Ever drive by huge gym windows overlooking the street and see a long row of miserable-looking people? Bet they were on treadmills. These human hamster wheels have long been the go-to way to cardio, especially in bad weather. But how effective are they? Today we’re pulling up a soap box to talk about why we hate treadmills.

Limited Range of Motion

Runs outside, especially in Pennsylvania, have built-in bonuses with hills, bends, uneven terrain, and potholes big enough to swallow buses. Basically, your runs serve as obstacle courses even without other people, rabid dogs, or discarded kid toys in your path. On a treadmill, you go straight – just straight – and at best on varying inclines. Otherwise each step exactly the same of the one before, unchanging. Because of this, you use fewer muscles from those in your feet all the way to your shoulders. After all, the ankle bones connected to the leg bone, and the leg bones connected to knee bone, etc. (You’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head the rest of the day.) The muscles that would normally stabilize a runner’s gait outside get lazy.

Treadmills Do Part of the Work

A person running outside self-propels, relying heavily on their hamstrings to push them into the next step. On a treadmill, the ground is already moving underneath you, so mainly only the quad muscles see much action. Watch the strides of the people on treadmills closely. Most slog along, barely lifting their feet for the decking to roll on by underneath them. Treadmill runners may find they need to compensate for this deficiency by doing extra glute and hamstring exercises.

The limited deck space also causes runners to adjust their stride. Your brain tricks you into thinking you’re going to fall off the back. Seeing it happen IRL at least once, validates that concern. You compensate by taking smaller strides. Now even the muscles you do use fail to even get to full range of motion.

Treadmills Rob You of that Sweet High

Anyone who ever said they hate working out will also likely admit that they love the “runner’s high.” Treadmill runners often report missing out on that sweet endorphin rush after a good outside run. That rush can push you through boring meetings, getting errands done, or from biting an annoying person’s head off. That last one has saved countless idiots driving ahead of me!

Running on a treadmill still has benefits by getting your heart pumping, but let’s be real. It’s boring af. Experts say that the lack of different scenery robs the brain from thinking you’re getting anywhere. So that the control panel you stare at the whole time fails to provide a sense of accomplishment. If anything, that damn thing taunts you with how many minutes and miles you still have to go. Plus, staring that the panel makes runners lean forward more during each stride, causing additional neck strain.

So, when you come into Virtus, you won’t find rows of treadmills. We encourage members to use rowing machines, exercise bikes, sleds, jump ropes, or good old-fashioned pavement (or grass) outside for their cardio sessions. Interested in chatting more about the evils of the human hamster wheel? Stop by during our staffed hours, call us at 724-691-2769, or use our contact form to connect. We’ll make you hate treadmills, too!