ChiRunning Tips for Treadmill Running

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It’s mid-December, and in many parts of the world, winter is already in full force. Some runners relish the challenges cold weather brings, but for those who don’t enjoy frigid evenings or frosty mornings, treadmill running is the perfect opportunity to refine your running technique while staying conditioned throughout the winter season. If you primarily enjoy running outdoors, switching to indoor running on a machine will require some adjustments. After all, running on a moving belt is quite different from running on solid ground! These ChiRunning technique tips will teach you how to compensate for the limitations of running on a treadmill while making an injury-free transition from outdoor running technique to indoor running technique.

  • Posture– Before you press the start button, establish your posture from the feet up – feet pointing forward and hip-width apart, spine lengthened, and pelvis level. In order to maintain biomechanical efficiency, keep returning your focus to your posture throughout your session. If there is a mirror nearby, use it to confirm your body alignment.
  • Lean– Because movement on the treadmill is stationary, there is no engaging gravity for propulsion. Increase the machine’s incline by one or two degrees and lean into the incline slightly from your ankles. To prevent overworking your lower back, be sure not to bend at the waist. Keep your ankles relaxed and make sure you can get your heels comfortably down on your landing.
  • Short stride and heel lift– Keeping your stride quick and short will minimize the impact transferred to your legs by the moving belt. Don’t let your feet swing forward into the oncoming belt. Instead, your feet should move in a rearward direction as you make contact with the treadmill with a midfoot strike. Make sure you land with a mid-foot strike to reduce impact to your lower legs, knees, and hips. 
  • Pelvic Rotation– Practice pelvic rotation with each stride. Every time your leg swings out behind you, let your hip be pulled back with it. This will cause your pelvis to rotate along your vertical axis and absorb much of the shock of your feet hitting the treadmill.

How to get the most out of treadmill running:

  • Don’t go too fast. Begin by setting the speed at a pace you can comfortably jog while practicing these ChiRunning Form Focuses: posture, lean, picking up your feet and maintaining a quick cadence. The treadmill’s moving belt introduces more impact, which is magnified by speed. Running pain-free is only possible if you reduce the speed of your running.
  • Maintain a cadence of 85-90 strides per minute. Use the seconds counter on your treadmill for setting up your cadence. Every three steps another second should elapse. If you can do that, your cadence is exactly 90 strides per minute with each leg, which helps keep your stride short.
  • Keep the impact low. Exaggerate your heel lift, picking up your feet a little bit higher than you would when running outdoors.
  • Switch it up. We often hear from runners who feel discouraged when they switch from the treadmill to outdoor running, complaining that they become winded quickly and can’t go as far or as fast as they perceived on the treadmill. This is perfectly normal, as the moving belt does a lot of the work for you. Avoid doing all your runs on the machine if possible so you don’t become treadmill-dependent. This will ease the adjustment to the outdoors when the time comes.
  • Think of treadmill running as “maintenance running.” Don’t do prolonged speed work (intervals, tempo runs, etc.) on the treadmill. If you want a little more workout, slowly increase the amount of incline and use your arms more to simulate running uphill.

Whether you're maintaining your aerobic base or training for a marathon, remember to keep it easy on the treadmill. Use those runs as opportunities to strengthen your technique so you’ll be ready for Spring. It always arrives before we know it!

Posted in Technique

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