Debunking the 1% incline myth and other treadmill myths

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

Postby Jwolf » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:47 am

I think if you're used to doing something one way and you change, you will see a difference. 1% incline running is definitely harder than 0%, but I prefer to adjust my intensity by pace, not incline. I've also never seen a recommendation that 1% helps for longer runs but not shorter runs- the difference is usually is for faster vs slower runners.

I will admit some confirmation bias here when I read articles like this- I have never believed the 1% myth and prefer to not use the incline, so I don't. I also have a good friend who helped me a lot in my early stages of distance running- he was an awesome treadmill runner who also didn't use the 1% incline; it seemed to me to be one of those things that people just said ("set the treadmill at 1% incline to make it more like outdoor running") with no real evidence that it worked or why. I don't think that running on a treadmill is equal to outdoor running-- it's different just like track is different from road is different from gravel is different from rough trail. I adjust my effort and pace accordingly for different surfaces, treadmill included. I tend to run faster on the treadmill than on my outdoor runs which are often quite hilly. One thing I know is that different treadmills have different feels to them, and some (particularly some of the older home models) do feel better when at a slight incline- and a certain pace on one won't always feel the same difficulty as the same pace on another.

When I had my lactate testing at Peak Performance, they set the treadmill at 2%. They claimed that the incline made the treadmill running biomechanically more like running on flat ground (like what Ian was saying in his earlier post). But they didn't try to say that this made the speed equal to flat ground- the "equivalent" speeds were quite a bit slower (that is, the treadmill speed at 2% was much slower than the "equivalent" outdoor speed on flat ground). The test did go up to pretty fast speeds, but they recommended the 2% incline for all treadmill running-I just couldn't get used to and didn't do it. (For example-- for the "easy" they gave me at the time, which was 10:30/mile, or 6:30/km, on the treadmill flat would be 5.7 mph. They told me to set it at 5.1 mph at 2% incline to get this "equivalent" treadmill pace. For my tempo pace, at 8:00/mile, or about 5:00/km, and 7.5 mph; they told me to do 6.9 mph with the 2% incline. Generally 0.6 mph slower to account for the 2% incline.
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