Friday, 27 July 2012

The False Sense of Achievement of the Running Machine

When the doctor turned up at our gym I thought he was kidding when he said he wanted to study my recovery. He said he'd found me via the blog. He was a tall chap, with rimless glasses, a clipboard and a stopwatch. It was only when he emailed me the following that I realised he was pukka. This may be my 15 seconds of fame...

Extract from the British Medical Journal - Spring 2012

"Why Running Machines Don't Help Runners"

Summary: Following an ACL operation our subject built up his strength on a standard gym running machine. After 3 months he was able to comfortably run at a speed of 11km/h for 30 minutes. He then went on a road run. He ran for 27 minutes at a speed of 10.8 km/h, and collapsed in a heap on arriving home.

Conclusion: Running machines give athletes of all abilities a false sense of their fitness.

Explanation: The are three areas where the running machine gives false readings for the athlete.
1 - The treadmill moves whether the athlete is on it or not. Thus the athlete's effort is not in pushing his body forward, or even in pushing the treadmill backwards. The athlete merely has to get his foot forward on each step to stop falling off.
2 - The muscles used are different for treadmill running than street running. As explained in point 1, the athlete is trying to keep up with the treadmill. Whilst there is some overlap in the muscles used, not all the muscles used for street running are engaged in treadmill running.
3 - In street running, 60% of the effort is used in pushing through the air. (For cycling this goes up to 80%) On a treadmill the athlete is not moving through space but is stationary. This means the effort required to 'run' is much less than on the street.

So now I know why I nearly died when I got back from first 5k street run. Science. It's a wonderful thing.

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