Two Lessons My New Treadmill Taught Me

 ProForm 505 CST Treadmill

After an evening of fighting with my new and unassembled treadmill, I got a chance to go for a run the next morning.

And it beat me like a Wookiee in the spice mines of Kessell.

I made it through my run, did about 3.5 miles on it, but it was slow. Really slow. And I felt miserable pretty much the whole time. When my wife tried it, she had the same problem and couldn’t really keep up, either.

The problem, as I see it, is that we spoiled ourselves by running outside too often. Neither of us have been on a treadmill in months–from late September to just this week. And in coming back to my new Proform 505 CST (affiliate link), I learned a few lessons about how I run.

Lesson 1: I Suck at Keeping a Steady Pace

My 5K time was 27:12. Not too bad for my first race ever. My best 5K time during training was right at 23 minutes, and my average was around 25. Since then, I’ve run somewhere between 25 and 27 minutes consistently.

On my new and shiny treadmill, my time was 31 minutes. That’s absurd. I was running significantly slower than I was before, and I was way more out of breath.

Why?

Because I suck at maintaining a steady pace. After going back and looking at my RunKeeper stats, I verified it. My outside pace varied wildly–sometimes by up to 2 minutes per half-mile–even if my average pace was faster. I run slowly for a few minutes, followed by bursts of speed, then I slow down again, then I burst again.

I naturally run intervals.

Which is bad when you’re on a treadmill and it tells you to run at X speed for the duration. Which is bad when you’re training for an endurance run like a half-marathon.

So I’m going to have to suck it up and get back on the treadmill more often–because my pre-October runs were much more steadily paced. Especially if I want to hit the 13.1 in October of this year.

Leasson 2: Phone GPS Tracking Sucks

I kept hearing that, but I never understood it until now. Once I realized that it was my pacing that was off, that my pacing made the treadmill so much harder to use, I began thinking about how my phone’s GPS is useless.

Sure, it tells me my average pace, and it’s a pretty good gauge overall, but if I want to keep a consistent pace, that 60-second average doesn’t really help me any. Case in point: being Wookiee-whipped earlier this week.

I know I should invest in a GPS watch eventually, and once the weather warms up and I can get outside 3-5 times a week and off the treadmill, I probably will. Because after the trouble I’ve had just keeping a steady 8:30 pace on the treadmill, I’m going to need as much help as I possibly can in keeping that for 13 miles.

And my lovely Galaxy Note…just won’t cut it. It’s fine for generalized tracking–distance and speed and average pace–but when you’re getting into second-by-second pacing, phone GPS just can’t cut it.

I can’t wait to find out what next week and getting back into my three-runs-a-week schedule can teach me. #ohnoez

Have you folks had any experience in shifting between outdoors running and treadmill? What tips and tricks have you picked up along the way?

3 thoughts on “Two Lessons My New Treadmill Taught Me

  1. Yes. Not that I am glad you got your butt kicked by the treadmill but at least I feel less crazy. I assumed your reasons where why, but now I have validation. I also learned in my 5K how off my phone app that times my running is from my actual running. My phone said I ran the 5K in 11.07 min/mile when my official time was 10.37 min/mile. Quite a difference. Hope the treadmill gets easier on you soon!
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  2. If you can run a sub-30 5k, treadmills don’t go fast enough for you to train on. It really sucks. You run differently on a treadmill as well – it makes it much harder to have good form. I generally use the treadmill as an absolute last resort, and run outdoors otherwise.

    You don’t need to have absolutely rigid pacing to run a half either :) Rather than using your phone, you could invest in a GPS watch like a Garmin Forerunner – I use the 405 and it is one of the best running investments I ever made.

    Regarding GPS accuracy, I don’t really find that it’s a huge problem for races or paces. My half marathons are generally out by 200-300 metres, which isn’t a whole lot over 21k and wouldn’t affect your pace that much. My GPS watch shows your pace as a recent average rather than an average across your entire run – I am not sure on the exact time but I’m guessing it’s an average of the last 30 seconds. My guess is that if they don’t average it, it starts to take into account things like swinging your arm :)

  3. My problem with treadmills (granted, it’s been a few years) is that there isn’t one on the market that can match my stride length. So I’m always short-stepping. The other thing is that you have to incline them to get the same strength/cardio effect as ground running. Don’t let running on the treadmill spoil you. Frankly, inconsistent pace or not, you’re better off running outside, or at least on an indoor track. Treadmills are only a substitute, if the other options aren’t available.

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