Here’s how to stay fit and healthy while running on the treadmill this winter. – BY SEAN FALCONER
The treadmill can be a lifesaver when it's dark outside or the weather is bad, but running on a moving belt – especially if it's too fast for your fitness level – can affect your stride, or worse, lead to specific injury patterns, notably hip-flexor strains among runners who put a lot of miles on the belt, as well as shin, Achilles or ITB pain from running with an overly narrow stance. So, if a treadmill is an important part of your running, consider these strategies for keeping your body healthy.
1. Too much speedwork
You might enjoy cranking the treadmill up to max speed and then sticking it out, but because the treadmill keeps moving even as you tire, you may end up over-striding and landing with your foot too far ahead of your body. That can lead to knee, hip and hamstring pain, so try to match your treadmill stride rate to your road stride rate – if your treadmill rate is lower by 10% or more, chances are you’re struggling on the belt and over-striding, thus putting a new stress on your body.
2. Running on autopilot
Doing the same workout over and over, at a comfortable pace and incline, can cause problems down the proverbial road, because the belt's flat, uniform surface works your muscles and joints in a repetitive way. Normally, out on the roads or trails, you would encounter hills, turns, rocks, pavements and more that force your body to make adjustments, which balances the workload and prevents certain muscles and joints from being overtaxed. So if you're running regularly on a treadmill, try using the preset programmes, doing hill work some days and changing up the pace.
3. Training inside, racing outside
On race day you could face variables such as hills or headwinds, so it’s better to do your long runs outside, but if it's a choice between a treadmill long run and no long run at all, then hit the belt and try to vary your pace and incline as much as possible to resemble the terrain you'll encounter.