I haven't stepped foot on a treadmill in probably 18 months or so ... well, until yesterday. But I'll get to that in a minute. Why? Well I simply prefer to run outside, or so I thought. Running for me has become a very meditative, communing-with-nature-and-the-universe type of activity, and I just felt I could not do that while performing aforementioned activity on a rubber belt in a loud, distracting environment. However, I have a pretty abbreviated training schedule to get my mileage up for the Runner's World Half and my longest run thus far (5 miles) outside did not feel good. We've had a few weeks of near 90 temps and 70-80% humidity as well, which hasn't been helping things. So yesterday the idea just popped into my head, and I decided to take this week's 6 mile run indoors. Well folks, it was probably the best decision I have made in WEEKS! I believe the last time I did any treadmill training was in early 2012 when I was preparing for the St Luke's Half Marathon back home, and that race coincidentally is where I set my half marathon PR!
One of the things that led to my decision to take things indoors yesterday, besides the weather, was the current state of my legs, namely the tendinitis and inflamed shins I seem to continually wage war with. Because I live in an urban area, my running routes are almost exclusively contained to sidewalks. Bad news, because concrete is known to be the hardest running surface out there! In fact, it's even 10 times harder than asphalt. Fail. Check out this article from Runner's World UK which ranks the Top 10 Running Surfaces.
Since all of my running for the past year and a half has been outdoors, and almost entirely on concrete, I believe this has contributed to some of my stress injuries. I wish I lived somewhere that offered me the opportunity to run on grass, trails and other more natural surfaces but for the time being I do not. As I said, one of the things I most enjoy about running is the feeling of being one with nature, and even though I'm outside, its sometimes hard to do that with cars whizzing right by you!
Treadmills offer a markedly softer surface that is less jarring to bones, muscles and joints. In addition, I believe my posture and stride are improved, my steps are smaller and my cadence is faster when I'm treadmill running. All of these are elements of Chi Running, which I am currently investigating as a resource to pain-free running.
So after all that good information, how did my 6 miles on the treadmill feel yesterday? In a word - AMAZING! I had completely forgotten how it felt to run on this man-made contraption, but you know what, it felt incredible. My run was a lot easier (granted, I had the control set to 0.0 incline), smoother, and less painful than my runs have been outside. And to boot, I didn't even have to wear my compression socks during the run.
I'll admit, I used to be of the mindset that treadmill running was somehow 'cheating' - that the miles run on the 'mill didn't count as much as the miles outside. But I've come to really believe it has a place in training. I mean professional athletes train on the treadmill, so why not little 'ol me? It has far less impact on my body, allows me to run in any condition, in a controlled environment (hello 0% humidity and a nice 67 degrees!), and still get the same cardio benefits. It's time I start adding it back in. I am going to try to do at least one of my weekly runs on the treadmill from now on and see how my body responds. When I trained for my very first half marathon in 2011, I did a lot of my lower mileage runs on the treadmill and reserved outdoor running for my long runs, and I felt fantastic in that race. I'm thinking that this could be the rekindling of a wonderful relationship :)
So what say you?
Treadmill or Dreadmill?
What running surfaces do you normally train on?