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Treadmill vs The Road: The Age Old Debate


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Old 24-02-2012, 12:21 PM   #1
sirchimp
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Treadmill vs The Road: The Age Old Debate

I have been training for a 10km race and following the 10k sub 45 and now sub 40 plans on this site. I have been doing it almost entirely on a treadmill now for 5 cycles. Prior to this, i did some training a previous year (1 year ago exacctly actually) for about 2-3 months...again, entirely on a treadmill.

Previously and now i followed the strategy of setting the treadmill to 1% incline. During my training last year, i was in extremely poor shape to begin with, and had set a target time of 50minutes for my 10k. So when i was to do tempo runs, and paced runs, i would aim for the 5:00/km pace...which at the begining of my program was VERY difficult if not impossible for me. Just prior to the race, i still found it very very difficult.

In the actual race, however, i found it much easier. Not so easy as to blow 50:00 out of the water, but i think i ran slower than i needed to (ended with 49:44). I don't think i could have completed 10k on the treadmill i was training on at 1% incline.

Now recently i've upped my target time to sub 4:00/km for this years 10k race and have again been on the treadmill. I had recent set of intervals on a real live actual track, and while it was such a short set of intervals (10x400m), i feel like it was much easier than if i'd done it on the treadmill.

Sooooo...my very limited and anecdotal experience suggests that at my speeds (12kph - 16kph) the treadmill @ 1% might be too steep an incline to match road running conditions.

I have read about the increased effort/energy required due to wind resistance, however it seems to only become significant at speeds >16kph...

Does anyone out there have any further insite or links to research on this subject?

I'm thinking my training on the treadmill at 1% might make me come out slower than I want to...causing me not to achieve my best possible time. And NOW that i'm thinking that, i'm worried i might come out too fast trying to make up for that difference, and die too soon, causing me not to achieve my best possible time.

A quick fix would be to get my lazy ass outside and run in the real world...but ignoring that obviously good idea, any ideas on how to take treadmill speeds + map to the real world?

Regards,
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Old 24-02-2012, 02:08 PM   #2
TheEd
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physically, running outside is more difficult to running indoors on a treadmill

however, the mental stimulation that comes from running outside far negates wind resistance etc and the added energy of other participants in an event can also heighten one's performance.

as expected, if there is too much wind or too hilly a course then performance will most certainly be impacted upon

taking all this into training and racing, this is why it is most important to feel energised by the thought and idea of racing

the extra stimulus often results in better performances

and another reason as to why with the programs we plan off periods and downtime, so that the excitement of competition still remains part of the training routine

hope I didn't go off too much on a tangent

TheEd
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Old 24-02-2012, 05:21 PM   #3
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Good post TheEd....However, i'm wondering why it is that you think running outdoors is more difficult to running indoors?

I see that all over the internet, with people suggesting to set your treadmill on a slight incline to compensate. However, there is never an explanation as to why. The best people do is casually mention wind resistance. However, its not so simple because walking vs jogging vs sprinting will result in differing levels of wind resistance which i believe is non-linear, not to mention possibly too small to matter at 'slower' speeds. (that is a casual/hand waiving statement of my own...hehe)

I found this article:
http://www.hillrunner.com/jim2/id110.html

Which cites some research. The conclusion is that at middle distance speeds, there might be some effect...but at the speeds i'm looking at here (4:00/km...or 96s/400m) its going to be extremely minor.
They basically say that the energy difference and bio-mechanical differences to running outdoors are insignificant.

I haven't really seen any compelling arguments on the other front - to suggest treadmills are easier at my speeds...or even my speeds in another year of training.

