Reason #4: Poor Form
Over the last week or so, I have read some troubling thoughts. I have come across them on other blogs and seen some chatter on some of my frequented running forums. I know the weather has been abysmal across the US and, in turn, folks have taken to their treadmills. This is to be expected, but with all the treadmill talk, I have seen some folks actually declaring that the treadmill is a good thing. Not a good thing in that it keeps you out of the cold, free of frostbite and pneumonia, but good for your running, in that, it helps you work on your form. Let that sink in for a minute before you read on: “The treadmill is good for my form.”
I am a firm believer in proper form keeping people injury free. However, proper form can only be developed running in appropriate conditions, the treadmill is not an appropriate condition – unless you live in a pod and only ever use a treadmill, ever.
If you think about how a treadmill moves and how your body moves on it, it should not take too long to see how different it is to run on real ground. When you are running outside the ground is not moving. In order to move forward, you must push yourself forward. Now compare that to a treadmill. On a treadmill, the belt is moving, if you did not lift your feet and move them forward you would fall off the back. Now it may seem like you are propelling yourself, but any real pushing forward you are doing is lost to the already backward moving belt. You are not really pushing anything. While you may be taxing the muscles needed to push yourself forward, it is only minimally so.
Couple this with the fact that you are on a moving belt and no matter how comfortable you are on a treadmill somewhere in your sub-conscious your brain is screaming at your legs to move faster so you do not get ripped off the back. Like one of those nightmares where it seems impossible to outrun the hot lava. Consequently, it becomes way to easy to overstride. Overstriding is when your foot goes beyond your knee when it lands. This is problematic as you can do nothing more than land on your heel with a less than appropriately bent knee to absorb the shock of impact.
I know some quality top notch athletes use the treadmill to train, and are able to do some amazing things (Ingrid Kristiansen) but I sincerely doubt they are only training on the treadmill.
To date, most of my treadmill complaints have not been serious. This whole “My treadmill helps my form” idea is a serious one and I hope I was able to dissuade anyone of that idea. The treadmill does nothing to help your form. It garbages it up. There is nothing real about running on the treadmill. Saying that treadmill running is good for your form is like telling a fifteen year old who has only ever done donuts in snow covered parking lots that they are ready for the track in Daytona.
As a point of concession, I do understand the value of running on a treadmill when conditions outside are impossible, or if you are training for a race in a hot climate and you need to acclimate yourself.