Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

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Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby Jwolf » Wed Nov 05, 2014 11:55 pm

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby ian » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:52 am

Reading the article (as well as the blog which inspired it), I still don't think that the 1% incline is a myth or that it was debunked. Yes, it's a correction factor that only becomes significant at speeds faster than that at which most treadmill runners find themselves running. From my perspective as a scientist, it's not so much about trying to equalize the energy needed to run a given speed (a premise which is limited by the inaccuracies with which a treadmill measures speeds, the "stewing in a cloud of your body heat" that often characterizes treadmill running, the automatic pacing, and the perfectly flat surface). Instead, my justification of a small incline is to counteract the torque due to air resistance so that the body maintains an equivalent angle to the running surface.

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby turd ferguson » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:23 am

ian wrote:... trying to equalize the energy needed to run a given speed ....


Perfect segue into what's been bothering me about treadmills.

Is the energy equal at all, for the same speed and assuming everything else is equal? Does it require the same energy to hold me in place over a moving belt as it does to propel me forward in space?

I was thinking about this in two contexts:

1. It seems to me that if I'm running outside, the energy required is related to my weight (I suspect its linear but it doesn't matter). On a treadmill, does weight matter? Running outside clearly requires more energy for more weight, I'm having a hard time seeing how running on a treadmill requires more energy for more weight, because I'm running in place.

2. This line of reasoning came to me while I was on the bike trainer. The bike trainer is a perfect example of how the energy required is very different when you take wind out of the equation (as you replace wind with resistance). But on a bike trainer, I think weight is also irrelevant to energy burned (while its very relevant on the road). Is the treadmill analogous to the bike, or am I missing something?
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby turd ferguson » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:26 am

In any event, I try not to overthink it. I've generally got my perceived exertion dialled in pretty well, I have calibrated my treadmill very accurately using a stopwatch, and on my treadmill running at a 0.5% incline feels exactly like running outside at the same speed. Close enough.
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby ian » Thu Nov 06, 2014 4:05 am

turd ferguson wrote:Close enough.

If I had to summarize the logistics of training on a treadmill, it would be like that.

As for the energy discussion, suppose you replace a short-deck treadmill with a long moving sidewalk at an airport: everything you do makes perfect sense with respect to the reference frame of the ground beneath you and the fact that someone on the outside sees you hovering in place is irrelevant. Your weight still matters because of the internal forces needed to create a running motion, the metabolism of all your tissues, and the vertical forces between your feet and the surface. While your center of mass stays fixed on a treadmill, it moves at a constant velocity when running on a road, and (air resistance aside) no force should be required to maintain that constant velocity either. In reality, running involves a sequence of horizontal pushes and pulls with every footstrike (decelerations when landing and accelerations after) that are very much dependent on how much mass there is to move, along with vertical forces needed to lift your center of mass so that you can be a projectile until the next landing.

If you could design a treadmill that had a large fan in front which blew at exactly the speed at which you were running (and if the treadmill surface was more firm and uneven), I would claim that the dynamics of running on this treadmill would be completely identical to running outside, regardless of weight or speed.

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby La » Thu Nov 06, 2014 8:17 am

turd ferguson wrote:1. It seems to me that if I'm running outside, the energy required is related to my weight (I suspect its linear but it doesn't matter). On a treadmill, does weight matter? Running outside clearly requires more energy for more weight, I'm having a hard time seeing how running on a treadmill requires more energy for more weight, because I'm running in place.

I'm NOT a scientist, and I've wondered this as well. The way I look at it, your legs are doing a running motion on the TM but since the belt is moving below your feet, you're not expending energy to move yourself forward. Does the energy expenditure come from prevent yourself from moving backward if you don't match the TM's pace?
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby Jwolf » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:04 am

La wrote:
turd ferguson wrote:1. It seems to me that if I'm running outside, the energy required is related to my weight (I suspect its linear but it doesn't matter). On a treadmill, does weight matter? Running outside clearly requires more energy for more weight, I'm having a hard time seeing how running on a treadmill requires more energy for more weight, because I'm running in place.

