Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Is a Treadmill Run Equivalent to an Outdoor Run?

Today was a barefoot running day.  I usually do these after work because, frankly, they don't take that long.  However, I felt a need to start running in the mornings, because 1) my race is going to be in the morning and 2) when the traditional runs get longer, I won't be able to do them after work.  I got up ridiculously early, hopped on the treadmill, and away I went.  But not really...I ran, but in the same place at the same pace.  I began to wonder if the workouts are compatible.  Surely it must be easier to run on a treadmill, you're not actually moving your body weight forward after all.  Plus, an outdoor run involves a variety of surfaces and inclines, so that has to be a better work out right?  Here's the million dollar question, if I train on a treadmill am I not going to be ready for my half marathon?

Image Source:  Runners Connect blog

The good news is that someone else has already thought of this and done the research. According to a 1996 UK study there is a difference in the energy expended, that includes the body weight momentum I mentioned and wind resistance, which I didn't think of at all! The study concluded that the difference between the two running workouts could be compensated for by running on a treadmill with a 1% incline.  That's actually great news, because I've been running with a 2% incline.  I will eventually move my runs to the great outdoors, and when I do, I will feel more certain that I didn't cheat myself by running indoors for so long.  One less thing to worry about, and one workout closer to the Half.

Barefoot Progress Report -
  • .25 mile walk
  • .75 mile run
  • .5 mile walk
Total Distance - 1.5 miles
Total Time - 21'04"

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