Treadmills can be useful


By Fred Deckert


Treadmills have been with us almost as long as running for exercise has. Some bright entrepreneur got the idea that running on a movable belt in the comfort of your home might be a good option, especially in the cold and snowy north. These primitive early machines soon gained motors, adjustable ramps and digital monitoring devices and moved into exercise palaces. Not to mention into some pretty stiff prices.

How do most runners view these devices? Obviously they are sold in great numbers, but you can often find them at yard sales after the early romance has worn off, or perhaps when their owner has moved up to something more high tech. My personal experience has been minimal; I prefer to gain the extra dimension of changing scenery, fresh air and the actual experience of covering “real” instead of virtual distance. But, I would not denigrate the machine on that basis.

There are a number of good reasons for using the treadmill; among them are convenience, controlled environment (no rain, snow, cold or darkness), safety from traffic or otherwise dangerous running conditions, and the ability to tailor your run to a precise time or distance. Less important benefits are the digital read outs which tell you precisely what you are doing, and the convenience of making your workout harder or easier on the fly by adjusting the “hill” or belt speed. Technophiles will especially appreciate those features. If you are the shy type, you might want to try one simply because they can be very private. Unfortunately there are many people who actually feel uncomfortable exposing themselves to the neighborhood while exercising. Then there are the TV addicts who set theirs up so they can catch up on the latest news or soap opera drama during a workout.

My conclusion is that treadmills can be a useful adjunct to running or jogging, but they cannot and probably should not replace actually putting one foot ahead of the other out in the fresh air, enjoying Mother Nature. It’s also pretty tough to get much companionship on a treadmill unless you are in a gym, and impossible to get the fun of competition against your peers. So, don’t feel guilty if you use one, but come on out and join the roadies for the full flavor of running.