I'm NOT a scientist, and I've wondered this as well. The way I look at it, your legs are doing a running motion on the TM but since the belt is moving below your feet, you're not expending energy to move yourself forward. Does the energy expenditure come from prevent yourself from moving backward if you don't match the TM's pace?

Yes, this.

You are definitely expending energy to move yourself forward. If you did not propel yourself forward, you would move backward with the belt. So you are propelling yourself forward, but the net result is you stay in one place because your "floor" is moving backward. It's a "frame of reference" difference, but the physics of moving on a treadmill are net the same as running on non-moving ground.

If your analysis was correct (that weight didn't matter on the treadmill), then we could all run MUCH faster than we do normally on the treadmill. It would take a difference of way more than 1% to compensate.

If you don't believe me, try an experiment-- as you get into your groove while running on the treadmill, ask someone to suddenly turn off the power without you knowing. You'll find yourself propelled onto the console (because you are going forward and the belt is not moving backward anymore). I'm just kidding- don't do this :) (it can be painful), but it does happen.

On the bike, there are huge differences on the trainer in what happens up and down on hills with power, and wind resistance DOES become a factor because of the higher speeds than running. Note that the results of the treadmill experiment were that the difference IS significant at higher speeds than most of us run, but speeds that would be comparable to cycling. Those differences would also be greater for heavier people than lighter people, who have to move more weight through the air outdoors.

So your thinking is right but doesn't account for what MOST of our effort is doing while we are running vs cycling.

But my issue with the 1% is also with the idea of trying to make it "equal" to outdoor running. Why should it be equal? Road doesn't equal track doesn't equal gravel trail doesn't equal rough trail, yet many of us do runs on a variety of these surfaces. The treadmill is just another variable. I do find it slightly easier than running on road, but track is also easier. I make up the difference by varying the speed, not the incline (unless I'm doing a hill workout). I find difference is maybe 5-10 sec/mile, or about 0.1 MPH (less at lower speeds, more at higher speeds).
Last edited by Jwolf on Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:13 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby Joe Dwarf » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:04 am

La wrote:
turd ferguson wrote:1. It seems to me that if I'm running outside, the energy required is related to my weight (I suspect its linear but it doesn't matter). On a treadmill, does weight matter? Running outside clearly requires more energy for more weight, I'm having a hard time seeing how running on a treadmill requires more energy for more weight, because I'm running in place.

I'm NOT a scientist, and I've wondered this as well. The way I look at it, your legs are doing a running motion on the TM but since the belt is moving below your feet, you're not expending energy to move yourself forward. Does the energy expenditure come from prevent yourself from moving backward if you don't match the TM's pace?
Read Ian's response directly above you. Aside from the wind and the surface characteristics of the belt there isn't any difference. Aside from wanting to kill yourself from boredom after 5 minutes...

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby Habs4ever » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:11 am

I have no scientific data to back me up, just my own experience. I do find it (physically) easier to run on the treadmill at higher speeds for longer. Set the speed, run or fall off. No wind, no hills, totally smooth surface, heck, it's so smooth I've mastered the art of texting while running on the treadmill. :lol: I can't do that outside! Outside is mentally easier though.
It doesn't matter if the treadmill is easier, the same or harder. I just know it's a necessary part of my life. I wouldn't get in half the running I do without it.
So, bottom line for me, I don't care what the studies say, I'll still use the treadmill when I have to regardless of what any conclusions are.
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby purdy65 » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:30 am

Habs4ever wrote:I have no scientific data to back me up, just my own experience. I do find it (physically) easier to run on the treadmill at higher speeds for longer. Set the speed, run or fall off. No wind, no hills, totally smooth surface, heck, it's so smooth I've mastered the art of texting while running on the treadmill. :lol: I can't do that outside! Outside is mentally easier though.
It doesn't matter if the treadmill is easier, the same or harder. I just know it's a necessary part of my life. I wouldn't get in half the running I do without it.
So, bottom line for me, I don't care what the studies say, I'll still use the treadmill when I have to regardless of what any conclusions are.


+1!

Obviously I prefer running outside than indoors, but honestly, I run on the treadmill when I believe the workout I will get will be better than the one I would have done outside. This mornings workout was a good example. For sure I worked harder on the TM than I would have otherwise outdoors.