Any thoughts?
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Old 24-02-2012, 06:06 PM   #4
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Indoors is a controlled environment, in preparing to run indoors and on a treadmill you know in advance what you will be receiving

you even able to increase the speed of the mat to the pace you should be running at

outdoors, you have no control of your environment and you have to generate the pace yourself; the effort taken to achieve the pace, places different stresses upon the biomechanics than on the treadmill surface (though with some runners they can have problems with their calf muscles due to the mat having too much give)

and actually, my reasoning behind a 1% incline on the treadmill would be more to do with the need to generate the equivalent effort outdoors from the surface provided

you also receiving the advantage of the pace being provided and not having to expend the mental energy needed for this

a controlled environment is the major factor (imo) and the stresses of adapting to the outdoor scenario on a daily training basis can have more of a mental strain than indoors

though some will argue that indoors is less stimulating and borders on boring

I suppose the bottom line is simply to run

I don't believe there are exact truths to anything here and you could place my reasoning into an opinion however over the years of coaching I have witnessed how training environments affected things as well as the power of the mind and how emotion plays a major role

may the force be with you

TheEd
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Old 15-03-2012, 09:13 PM   #5
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I regularly run on the treadmill and also outside. I use my polar RS800CX when doing both. As much as the treadmill feels a lot tougher to complete paced runs on, my heartrate and performance says differently. The polar gives a running index everytime you train, and I had to start putting a 1% incline on my treadmill runs as the running index was incredibly high, basically showing that the treadmill wasn't taking as much out of my body as running outside.

I put this down to the fact the treadmill propels your legs, and they just have to keep up with the pace (pretty much the same as being pulled along), whilst when running outside, you have to physically accelerate and keep your pace constant.

I know this isn't scientific, but the heartrate is a very good indicator of perceived effort, and I see a lower heartrate for the same speeds when on the treadmill.

Regards.

Dean.
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Old 16-03-2012, 03:41 PM   #6
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Hey Dean - I'm curious what sort of speeds were you running at that you noticed this difference so as to add the 1%?

The force of drag caused by air resistance is proportional to the SQUARE of your velocity...so double your speed, and you quadruple the energy required to overcome drag. This can be mitigated by reducing your drag coefficient (tight clothes...hair cut...hehe)....but can't be avoided.

The exact impact of that as an overall % of force (or proportionally effort/energy) required to run at a particular speed is what matters. At lower speeds I've heard its almost irrelevant...but at middle distance speeds...ie 20kph or faster it starts to hit 15% of overall effort...maybe.

My own personal anecdotal experience is this: When running at about 12kph on the treadmill at 1% incline, when i transitioned to outdoors I found it much easier. Where I found it difficult to maintain 12kph for longer than 20-25minutes on the 1% treadmill, i could do 50minutes at 12kph outdoors.

However now, where i have difficulty doing 15kph for 20minutes on the treadmill at 1%, when i go outside, I have equal if not slightly more difficulty maintaining that pace...I don't know if 3kph is sufficient difference to account for that. It could be other factors like TheEd mentions.

Also, my experience across numerous different treadmills on my travels is that occasionally you get one that is mis-calibrated...I've ran on a few where the incline doesn't work (it says it works, but doesn't move). hehe. Overall though i have found most comparable/consistent from workout to workout, which is probably ultimately more important.

I think the idea that the belt pulls your feet along and thus makes it easy is false though...If you don't push off the belt with the same force as if you were running at that speed, you will eventually fall off the end of the belt. The belt is moving one way at a certain speed - just like the ground. The only way for you to keep going forward at that speed is to exert the appropriate force against the belt to push yourself forward (or more correctly push yourself to a stationary position relative to the machine..hehe).

TheEd - I think the ability to dial in an exact pace is a bonus of treadmill training...It definitely makes it easier to push myself at a certain pace, where as outdoors i might end up slowing down due to a lack of mental discipline. But that doesn't speak to the energy requirements...though, perhaps you're onto something with the different bio mechanics coming into play..if i'm mentally unprepared to push a certain pace i might start flailing around where as i'm pushed at it robotically on the treadmill making it easier....


I wish there was an easy way to check a treadmill to see if its calibrated...
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Old 27-03-2012, 07:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Hey Dean - I'm curious what sort of speeds were you running at that you noticed this difference so as to add the 1%?
Anywhere between 11 and 15km/h depending on training.

