Why The Treadmill May Be Making You Feel More Out of Shape Than You Really Are


I run 4 times a week. Strength-train twice a week. Do yoga every couple weeks.
I’ve ran more than a dozen short-distance races, four half marathons, and one full marathon.
I’m not saying all this to show off my fitness level. Let me tell you a story…

A couple weeks ago I decided to kill the 20 minutes I had before the start of my circuit-training class by running on the treadmill. I hadn’t run on the treadmill since last winter (I always run outside), so a part of me was excited to see how I’d do after such a long hiatus. I started off by setting my speed to 5.5 mph (10:55 min/mile). It was 6:30 am and my muscles were still a little stiff, so it took a couple minutes to warm up. Once I felt OK, I sped up to 6 mph. (10 min/mile). As I continued running, I felt heavy, awkward, and tired.

Just keeping running and you’ll eventually feel better, I told myself.

How close to the front of the belt should I be running? Should I be running further back to allow more room for my arms to swing?

I still don’t know how to properly run on the treadmill.

I haven’t even had breakfast yet, but I feel 10 pounds heavier than normal… ugh.

These feelings of discomfort continued throughout the 20 minutes.

I never feel this way when I run outside. Sure, it takes me a few minutes to find my rhythm and feel comfortable, but I never feel heavy or exhausted after just 5 minutes of running.

I felt like the old, freshman-year-of-college me. The one who never ran for more than 20 minutes (and always on the treadmill), worked out sporadically, and weighed 20 pounds heavier.

How is it that I ran a marathon just a couple months ago, yet can barely get through 20 minutes of running at a 10 min/mile pace?

This made me realize that those who run exclusively on the treadmill may be under the impression that they are way more out of shape than they really are. There’s something about the treadmill that makes smooth, light movement so difficult.

My concern is that this may lead to feelings of discouragement and intimidation, and these feelings may culminate in a discontinuation of exercise altogether.

After my first 6-miler on the treadmill (in Prague of all places)… it was INCREDIBLY difficult.

It took meeting someone who introduced me to the concept of running outside to get me to love running (shoutout to Scott). For some reason I always thought that you had to be a ‘runner’ to run outside. Casual treadmillers are not allowed to do such a thing. They’re not runners.

But how does one become a runner? By running. Looking back now, it was such a silly thing to hold myself back from running outside simply because I thought I wasn’t ‘allowed,’ but hindsight is 20-20.

I don’t want to discard the merits of the treadmill; it allows you to control your speed, get exercise in inclement weather, and run on a flat surface. However, that’s besides my point.

My point is this: If you run on the treadmill and feel heavy, awkward, and tired, try running outside. Or maybe you have accepted these feelings of discomfort as “part of working out” and gotten used to it. I also encourage you to go outside for your next run.

Just do it, and see how you feel. You don’t need to be a ‘runner’ to do it. You already are one.

I bet you’ll run faster and longer than you ever thought you could.

A couple years ago, while training for my first half marathon. I don’t think I could have accomplished this on a treadmill.
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December 2016 in LA

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