on the shoulders of the runner, not the treadmill. If you go out on the roads and do the same routes at the same pace all the time, that gets boring too. A little imagination and a plan before you step on can turn this machine into a fun interactive tool. Put together some inspiring playlists, join a group class or try my latest discovery, the RunSocial App.

Similar to Myride+ or Tritxer for the bike, this nifty virtual world running app is free to download and works best with an iPad placed on the console shelf combined with the TreadTracker device (£84.99). It slips under the treadmill which syncs via bluetooth for the most accurate tracking, so you move through at pace. There are currently 15 routes to choose from including: Banff, Death Valley, a section of The London Marathon course and The Prague Marathon (which will be the first digital marathon that you can participate in via the app from anywhere in the world, an exciting development in the world of mass participation events.)

The experience is great, as you move seamlessly through the virtual routes you’re engaged from start to finish, which is fantastic for de-stressing, switching off and enjoying being in the moment. The gamification element of being able to compete with other runners logged onto the route at the same time, with your avatar overtaking theirs adds excitement, interest and of course, competitive spirit which is so often lacking in solo training to add that extra push.

But most importantly for me, the engagement in the virtual world helps me disengage from constantly watching the time or distance tick down on the console, it stops me neurotically checking through my to-do list or talking myself out of a particularly challenging training session taking my head somewhere else and losing my mind for the right reasons, so I can push harder than ever before. For me, it seems the RunSocial app, really is a no-brainer.