Quote:
My own personal anecdotal experience is this: When running at about 12kph on the treadmill at 1% incline, when i transitioned to outdoors I found it much easier. Where I found it difficult to maintain 12kph for longer than 20-25minutes on the 1% treadmill, i could do 50minutes at 12kph outdoors.
My experience is the same whether with an incline or not, I think the tediousness and boredom make the running harder on a treadmill. I would rather run outdoors, as I enjoy it more.

Quote:
Also, my experience across numerous different treadmills on my travels is that occasionally you get one that is mis-calibrated...I've ran on a few where the incline doesn't work (it says it works, but doesn't move). hehe. Overall though i have found most comparable/consistent from workout to workout, which is probably ultimately more important.
Because I use my S3 stride sensor, I can compare treadmill calibration, and find that most of them are within 1% of each other. I do find the cheaper ones are not always as good.

Quote:
I think the idea that the belt pulls your feet along and thus makes it easy is false though...If you don't push off the belt with the same force as if you were running at that speed, you will eventually fall off the end of the belt. The belt is moving one way at a certain speed - just like the ground. The only way for you to keep going forward at that speed is to exert the appropriate force against the belt to push yourself forward (or more correctly push yourself to a stationary position relative to the machine..hehe)
I think you have over analysed this. You only need to exert enough energy to keep up with the treadmill. You are not actually accelarting your body, as the body is not moving. Where as in the real world outside you need to propell and accelerate during each stride, there is a large difference in energy used. I bet you can run at a higher top speed on the treadmill than you can outdoors????

Quote:
I wish there was an easy way to check a treadmill to see if its calibrated...
I cannot check for calibration, but for consistency with my stride sensor......

Regards.

Dean.
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Old 27-03-2012, 10:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmw9255 View Post
Anywhere between 11 and 15km/h depending on training.

My experience is the same whether with an incline or not, I think the tediousness and boredom make the running harder on a treadmill. I would rather run outdoors, as I enjoy it more.
Thats interesting...I find that with a 1% incline its more difficult. Not amazingly more difficult. But say about 10s/km faster than my 5k pace of 3:50/km (ie 3:40/km) will result in me DYING at about 14minutes if at 1% vs surviving to completion if at 0%.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmw9255 View Post

I think you have over analysed this. You only need to exert enough energy to keep up with the treadmill. You are not actually accelarting your body, as the body is not moving. Where as in the real world outside you need to propell and accelerate during each stride, there is a large difference in energy used. I bet you can run at a higher top speed on the treadmill than you can outdoors????
Hehe...I think it may be you over analyzing...I think the treadmill being so small makes you think that it pulls you along. I too sort of got this impression initially....But as a thought experiment, imagine the treadmill is much much larger...say...1km long. (imagine a larger version of the moving walk ways in airports ... really just a long treadmill).

Now if you're standing still on that 1km long treadmill in the middle, whether its moving or not you won't really know. (ignoring momentary acceleration when it starts or slows down....and more importantly ignoring wind resistance). If you start walking in one direction now...is the belt 'pulling' your feet along and making walking 'easier'? So now start running in one direction (lets for the sake of not dying, pick the direction needed not to fall off the end)....is the belt pulling your feet back now? You were previously moving, and now you have accelerated your body to 'stationary'.

Thinking in your terms, when you're running on the road, you only accelerate your body briefly to 'moving'...then just keep it going. Hehe...thats not true ofcourse...and neither are you stationary on the treadmill...the force of the treadmill on the soles of your feet pushes your body backwards...and your feet, pushing on the belt pushes your body forwards...staying stationary.

I think the strongest point here is the LARGE treadmill...so if you think of it in those terms, you'll come to realize you're wrong about the belt pulling your feet along line of thinking.



My original line of inquiry was not so much on the mental side of things...but on the actual difference energy in joules between treadmill and road...though the mental side of things, as well as other variables makes it an interesting topic.

Regards
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