It’s much harder to have good running form on a treadmill than on solid ground. The lack of wind resistance changes your muscular effort and balance, the console and handrails interfere with your movement, the visual, auditory, and vestibular sensory signals don’t match up with your movement, the TV is distracting, and the threat of falling off a cliff—i.e. the back of the treadmill—lurks behind you.
It’s a frankly difficult and unnatural experience.
However, it is actually possible to have good—even great!—running form on a treadmill, and learning how will make you a better runner on solid ground as well.
What It Looks Like
Next time you’re in a gym, scan the bank of treadmills. The person with great treadmill running technique is the one who is:
- running in the middle of the treadmill, not right up against the console in the front.
- leaning forward—that is, they have a straight rather than slouching spine, but it’s on a forward angle
- keeping their hands close to their heart
- following the rest of the Balanced Runner Keys
- not watching TV (sorry!)
- doesn’t have headphone wires or their smartphone interfering with their armswing
I’m betting a couple of those surprised you. So let’s unpack them one by one over the next couple of blog posts.
Middle of the Treadmill
We instinctively want to move forward when we run (duh!), and we also want to avoid falling off the end of the treadmill, which we know is back there somewhere. For both those reasons, we naturally gravitate to the console at the front.
The problem with this is that it makes you alter your armswing, run more upright (not a good thing!) and sometimes even arch backwards a bit.
Avoid this distortion of your form by intentionally running about a foot away from the console, in the middle of the treadmill.
This is one of those things you’re just going to have to keep reminding yourself of, because your brain wants to reduce the number of things you have to pay attention to, especially as you fatigue, and if you run all the way forward on the machine then you don’t have to pay attention to not falling off the back.
But you’ll pay for it in your form and you’ll feel worse afterwards, so make the effort.
Besides, it’s easier to run at a given pace on a treadmill than it is outside because there’s no air resistance. So you have a little extra energy—spend some of it on making sure your treadmill position is good.
I’ll have more for you about that lack of air resistance in the next post, as I tackle the issues of forward lean and hands close to your heart. Stay tuned!