Do Treadmills Hurt Runners?
The heavy snow has driven runners inside to their old frienemy, the treadmill. Feel lukewarm about it or hate it, the treadmill provides a very different workout, and not just because it’s so dull. I’ve had several safety questions about treadmills, so I thought it deserved address here. I tried to swallow my prejudice against the ever-churning engine of monotony, at least long enough to get some objective research done on its relation to running injuries (for it has been known to produce non-running injuries).
It turns out treadmills won’t injure you more frequently… they just injure you differently.
There are some problems related to the repetitive motion of treadmills. Most of these relate to your form. We all know that bad form can injure you, but it’s much more likely to do so on a treadmill. On the roads, you’re forced to change the way your body moves to adapt to the terrain; this means that your body gets a break from the excess wear and tear caused by running with bad form. The treadmill, however, gives us no breaks. Most people use the same repetitive motion, and so flaws in their form go uncorrected. So if you find yourself sore after a couple runs on the treadmill, it’s probably your own fault; our hated machine just exacerbates the problem.
The biggest risk with treadmill running also stems from its homogeneity. Running on such a uniform surface trains your legs to move in one particular way. So what happens when you return to outdoor running? Suddenly you’re a domesticated tiger forced to survive in the wild. You might make it, but chances are you won’t last long. The uneven surfaces demand too much of muscles which were never used on the ‘mill, and suddenly, strains and pulls abound. or, as they say at runningplanet.com:
When running outside you encounter uneven surfaces, stones, soft areas, hard areas, dry areas, wet areas and various combinations of these surfaces. The challenge of running over these surfaces improves your propreoception or the ability of your neuromuscular system to correct for the effect these types of surfaces have on your muscles and the position of your body parts and joints. This is critical to runners because it affects balance, power and running economy. Running on the treadmill removes this very important part of training.
-Treadmill Running Pros and Cons
Another study seems to show that long-term milling actually keeps your bones from becoming resistant to the hard outdoor concrete (check this out).
It would be unfair, however, to exclude the benefits of treadmill running. You’re of course off the ice, which means fewer falls, less danger from cars, silly stuff like that. More interestingly, treadmills seem to help prevent the usual overuse injuries (shin splints, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and so forth). According to several sources, these injuries come from stress on the connective tissue, the result of running on hard surfaces. Getting off the concrete can help stave off such issues.
But, as we’ve learned, treadmills shouldn’t be used as a replacement for outside running- at least, not if you intend to return to it. Over reliance on it leads to injury. Intermittent use, however, provides runners with valuable protection and rest. So it does (as much as I hate to admit it) play a role in a healthy training regiment… just don’t let that role get too big.Share on Facebook