Treadmills: A Necessary Evil

I am pretty sure if there was a Family Fortunes survey with the question “What piece of gym equipment do you hate the most?” Les Dennis’ top answer would  be the treadmill – At least that is what I hear from talking to others I train with and read in sports magazines. People moan about the monotony, the boredom, and so on. Yet, my gym has 8 treadmills, as well as 4 sets of other similar machines (which look far too complicated to use) and they are pretty regularly the busiest pieces of kit.


I spent much of the beginning of this year training indoors as having not done much exercise in the winter before I needed to get my fitness up to a reasonable level; but more recently have tried to make sure I am outside as much as possible. I definitely prefer the fresh air, the varied terrain and of course the changes of scenery. Also, unlike cycling, I feel a lot more comfortable running outside where I live as you can stick to the pavements and can reasonably easily hit your top speed for a sustained period without too much fear of death. But whilst I am not saying it is all you should be doing, there are some advantages to indoor running: as well as a central heating and a lack of traffic, you can set constant speeds, gradients and even heart rate zones. Not that I really do any of that, but it is nice to be able to set a pace to give you something specific to aim at.

I also have a trick I specifically use on treadmills, where if I start feeling tired I push the speed up a bit. It might sound crazy, and I am not recommending this, but somehow my body seems to then adapt to a faster pace and settle down again. After a bit longer I do the same again, and basically keep pushing it until I really cannot keep the pace, and then reset to the original level, where the reduction in pace makes it feel a lot easier and keeps you going. I guess the disadvantage is if you need to be sick, as that would probably not go down too well with my gym buddies…

A while ago I was discussing training with someone who had entered a race fairly early on in the season, around March time. They had not done much running before, and I recommended they get in some treadmill sessions to ease into it. Others we were with disagreed and said would be too boring, and they were far better outside. Unfortunately the cold winter bit in, and after a few speculative voyages they gave up and pulled out of the race. Had they been able to build up their abilities on a treadmill in a bit of warmth who knows what could have happened. I feel like this story should end with ‘needless to say I had the last laugh’ but that might be a bit too Alan Partridge.

Having kept up my training throughout this year I am pretty comfortable training outdoors at the moment (although pneumonia is probably only around the corner) but occasionally needs must and I find myself inside. Today was first time in ages have used a treadmill and it turned out to be a good session, and I hit a new 10 km PB 52.12, a fair bit faster than last time around. In fact earlier on this year I would feel pretty pleased (and also nauseous) if I finished in under an hour. Even more so given I had put in a 2 km swim earlier on in the day. So whilst the outdoor training certainly helped me get faster, it was built on a foundation of gym sessions. Needless to say, I had the last laugh…


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