One of my fellow running bloggers from the New Orleans area, Jenny, asked me this question:
"A friend and I were discussing road vs treadmill running and wondering why we can run at 6mph on road but on the treadmill run at 5.2mph and get tired much quicker? Have you ever done a blog on that phenomenon ? LOL :) I figured you would be the one who knew best."
When my friends Betsy and Aaron Boudreaux come visit and we go out for a run, I swear she can tell the slightest elevation variance on what I would consider a fairly flat road. I guess that's what happens when you live in a city which is laid out like a soup bowl. What I see as normal near-level terrain she notices as a rise in elevation.
Dr. Jack Daniels talks about the difference between TM and road in the most recent edition of "Running Formula." In fact, he has a series of charts which equate TM pace/elevation to road pace. From what I can tell, most of the possible reasons for this phenomenon all seem to boil down to variation, or the lack of it.
Pace - If you refer back to the comment by Jay Dicharry, PT, which I shamelessly ripped out of that "Running Times" video, It might have to do with the fact there's no pace variation to speak of when you use a TM. We might 'average' 6 on the road it might vary from 5.5 to 6.5.
Equipment - Some TMs are more accurate in their measure of a "mile" than others. If you take a wheel and measure the TM belt, then run it for a minute at 7.5mph, ideally, you should get APPROXIMATELY .125 miles.
Environment -It's harder to stay comfortable running indoors on a TM compared to running outside on your favorite pathway. While we can control (to a degree) the elements in which we run on a TM, especially if it's bitter cold, raining or freaking windy outside, but what we lose in nasty weather we also lose in that cooling airflow we experience in the great outdoors.
Add to that controlled environment the joy-killing factor of boredom. Even though some of the best-equipped gyms have televisions/DVD players/music, the unnatural act of running on a moving belt is mentally stressful. Think circus animal stressful. There's only so much a guy/gal can do to dissociate, so mental discomfort soon leads to physical discomfort.
Now that you've got me to thinking about a run, it might be a good idea for me to grab my stuff in the bag by my coffee pot here at work and get out on the chip trail before the weather turns nasty again.
Happy Christmas to all of you!