That goes for when the conditions are not great outside. There are just times when a TM is better than an outdoor workout or no workout at all.

I suspect that my love affair with the TM will be renewed this winter with marathon training.

The one thing I REALLY try to avoid though is long runs on the TM. I try to always do those outdoors even if it means shifting the schedule or doing short loops.
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby turd ferguson » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:42 pm

Jwolf wrote:
You are definitely expending energy to move yourself forward. If you did not propel yourself forward, you would move backward with the belt. So you are propelling yourself forward, but the net result is you stay in one place because your "floor" is moving backward. It's a "frame of reference" difference, but the physics of moving on a treadmill are net the same as running on non-moving ground.

If your analysis was correct (that weight didn't matter on the treadmill), then we could all run MUCH faster than we do normally on the treadmill. It would take a difference of way more than 1% to compensate

If you don't believe me, try an experiment-- as you get into your groove while running on the treadmill, ask someone to suddenly turn off the power without you knowing. You'll find yourself propelled onto the console (because you are going forward and the belt is not moving backward anymore). I'm just kidding- don't do this :) (it can be painful), but it does happen.



I believe your experiment - it happened to me in the gym once. What I don't believe is that your experiment has anything to do with my question: how the treadmill different than the exercise bike? I'm not saying energy isn't being put in on the treadmill, I'm saying that I'm having trouble with the idea that the energy is necessarily the same as the energy you would be expending outside. How is the treadmill different than an exercise bike with the resistance dialed down?

The weight is relevant to my point only because it was the issue of weight that got me thinking about it. As I was running my fat butt on the treadmill, I couldn't get over the idea that as I get fatter the treadmill must get easier because I'm not moving my fat butt through actual space. Which led me to a crisis.

I have a feeling that Ian's answer is the correct one (about frames of reference) but its not clicking for me yet. I suspect it has something to do with the famous "can an airplane take off from a treadmill" problem.
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby La » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:06 pm

I think the difference between the TM and a bike trainer is that weight is NOT a factor on a stationary bike since it's not a weight-bearing activity (the bike is bearing the weight, not you). On the road, weight is a very big factor since the speed you'll go will be a product of your power:weight ratio (after environmental factors are taken into consideration). And as you said, wind resistance is a HUGE factor when riding outside.

When I've done Computrainer workouts/races they always ask for input of weight so that they can gauge your speed based on the amount of power (watts) you are generating. I often produce more power than other female riders, but because my weight is higher, I won't register as going as fast.
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby deerdree » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:42 pm

i think ian should draw out his response on a chalkboard, complete with stickman on a treadmill, and post the picture. just cuz.

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby Jwolf » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:55 pm

turd ferguson wrote:I believe your experiment - it happened to me in the gym once. What I don't believe is that your experiment has anything to do with my question: how the treadmill different than the exercise bike? I'm not saying energy isn't being put in on the treadmill, I'm saying that I'm having trouble with the idea that the energy is necessarily the same as the energy you would be expending outside.

I was actually addressing La's comment there about how you don't propel yourself forward on the treadmill (and you said the same thing).

How is the treadmill different than an exercise bike with the resistance dialed down?

I think the difference is that when you're running, most of the energy is not going into moving you through the air. The energy is to move you "forward" relative to the moving belt, and for that you have to get off the ground. Without expending energy on the treadmill, you'd stay on the belt and move backward. If the motion of running was just moving through a medium without landing on the ground, that would be different.
I have a feeling that Ian's answer is the correct one (about frames of reference) but its not clicking for me yet.

I'm not sure if this is right, but this is how I think of it-- picture yourself on a large treadmill where you can't see the ground or surroundings. If the treadmill is moving backward at 6.0 MPH and you are running forward at 6.0 MPH, then you will stay in place in real space, but it won't feel like that-- you'll be running at a pace needed to keep up with the moving treadmill. Or get on one of those moving sidewalks in the airport-- if you try to get on moving the opposite direction, you won't go anywhere if your speed matches the sidewalk's in reverse. (Also like those mini-escalator-machines in some gyms.) Or conversely-- if you get on the sidewalk in the intended direction- if the sidewalk moves at 3.0 MPH and you move at 3.0 MPH, you'll get across the airport twice as fast with less energy.
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby ABXF » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:58 pm

Earth is spinning around fast.

