Transitioning from Indoor to Outdoor Running

Outdoor Running VisionFitnessTreadmills are a great tool to have in every runner’s arsenal. They make sticking to your workouts possible during the winter months, spring rain, and summer heat. They can also make it safer to stick to your running plan when your schedule and family demands leave you training during off hours. That said, if you want to run a good road race or enjoy a few long runs during your next vacation, you’d better start planning some time on the road. Here are a few common pitfalls encountered transitioning from indoor to outdoor running – and a few ways you can train smart to prevent them.

Ow!  My Legs!  I hear this complaint a lot. Runners who thought they were in good shape from regular treadmill and indoor workouts can’t believe how much their legs hurt when they start running outside in the spring. Hamstrings and hip flexors seem to be the two areas that take the worst beating. When you run on a treadmill, the movement of the belt assists you in lifting your foot off of the ground as it comes behind your body.  When you run on pavement your hip flexors and your hamstrings have to take over that action. If you’ve been exclusively running on a treadmill for some time, your quads are probably strong enough to set a pace that your hamstrings and hips have a tough time keeping up with, resulting in a lot more soreness than you’d expect when you start running outside again in the spring. The trick? Throw in some strength training for those areas of your body in the weeks and months before you head outdoors. I like to use bodyweight, functional movements for this sort of training, since it better mimics the demands you will be placing on your body during that transition. If you have access to a staircase (and we all do), adding some step-ups and jumps will strengthen your hamstrings. Swiss Ball curls and bridgework with or without leg lifts are also great ways to bring in your core while strengthening these areas. Work up to three sets of ten every other day during the four weeks before you begin outdoor running.

I can’t believe I tripped!  Whether you’re hitting the trails or simply dodging other runners on wet pavement, outdoor running and racing demand increased agility over your home treadmill. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Creating new movement patterns and muscular demands, not only makes you more fit, it can also make you smarter as your brain works to develop the neuro-muscular coordination to meet these new demands. The trick is to start doing this training safely in a controlled environment so that you’re ready to use it when the road gets bumpy. As you add in jumps for your hamstrings, you might as well focus on your ankle strength and agility by including some hops and multi-directional movements.

Why am I so slow? From unpredictable weather (especially wind!) and roads that are seldom completely flat, your indoor pace can definitely take a beating when you head outdoors. To head this off, increase the incline on your treadmill every time you use it.  Placing your treadmill at a 1% or higher incline better mimics the demands of running outside. This is the most common trick used by outdoor runners who want to keep the demand of their workouts high during indoor workouts. This technique allows you to benefit from the greater cushioning, stability, and climate control of your treadmill, while creating enough cardiovascular demand to mimic your outdoor workout. For most of us, keeping some treadmill runs in our rotation is a good idea. This lets us reduce the stress of running on a hard surface every day, accommodates fluctuations in weather and schedule and can even be used as a training tool if you’re struggling with the timing of food and drink for longer races. Doing some longer runs on your treadmill allows you to have these items nearby so that you don’t need to stash them on your running route before you head out. The best programs will include quality time outdoors, letting you take advantage of good weather, running partners, and the motivation of races and beautiful running locations, while also including treadmills for their predictability, convenience, and joint cushioning forgiveness.

To read more of Joli’s fitness, nutrition and goal setting tips, check out her article archives.

Fitness Equipment Safety Tips

Vision Fitness is a company that strives to make products that are safe to use. See below for a list of guidelines that can help you use your cardio equipment safely. Remember you can always refer to your Owner’s Manual for specifications.

Treadmills

  • Safety Key – The safety key is a red (or rarely black) magnetic piece that has a cord with a clip at the end. Make sure you are wearing the clip from the safety key anytime you use the treadmill, and have the safety key in the correct spot on the console. In case you feel light-headed, nauseous or need to stop unexpectedly, place both hands on the side arm rests to hold yourself up, place your feet onto the side rails and pull the safety key to stop the treadmill running belt immediately.
  • Space – It’s important to have enough space around the unit for use. You can check your Owner’s Manual for specifics. Generally you should leave a clear zone behind the treadmill that is at least the width of the treadmill and at least 79” long. This zone must be clear of any obstruction and provide the user a clear exit path from the machine. For ease of access, there should be a space on each side of the treadmill that is equal to 36” (915 mm) to allow a user to approach the treadmill from either side.
  • Maintenance – Another small, but ever so important, step in keeping your unit safe is following the maintenance. Refer to your Owner’s Manual for specifics, but generally it will be tightening the assembly bolts once a month, wiping the machine down after each use, waxing the treadmill deck (IF NECESSARY), and vacuuming any dust and debris out from underneath the motor cover.

