By Claire E. Mitchell, co-founder, and Chelsea Ley, Director of Programming – tread HAPPY®

While we own and operate a treadmill studio and can remix your run® year round, we know that as temps drop, many more of us may start to shift our workouts inside. If you’re the type that abhors indoor running, though, take heart (and perhaps if possible come visit us at our studio location in the South End). Yep, trust us. Gone are the days of slogging along on the “dreadmill”. And if we can’t convince you here, maybe Beyoncé can; even she’s in on the secret of the tread (<link: https://www.wellandgood.com/good-sweat/beyonce-workout-moves-and-advice/)

And it’s not really a secret at all, is it? Running in its most basic form, is not a trend; it’s a tried and true athletic endeavor that affords its participants some major mind and body benefits. Improved cardiovascular endurance, stronger bones and joints, a sharp mind, and stress relief are just a few on a long and growing list (supported by longitudinal, rigorous research) of the health benefits of running.  And don’t even get us started on how it can make you happier. Yep that highly sought after “runner’s high”, the mix of chemicals produced during harder running efforts that reduce pain and elevate mood, is most certainly real.

We’ll have more on how to tap into that euphoric sensation another time though; for now, we’d like to dispel a few of most common misconceptions about running on the treadmill. Get ready to change your mindset about the tread. With our help you’ll be ready to run this sh*t like Cardi-O.

Misconception #1: The treadmill is boring

The treadmill is a dreadmill. We’ve all heard it before – mostly from old school, dedicated runners who have been doing the same thing over and over and over for a long time (and who can totally blame then, running in terms of the body’s movement is repetitive). But this myth is starting to get, well, old. Cycling in place alone on a spin bike – or any fitness pursuit come to think of it –without any structure or interval work would undoubtedly be quite dreadful. And so busting this first myth is truly dependent on how one of our favorite pieces of equipment is used.

Indeed, the tread can be engaging and, dare we say, FUN. Yep, even if you don’t have access to an indoor coach or motivational group setting like we provide at tread HAPPY, there are many ways to up your running game and make the tread fun. You just need to hop on with a strategy – a road map of sorts – and an intentional plan to vary your speed and recoveries for set amounts of time.  Yep, you don’t need to slog along at the same pace the entire time. While some of us enjoy finding that groove and that rhythm and staying right there, for others it helps to segment out our tread workout. Set up certain blocks of working time, say for instance 10 minutes, followed by short recoveries. The recovery time can help you reset and refocus so that you can maximize another 10-minute block of work. And come on now, throw some hills in there while you’re at it. Hills, and they don’t even need to be super steep, can help keep you engaged in the same way. Before you know it, you will have hit 30 solid minutes on the tread: two 10 minute blocks of work followed by two 5 minute recoveries – BOOM bank that workout somewhere y’all!

And maybe we’re a little biased because we own the only musically-driven, functionally grounded treadmill studio in the country, but music matters. It can pace and push. It can motivate and inspire. It can, in short, balance the hustle with the HAPPY. It can make something that can be already be incredibly challenging more fun. And unless you’re training for the Olympics (and maybe even then, because why not), running should be fun! We are more likely to persist in any pursuit that we find enjoyable. So take some time before you hop on the tread to custom make a playlist for yourself. We recommend thinking about how you want your run to be structured and putting songs in a specific order to support that structure. We’re not anti-shuffle per se. We’re just playlist junkies and know the power of each and every song and where they happen to come on in the order of the playlist (and thus where they come on in the midst of your workout to give you that extra push). “Go The Distance” by Michael Bolton anyone? We think yes.

Misconception #2: The treadmill doesn’t mimic and/or won’t prepare you to run outside

This is something that many folks continue to argue even though it has been dispelled by a good deal of research on walking/running treadmill biomechanics (<link: https://www.runnersworld.com/gear/a20830116/biomechanics-expert-debunks-treadmill-running-myths/). Almost all of us have heard that we need to add a bit of incline to mimic outdoor running, but the truth of the matter is that the difference between running outdoors and indoors (in terms of biomechanics and gait cycle anyways) is negligible. True, there are very slight differences in terms of push-off but, as a growing body of research supports, this difference is simply not significant unless you are running consistently fast…6 minute miles or faster.

There are actually ways that the treadmill can be used to better simulate outdoor conditions. By this we are mostly talking about hill work. Incline training is an additional form of resistance training that can strengthen the muscles in your calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. And it can provide the perfect conditions for you to get a great cardiovascular workout in without having to increase your speed. Power walk up the hills during your tread workouts and you’ll still challenge your cardiovascular system in ways that will make you faster, fitter, and more efficient – sweet!

We’ll finish talking about this whole tread < > outdoor comparison topic on this point: the tread is soft. One of its greatest attributes is that as a softer surface, it can reduce the impact of running on your body. Compared to an asphalt road (or even harder, a concrete sidewalk), it provides a cushioned surface that reduces a bit of the pounding on your joints. Woodway treadmills in particular, just like the ones we have in studio, have individual shock-absorbing slats which can make a noticeable difference for many runners who struggle with overuse ailments that crop up as a consequence of the impact such as shin splints or runner’s knee. One caveat: running outside in terms of the impact is important. Every step and stride our body – ligaments, tendons, connective tissue, and even our bones – gets stronger and so some impact is actually a good thing. Especially if you’re training for a specific race and want to prepare your body to take the higher impact over miles. The take home here: varying your running surfaces overall, doing some runs on harder roads and some on trails and treads, can keep you healthy and persist in your running over time. 

Misconception #3: The treadmill is just for running

This final one goes without saying. Or does it? We’re run coaches but you don’t need to hear it from us to believe it: we truly were born to run. And by run we at tread HAPPY mean walking, jogging, sprinting, and/or racing. No matter your pace, if you’re legs are moving in a repetitive and continuous gait cycle, you are, for all intents and purposes, running – and you ARE a runner. There is a time and place for slower, steady, more aerobic efforts and a time to push your pace with some speed. And walking definitely counts. It provides many of the same benefits of running and is one of our favorite cross-training activities when we’re in a more rigorous training cycle (one day a week of walking reduces impact on the body but still mimics the same biomechanical movements of running). So no matter your pace it all counts!

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Claire Mitchell
Claire E. Mitchell, Ph.D., developed tread HAPPY® in 2014 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. To date, it is the mid-Atlantic and South East’s only group running studio. With studios in Charlotte, NC, and Richmond and Charlottesville VA, tread HAPPY provides a one-of-a-kind running experience where participants – walking, jogging, or running at their own paces – are coached through musically-driven treadmill and/or treadmill + strength classes. You can join their tread tribe® and follow along on Instagram @treadhappy or learn more at www.treadhappy.com.