For those (86%) of us who preferentially train outdoors, the treadmill is a great backup plan when circumstances keep us from running outside. Treadmill workouts are often thought of as “easier” than road running, due to the perfectly flat surface and the movement of the belt. But is a treadmill easier than the road?
Many of us will know the 1% rule: set the treadmill to a 1% incline to simulate road effort. This 1% mainly accounts for the lack of air resistance while running in place. In terms of oxygen consumption (VO2) at various paces, a 1% grade has been shown to best replicate the oxygen demand of road running.
But that is not the whole story, because VO2 doesn’t factor in running economy and ventilation (breathing) rates. Runners who train primarily in the field experience reduced running economy and high ventilation rates on the treadmill, due to differences in stride mechanics and muscle recruitment.
So when you move your weekly workout(s) to the treadmill, the 1% rule will get you close to your normal workout, but be aware that your muscles will not be immediately adapted to the mechanics of running on the belt. As this shows up in your running economy, your long run workouts will be the most affected. Give yourself some leeway with your pace until you have some taken some time to adapt.
For more advice from Coach Ryan and to get more information on the coaching services he offers, check out the Threshold Athletic homepage!