Thursday, 22 November 2012

treadmills and mileage tribulations

Last week was a bit of a let down training wise, my wife was struggling with an injury so needed a hand at home with the kids. I had signed up to to do the Ambleside to Coniston recce with the Lakeland lot, but some things have to take priority.

This week was better hitting the 20 mile target with good runs out on the road. Each week im just about making the target of 20+ miles a week i set for myself when i started to plan for next year. I'm aiming to keep this up until December. Then after new year the miles will increase, incrementally as I get closer to the 100 in July, with futher recces and events inbetween.

This mileage might seem low to some, but it is the mileage I ran earlier this year to prepare for the Calderdale Hike, The Wall Run and Lakeland 50, all of which I improved on more than I expected.  Also through a bit of luck (im now seeing it as this) my circumstances at home dont allow me time to overtrain, hence the reason (touch wood) i rarely get injured.  This has been and will continue to be a steady progression for me into the ultrarunning world and hopefully i can remain injury free.

What I've realised is it is going to be tough to get anywhere near the mileage I want to be running on the run up to the events planned for next year (Calderdale hike, Highland Fling, and Lakeland 100). Due to my circumstances running during the week is limited due to my wife running a dance school ( until 2130 every night during the week and as I'm site based I start at 730 meaning I'm up at 6 everyday so morning runs aren't really an option (performance at work to be considered also) . So I made the decision to invest in a treadmill which is now downstairs in the unfinished extension, as below. This has really helped me during the week as I know I would be going stir crazy without it.

Recently though I've started to question and research the difference, pros and cons and bio-mechanical effect it may have long term, and if there are detrimental effects want I need to do to counter them.

This is the question i need to answer, below are parts of a study summarised on a site asking a similar question.

Stride Length and Rate
A study by Elliot, B.C., Blanksby, B.A. Medicine and Science in Sports looked at these two factors.

No significant differences were recorded in stride length, stride rate, support time or non-support time on a treadmill compare to outdoors for men or women when jogging at velocities of between 3.3 and 4.8 m/s.
As speeds of running increased over 4.8 m/s on a treadmill compared to outdoors: stride length decreased, stride rate increased, and the length of time the support leg is on the ground increased.
So at these higher speeds you are taking shorter strides and getting longer ‘rest’ time each time one of your legs is on the ground. This is countered however by an increased number of strides per minute.

Propelling Your Body
This is the kicker here. The main difference between treadmill running and outdoor running lies in how your legs have to carry your upper body.
Outdoor running, your leg muscles mostly work on propelling you forward. Treadmill running, because the belt is moving under you, your leg muscles mostly work at re-positioning your legs to keep you stable.
This affects how much work your individual leg muscles need to do.
Treadmill running, the rearward moving belt decreases the need to pull your upper body forward and so requires less work from your hamstrings than outdoor running. However, your hip flexors (right at the top-front of each leg) have to work harder to provide stability as your planted foot is dragged back (literally) under your body.
(Source: Dave Schmitz PT, LAT, CSCS, PES Health Services at Columbia)
So in treadmill running we have a situation where the hamstrings are less-used and the hip flexors are more used than when outdoor running. This will have an influence on energy output. Hamstrings are b-i-g muscles in the overall scheme of your body – in fact, they are your biggest of all muscles. They use up a lot of energy to expand and contract during each stride. Hip flexors are much smaller and so would intuitively require less energy to squeeze in and out.
Studies estimate that the energy expenditure required by your leg muscles is 3% greater for outdoor running over treadmill running (running at 4.0 m/s).

We use our legs in different ways on a treadmill.

Total Energy Difference
Combine this with our knowledge that overcoming wind resistance outdoor running requires a 5% increased effort (at 4.0 m/s)
And the end result is running at 4.0 m/s you can expect to be working somewhere around 8% harder outdoor running than treadmill running.
So how can you make treadmill running require the same level of energy use as outdoor running?
A 1996 study in the Journal of Sports Science – taking into account the above factors – concluded that a 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running.
So if you want to match the energy required outdoor running, put your treadmill on a 1% incline.

Other Factors
Aside from energy expended, there is one important factor that makes treadmill running easier than outdoor running:
The treadmill surface is always softer than a hard sidewalk or road surface. That makes it a whole lot easier on all your joints, and without joint pain you can run for longer and be much happier about doing it.
Let’s see. If you set your treadmill to a 1% incline you’re going to get the benefits of the same energy output (and so calories burnt) as outdoor running, plus your joints will be much better protected.

The Mental Challenge
There is one aspect, not related to energy requirements, that effects how easy your run will be.
As I see it, being distracted when running makes things a whole lot easier. Distractions include listening to music or watching tv while you workout. When you focus on something else rather than your body, you don’t notice your body so much. This helps to alleviate any running discomfort. This is why running with someone or in a group is much easier than running by yourself. There is no better way to distract you from what you are doing than my conversing with someone.

Listening to music distracts from effort

But focusing on external distractions can also take away from the actual intensity that you can go to and the overall exertion that you feel. And sometimes (most of the time) actually feeling that effort and intensity is a large part of the fun. Like for my daily 1 km time-trials (which I’ve been experimenting with since the motorway run) I run without my ipod so I can focus exactly on the level of exertion on my body.
To wrap this all up, we can say that treadmill running with distraction (people, tv, music) is going to feel easiest and require slightly less energy. Outdoor running with no music is going to feel hardest, but you will benefit from expending more energy (and likely burning more calories).

