Its cold outside and those new Nike Frees you got for Christmas are calling you out. Treadmill training is a great way to stay in shape when you can’t hit the road. The problem with the treadmill is that most people are not sure how to use it properly…Today alone about a quarter of my patients presented with injuries from not using a treadmill correctly.
The majority of people I talk to who run on treadmills say that they have 3 main issues act up more than when they run on turf: Knee pain, foot pain, and tight hamstrings/IT band. All can be corrected and fixed with a few simple tweaks to your training.
My first question I always ask is “how fast are you going and at what incline?” Invariably the answer is always too fast and too flat. When you run outside, the ground remains stationary relative to you running on it. When you are on a treadmill the ground is moving relative to you trying to stay in the same place. When you are going at a zero degree incline you usually don’t get good hip extension, causing you to neglect the main hip extender, glute max, and fire the hamstrings more. Also, when you are going at a sprinters pace you tend to shorten your stride to limit the wasted motion so you can move faster. The result is hamstring and hip flexor tightness. If you have a tendency to over pronate your foot or have weak glute meds, the IT band will join the party.
Increasing the incline on a treadmill at least 2 degrees allows the stride to widen and gets the whole kinetic chain involved in the exercise. That’s why walking at a high incline burns roughly 4 times the amount of calories than running at 0 does. If you also decrease the speed a little bit in order to focus on a good stride injury can be reduced.
The right shoes can also make a big difference. Many running stores are equipped with gait tracking equipment like Dartfish, and you will more than likely have a test run on a treadmill. Picking shoes that allow you the correct amount of pronation, cushion, and heel strike can help a ton.
Finally, and probably most importantly, make sure that you are moving correctly from the get go. Get adjusted by a chiropractor who understands sports injury. Make sure not only the spine is moving well but the ankles, knees, and shoulders too. Get some muscle work done, I like ART the best but IASTM, massage, or rolling out any tight spots are really important before putting rubber to the belt.
Jason Durnas, DC, BS, ART