Science behind Treadmill Running

Treadmill running

Running on a treadmill may feel like your cheating especially when the weather is wet, cold, windy and generally miserable, however this is where you are wrong. If you are going to brave the elements check out my blog post on what to wear running in winter. The latest research has expoed the truth about some of myths around treadmill running including the 1% rule and biomechanics that people assume make running on a treadmil easier.



There have been many papers into the biomechanics of treadmil running vs. outdoor running the most noticable studies I have read are by Leeds Beckett University for the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and Kerrigan et al for the National Institute of health.

Leeds: There was such minor changes in biomechanics of runners and racewalkers on a treadmil compaired to outside that it could not be ruled out as normal variation between the subjects. The changes were was small increases in their stride length as well as decrease in the amount of stides that they took. However while negibile this is not necessary a bad thing as often many runners will train to purposly increase their stride length and decrease the number of strides.

Kerrigan et al: Also noted the biomechanics and therefore the use and strain of the muscles on the treadmil compaired to the outdoor were almost exactly with minor differences put down to differences in terrains. On a treadmil you make breif contact with a moving belt rather than a stationary surface however reasearch shows the relative motion is the same and therefore the same biomechanics so the same stress on your body.

For information on the biomechanics of running in general check out my other blog post.

1% Rule

Most people will say that they set there treadmill onto a 1% incline to simulate the conditions that you would find outside but have you ever questioned why?

Andrew Jones investigated why:

The therory was that as you are running on a belt in a controlled enviorment there would be a reduction in air resistance and therefore if you increased the incline you would recreate the conditions. However Jones proven that unless you were running a mile in 7.09 mins or around 4.20 mins a km the influnce of air resistance is not detectable. If you are in category of running under 7.09 mile firstly well done!! Secondly you will need to put your treadmill up to 1% to off set the resistance and thoughs even luckier to be running even faster then you will need to put your treadmill incline up to 2 %.

What does all this mean for me?

• It’s easy to train and get used at an even pace that might not be possible outside with weather and terrain changes.
• You can get your runs in no matter what the weather and it wont affect your run
• It’s easy to monitor your technique
• You control the environment; got a race with hills yet there are no hills near where you live no problem you can replicate the course exactly.
• Returning from injury? Worried you’ll over do it and get carried away now you’re back a treadmill can prevent you overdoing it and if you need to stop you won’t be stuck halfway round your loop.

You can download this guide at: The A State of Health Clinic’s Website.

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1 Comment

  1. Zoe McParlin M.Ost says: Reply

    Hi Lidia, don’t worry I am relatively new to this too. I am glad you have found it useful.

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