Cardio Questions - Treadmill Running Vs. Outdoor
My friend told me that running on a treadmill will not give you
the same cardio workout as running outdoors on a track. Is this
This is a really great question as the treadmill is probably the
most utilized piece of cardio equipment in the gym. It's easy to
understand the popularity of this machine as it has many benefits.
First of all, it's easy to use. Along with this, it's a very familiar
piece of equipment to most people and doesn't carry the "goofy"
stigma that some cardio equipment does. Secondly, it's easy to distract
yourself on a treadmill by watching TV, reading a magazine or people
watching. In fact, many of the newer treadmills have televisions
built right into them! You can also use a treadmill any time of
day and in any type of weather. All of these are great benefits
and we haven't even mentioned yet that you can get a very good workout
on a treadmill.
are however, inherent differences between running outside and running
on a treadmill. The major difference is in locomotion. Normal running
requires that we use the muscles of the body and momentum to propel
the body forward. This process essentially has 3 phases:
- The forward foot strikes the ground.
- The planted leg then pulls back with the hamstrings and gluteus.
- The trailing leg swings through with the assistance of the hip
Perhaps the most important of these 3 phases as far as locomotion
is concerned is the second phase which is the pulling back that
is done with the hamstrings and gluteus muscles. The faster you
wish to go, the more the muscles involved in this stage of the process
are stressed. This will become very evident if you were to look
at the physical differences between sprinters and long distance
runners. Sprinters have more muscle in general but it is especially
pronounced in their hamstrings and glute (butt) muscles. It is often
said that we run with the back of our legs not the front.
Now let's compare this with what happens while running on a treadmill.
The forward foot strikes the ground just as with outdoor running.
But then that foot is pulled back by the rotation of the treadmill
belt. This assistance by the treadmill in the pulling phase is really
what separates treadmill running from real world running outdoors.
On a treadmill, you are essentially removing the second phase or
at least greatly reducing the workload of the necessary muscles.
Another important thing to note is that the body is a synergistic
unit. In other words, every movement it makes is interdependent
on other muscles of the body. So when the body is asked to thrust
itself forward while running, many other muscles are called into
action to support the primary muscles responsible for the movement.
Muscles of the lower back, abdominals, calves and many more are
called into action when running. It follows then that any type of
assistance you are getting from the machine not only works less
of the primary muscles involved in the movement but many of the
secondary muscles as well.
So all else being equal I would tend to agree that real world running
outdoors is a better workout than treadmill running. Both can be
a great workout and both have inherent benefits but I would save
the treadmill for those rainy days whenever possible.
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