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby ABXF » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:00 pm

ian wrote:Reading the article (as well as the blog which inspired it), I still don't think that the 1% incline is a myth or that it was debunked. Yes, it's a correction factor that only becomes significant at speeds faster than that at which most treadmill runners find themselves running. From my perspective as a scientist, it's not so much about trying to equalize the energy needed to run a given speed (a premise which is limited by the inaccuracies with which a treadmill measures speeds, the "stewing in a cloud of your body heat" that often characterizes treadmill running, the automatic pacing, and the perfectly flat surface). Instead, my justification of a small incline is to counteract the torque due to air resistance so that the body maintains an equivalent angle to the running surface.


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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby ABXF » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:10 pm

Deep space Ferris wheel bike.

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby ian » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:11 pm

turd ferguson wrote:I have a feeling that Ian's answer is the correct one (about frames of reference) but its not clicking for me yet. I suspect it has something to do with the famous "can an airplane take off from a treadmill" problem.

Forget the treadmill and just think about why it takes energy to run outside. After all, once you get going, you're at a steady speed and should no longer need any force to maintain your forward motion (i.e., Newton's 1st Law). All the factors that go into running outside (moving body parts with respect to one another, complicated forces between your feet and the ground, having to push yourself upward some of the time to make up for not touching the ground some of the time) are also present on a treadmill.

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby daddy_runner » Wed Nov 12, 2014 6:59 pm

Think of it this way... When you run, you're actually standing still and it's everything else that moves around you. All depends upon frame of reference.
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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby Darth Tater » Wed Nov 12, 2014 9:35 pm

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby fingerboy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:16 am

Just try running on a woodway with slats instead of a sliding belt... the shock absorption ruins pushing off ability so I think perceived exertion is higher than outside.

I've come to the following ratios in my head of progressive intensity


setting the TM to = what it works out to outdoors/feels like = what it feels like indoors
7.0mph (5:20/km) = outdoors recovery = (5:00) indoors
7.5mph (4:56/km), = easy pace (4:40-4:32) 8 - 8.2 indoors
9.3 the round (4:00)/km = tempo = feels like a 3:32 (10.5) indoors

Sometimes I need to put it to a -1.5 to get the same speed/effort as outdoors.

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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby daddy_runner » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:13 pm

fingerboy wrote:Just try running on a woodway with slats instead of a sliding belt... the shock absorption ruins pushing off ability so I think perceived exertion is higher than outside.

I've come to the following ratios in my head of progressive intensity


setting the TM to = what it works out to outdoors/feels like = what it feels like indoors
7.0mph (5:20/km) = outdoors recovery = (5:00) indoors
7.5mph (4:56/km), = easy pace (4:40-4:32) 8 - 8.2 indoors
9.3 the round (4:00)/km = tempo = feels like a 3:32 (10.5) indoors

Sometimes I need to put it to a -1.5 to get the same speed/effort as outdoors.


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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby eme » Sat Nov 15, 2014 8:02 pm

I love Woodways. My gym has three. I was almost giddy the day I walked in and saw them.


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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby daddy_runner » Tue Nov 25, 2014 4:17 pm

eme wrote:I love Woodways. My gym has three. I was almost giddy the day I walked in and saw them.


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Re: Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

Postby Robinandamelia » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:39 am

All I know, is as someone who has to do a lot of treadmill running, it's hard!! It takes much more physical and mental effort for me to get through a run on the treadmill then it does outside. Outside, I'm naturally faster with less effort. Also the treadmill running for me is hot...always hot....

When I first started on the TM I ran all at 1% incline because of what I read. The last couple of training cycles I ran with no incline and I think that was a mistake. Can't explain why but feel that I wasn't getting full benefit from that training. So I've switched back on this cycle to run them all at 1% (so far).

I read the article at that 1% was only necessary beyond a certain distance (though I don't remember what that distance was) and that for shorter distances, it wasn't required. So I used that as my excuse to stop using incline. Even if it's not necessary to match outdoor conditions, I think there's benefit to it so I'm going back to the 1%.


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