Ellipticals, Bikes, & Ascent Trainers

  • Space – There should be one foot of clearance in front of the elliptical for the power cord. For ease of access, there should be space on each side of the elliptical equal to 36” (915 mm) to allow a user to approach the machine from either side.
  • Maintenance – Refer to your Owner’s Manual for specifics, but you should be tightening the assembly bolts on your machine once a month, wiping down the machine after each use, and all for elliptical only, making sure the tracks and wheels are clean and clear of debris.

Check your Owner’s Manual for specific information, but keeping safety in mind will also help your machine run longer and stronger for you.

Fitness Equipment Power Requirements and Electrical Guidelines

When you are thinking about purchasing fitness equipment, you should also think about the location you’ll put it in as well as power requirements. As always, you can check your owner’s manual for specific requirements. Please note that, like a refrigerator and other large electrical appliances, treadmills, large ellipticals and suspension trainers are electrical devices that require an adequate power source to operate properly. Therefore we strongly recommend the following electrical guidelines.

Recommended Power Outlet

  • Preferred method: Properly grounded, dedicated 20-Amp, 120-volt circuit
    A dedicated circuit ensures that the treadmill will not be sharing the circuit with any other electrical device, which can contribute to the unit starving for adequate power.
  • Alternate method: Same as above, but 15 Amps versus 20 Amps
    If a 15-Amp circuit is used, it is even more important that the circuit be dedicated solely to the treadmill. A 15-Amp circuit is wired with lighter gauge wire than a 20-Amp circuit, thereby making the unit even more susceptible to power starvation if the outlet/circuit is shared with other electrical devices.

Power Sources to Avoid

  • GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets/circuits
    The treadmill can cause nuisance tripping of GFCI’s, which can result in a damaged component(s) on the treadmill.
  • Surge Suppressors
    Surge Suppressors can impede initial inrush current necessary to properly charge capacitors, etc. Burned or damaged components can result.
  • Any extension cord
    Extension cords can cause excessive voltage drops, thus providing the treadmill with less than sufficient voltage/current to operate properly. Burned or damaged components can occur as a result.
  • Any outlet connected to a light dimmer
    Household outlets are frequently connected to lamp/light dimmers. Dimmers by their purpose reduce voltage/current to the connected device. Such reduced power to a treadmill will cause damaged components.

Operational Side Effects on Improper Power Supply

  • Undersupplied power outlets, i.e., outlets with 110 Volts or less, can cause running belt surges, especially when the elevation motor is operating

I realize this may not be the most entertaining blog to ever appear, but it is very important. Good power to your cardio exercise equipment can mean the difference between years of uninterrupted use to years of fixing. Often power issues do not show their true colors right away, but it will affect it down the line. Do yourself a favor and find the perfect place to put the unit, with the correct power requirements, and you will be a happy user.

 

Treadmill Drive Motors and the Question of Horsepower

The treadmill motor horsepower rating is probably the single most recognizable spec that jumps out at a consumer when he or she begins to do their buying research. It is most likely because we have all heard this term since we were young, and many of us think we know what it means. As tends to be our way of thinking, we usually believe bigger is better. However, the truth is, the ratings and numbers can be very confusing and ultimately incredibly misleading. Here are some tips to help you sort through some of the terms and numbers you may have read about to find out what is really important when trying to understand this integral part of the treadmill.vision treadmill motor

Poor horsepower ratings

Unless the treadmill has a strong motor, you will easily wear it out. First, check to see what rating terminology the manufacturer is using. Terms like “treadmill duty” and “peak duty” have been used to mislead consumers in the past to raise the rating number (remember the assumption that bigger is better). What do each of those mean?

  • Treadmill Duty – somewhere in between peak and continuous. Treadmill duty measures the likely horsepower for an average user at an average speed over an average period of time. But because it is an average, it is not a true representation of power.
  • Peak Duty – Maximum horsepower a motor can generate when working at its hardest. This is only sustainable for a short time. Or Peak duty motors measure power at the highest possible rpm with minimal load. But since an efficient motor is not going to run at this high rpm all the time, it is not an accurate horsepower measurement.

Look for Continuous Duty horsepower

When shopping for a treadmill, look for a Continuous Duty Rating (CHP). A continuous duty motor measures the minimum horsepower delivered at all points during a workout, and is a commercial grade standard applied to treadmills used in health clubs and higher-quality home treadmills. Continuous duty motors are the highest quality available. They are more powerful, they last longer, and they deliver smooth performance.

Minimum recommendations have always been at least 1.5 CHP, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a treadmill with such a low rating these days because of all the marketing hype. However, if done right, a 1.5 CHP motor with an RPM rating below 4000 would satisfy the needs of 90 percent of home users.

The importance of RPMs

Rotations per Minute (RPMs) is really important in motor design. The relationship between continuous horsepower and RPM is torque. This is the most significant factor when determining the best suitable motor for you needs. The lower the RPM of a motor, the more torque it will have – torque being the measure of a tendency to cause rotation; in other words, the power to turn. This allows the motor to last longer. I strongly recommend a motor with an RPM rating of 4000 or lower, but never more than 5000.

