Getting back into running can be difficult when you are coming off a serious injury. When you are given the green light to start running again, it’s crucial to be cautious to prevent your injury from flaring up. Most runners will choose to run outside because it is more effective than using a treadmill, but from an injury prevention standpoint, you may be surprised that the treadmill is the best place to start.
It’s easier to maintain your pace and effort on a treadmill than running outdoors. Outdoors, you are usually going by feel or your heart rate monitor, whereas on the treadmill, you can control the pace and the gradient to make sure you are taking it easy. The treadmill allows you to work on your form, cadence and pace, which is harder to do outdoors. For example, if you have been told that you are overstriding and were given tips to lean a bit more forward in your stride to solve the issue, the treadmill is a great place to practise.
Although the treadmill doesn’t have the same fresh scents as running outdoors, it is easier on joints. Running outdoors can result in a lot of impact on your joints when coming back from an injury, and most treadmills have a built-in shock absorbency to cushion your impact. Besides the speed and the ramp (both of which you can control), a treadmill doesn’t have any unforeseen obstacles. There are no unexpected hills, ice, or rain on a treadmill, so there’s no need to worry about slipping and flaring up your injury on a day of inclement weather.
After you build up the strength and confidence, you can return to training outdoors. If you are training for a race, it’s best to acclimatize your muscles to the environment on race day. Relying on treadmill runs for all your workouts leading up to a spring race might not be the best idea for acclimatization.