I was reently called “well-meaning” in an issue of Running Times. Okay, not me, per se, but those “well-meaning” folks who tell you to put your treadmill on 1 percent before using them for training. Their point was that one study showed little difference at training at 1 percent incline versus 0 percent incline when you were running at speeds slower than 7.5 mph. Rather, you should increase your incline to 1 percent only when going 8-11 mph to duplicate outdoor wind resistance.
Well, in this case, I’m not sure I care what that study says and this is why:
- Have you ever stepped on a treadmill and said “wow, this I so much easier than running outside?” I sure have. If you only train on your treadmill with a 0 percent incline – you are coasting. I also think there is more to make up for than just wind resistance, as I pointed out in the Treadmill Fundamentals post, micro-changes in terrain and the fact that the belt helps you along so you don’t have to push off makes it easier. Running on a 0 percent incline can fool you into thinking you are stronger than you are and then be disappointed at your next event.
- Studies show 1 percent duplicates outdoor flat roads. See this study from the Journal of Sports Sciences.
- I’m not sure about this, but I have a sneaking suspicion most clubs do not calibrate the incline of their treadmills correctly. When running on treadmills at certain clubs, I decidedly feel as if I am going downhill and am able to run comfortably faster than when I run outside – even on a flat road. If you set your treadmill to 1 percent, you can maybe counter this possible mis-calibration and at least be running on a flat surface.
- Even if training at 1 percent is not necessary – it makes you work harder and grow. If your aim is to burn more calories, get stronger and run faster, than challenging yourself with a 1 percent incline makes complete sense – regardless of how it translates to outdoor conditions.
Running Times says if you run faster on a 0 percent incline it gives you a confidence boost. I say, it gives you a false sense of success. How disappointing to find out that your record times indoors don’t translate when you are on the clock. It can be an ego crusher when you have to go more slowly on the treadmill, but it can pay off in the long term.
So, I prefer to say I am not “well-meaning,” rather practical and thoughtful, when recommending you do your workout at 1 percent.