So basically the above and other studies are saying it is much easier to run faster on a treadmill than outside as you are assisted by the belt. I'm of the complete opposite view. I run faster when outside. I think this is more of a mental thing, it's miles better to run outside, wind in your face, inspiring scenery and so on. For a 10k for example I can't get anywhere near the 41.01 time (my pb for that distance) on a treadmill . I put this down to mental fatigue opposed to physical. As however far I run on the treadmill during the week it's nothing like getting out on the road or trail. It's basically a means to an end, ensuring I get some miles in during the week in addition to at least 1 long run at weekend.

If its a chore to run then and you don't enjoy it and are just doing it for the end result then I guess you will need the distractions to get through the run mentally.  I'd much rather run outside with no music, I think the difference here is that the perhaps author is thinking that the runners are running even though they may not want to and dont enjoy it. It's far better running with no distractions, the rhythm of your feet striking the ground is enough for me, getting lost in my own thoughts and before I know it miles and miles have passed.

With the above brief study it makes a point that the biomechanics are different when running on the road than on a treadmill, and that when on the road you are using all your energy to propel yourself forward. This goes against what I have read elsewhere in part, regarding technique and form for efficient running. I don't run barefoot but the technique is sound, leaning slightly forward at the ankles, not the waist and keeping strides short and under you, and contact with the ground to a minimum. The foot should strike ball of foot first, and not the heel. The heel strike sends unecessary force to parts of your legs, back and upper body that dont want and arent effecient at disperisng said forces. The forefoot or midfoot strike should be directly under your centre of gravity  The leaning forward allows you to be almost gravity assisted, with the lifting and replacement of the legs keeping you from falling forwards which can also be described as running.

Stu Mittleman, a member of the USA ultrarunning hall of fame is a treadmill advocate, see the link below for a correct use of a treadmill video. <>

So my thoughts are now that as long as  good form is maintained when on the treadmill, and i get out at weekends either on the trails or road there doesnt seem to be any great problems running on a treadmill, plus it also keeps my weekly mileage to the level i need to be doing for next years events.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Suunto Ambit or Garmin Fenix??

Suunto Ambit or Garmin Fenix??
There aren’t many of us who run these long distances who aren’t partial to a gadget or two. This is supposed to be a relatively cheap sport, in its simplest form it is (trainers and simple running gear can be picked up for under £100. But to develop, and monitor the progress in our training there are all sorts of gadgets available.
Garmin and Suunto are the leading players and have brought out similar mountaineering/training/GPS devices at similar times. The Suunto Ambit and the Garmin Fenix both, impressive bits of technology. Now I have a Garmin Forerunner 910xt which is brilliant, but is geared more towards the triathlon market, but at the time of purchase had the longest battery life, long enough to work throughout the 50+ mile ultras I did this year.
I aim to get involved in triathlons in the future so will be keeping hold of the 910xt for that purpose.
Suunto Ambit
'2012 Suunto launched the first ever GPS watch combining the advanced training and heavy duty outdoor features. It has taken the market by storm, and is especially valued for its superior mechanical durability, reliable altitude measurement and water resistance. Hand made in Finland by Suunto, the original inventor of ABC watches and dive computers.'
Found these videos or the Ambit getting put through its paces, the video above is worth checking out, this guys must have some stones!!
Garmin Fenix
'With built-in GPS + ABC (Altimeter Barometer Compass) functions, fēnix gives you all the navigational tools you need in a rugged wristwatch - keeping your hands free for when you need them. Get accurate readings on your location no matter what position your wrist is in or how dense the foliage is around you.'
'Set up navigational activities to plan trips, create routes and record waypoints. Download routes from the BaseCamp™ desktop application or create them by marking your favorite spots as Waypoints - parking space, trailhead, mountain shelter, summit and more. And, best of all, fēnix will route you along your path with a clear visible navigational arrow or a track line.'
Having read both of these great in depth reviews by DC Rainmaker the American sports enthusiast im glad i opted for and ordered the Suunto Ambit, it has been targeted at ultrarunners whereas the Garmin Fenix more towards hikers. Ill give my own briefer review and thoughts when i get it....
Suunto Ambit
First impressions are good, easy to use straight out of the box, connected to Movescount and trialled it on the treadmill in the house. Below is the interface on the movescount website. Simple with all you need in one place to monitor and assess your training sessions. The firmware of the watch was updated on connection to movescount with useful changes suggested by Ambit users.

For me this is by far the the best piece of technology on the market for ultrarunners. The battery life for one is capable even for the longer ultras taking 24+ hours. The more i use it the more i realise its potential. As it is developed with the ultrarunner in mind, it fits perfectly with my requirements. Easy to use packed full of features which are continually being improved and added to. Its first indoor treadmill trial is above, the information shown is just a fraction of whats available on the Movescount site.

This weekend will be its first test in the lake district, ill update this post with how it performs.

I didnt make it to the lakes as planned unfortunately, but have used the watch on a couple of runs local to where i live and it doesnt disappoint, all information is easily accessible on the move and the information to analyse on the Movescount site is laid out well. Really good and useful piece of kit.