This is crucial because this is where a lot of manufacturers begin to play with, and boost, the ratings above 2.5 in to the 3.5 and 4 HP range. In a lot of those cases, if we examine the plate stamped on the treadmill, you will find RPM ratings in the 7000 to 8000 range. This is how they can get away with these bloated HP rating numbers. These motors are spinning way too fast and working way too hard to last the years you should expect out of a quality treadmill. RPM tinkering is only one way in which a manufacturer can boost the horsepower rating of a treadmill motor.

Electrical requirements

Finally, there are the electrical requirements needed to support a larger HP motor. Most homes today have either a 15- or 20-Amp circuit, which you plug the treadmill into.  Most 20-Amp lines will only support 2.4 horsepower from an electrical motor for a continuous period of time. So all the “extra” horsepower, if the rating is true, is nice but totally not needed and never really used.

On a related note, it is nice to have a big, strong, powerful motor in your treadmill, but it is just as important to surround that motor with up to date quality components (more on that later). If done properly, the motor won’t have to do all the work so the load can be shared amongst all the integral parts. They reduce the need for overblown horsepower ratings and produce a much more efficient running treadmill – A sort of brains over brawn scenario.

What this all means is that the customer should be more concerned with how well all these parts of the treadmill work together, rather than with a hyped up horsepower rating placed on a website or printed in a brochure. Look for a solid motor with CHP rating and low RPM’s and go from there.

Treadmills – To lubricate or not to lubricate?

To ensure maximum life of your treadmill, proper maintenance is a must do! Please refer to your owner’s manual for any questions regarding maintenance. Depending on your model, you may sometimes have to lubricate the running deck with paraffin wax. The reason for applying wax to the running deck is so the running belt moves smoothly over the deck surface. The wax reduces the friction between the two, thus creating a longer life span for your running belt and deck.

Please note that if you have had your running belt and deck replaced in 2012 and after, it is possible you have a maintenance-free running belt and deck. If you are unsure, please call tech support at 800-335-4348 and we can assist you in figuring that out. If you have a maintenance-free running deck and belt, do not put any wax, or any type of lubricant on your treadmill. They are made so the running belt is infused with wax, and will run smoothly onto the deck, requiring no maintenance from you!

If your treadmill running deck does require wax, it is a fairly straight forward procedure. We recommend the use of a SLic-STik, which is a wand with wax on the end, and it makes it a fairly easy process.

  1. Start off by turning off and unplugging the treadmill.
  2. Loosen the rear roller bolts with an Allen wrench to allow the belt to be lifted up from the sides of the deck.
  3. Clean and clear the deck of foreign debris. Inspect the deck for signs of wear. If large deep scratches are present or the black coating has worn to wood color, the deck should be flipped to a good side or replaced.
  4. If surface is OK, lift the side of the belt and insert SLic-STik under the belt to wax the surface. Generously apply the SLic-STik to the deck from front to back using a back and forth movement concentrating on the center surface area of the deck.
  5. Remove the SLic-STik from under the belt and adjust the belt back to its proper tension. Plug the treadmill in and it is ready to use.

A Vision Fitness treadmill deck should be lightly waxed every 500 miles to insure maximum life of the treadmill components, but it is better to wax more often than to wait too long. However it is important to note that over-waxing can have a negative effect, such as belt thumping or excess wear of components.

To assure maximum life of the components without over-waxing, the following schedule may be followed:

lubrication frequency

Following these guidelines can help keep your treadmill in great working condition. If you want to purchase a wax stick, you can by calling tech support at 800-335-4348.

The Best Home Fitness Equipment for Runners

Long days, better weather and the promise of 5K’s to come,  make early spring an awesome time for running.  Depending on your running goals, the right piece of home fitness equipment can help you to fit in more quality training, avoid injury, or simply add to the enjoyment of your cross training workouts.   If you’re already a home fitness enthusiast, you may also find yourself wondering how to best combine your outdoor workouts with your treadmill, elliptical or recumbent bike.  New runners, and those contemplating a fitness equipment purchase, may also need to weigh the benefits of one piece of equipment over the other.  As a runner, choosing the right piece of fitness equipment, whether that’s a treadmill, elliptical, or recumbent bike, depends on what you wish to accomplish from your indoor training sessions.

Treadmills: For a serious runner who wants to make sure that nothing gets between you and your training time, a treadmill is probably your best bet.  While running on a treadmill is a bit easier than running outside, you can increase the difficulty by pushing your incline up slightly.  Including a treadmill in your home gym means that spring rains, summer heat, or simply a long work day won’t throw your training off track.  Treadmills also have the advantage of providing more cushioning than running outside, which can be easier on your joints.  You can use your treadmill as a back-up to your regular, outdoor workouts or schedule it into your training plan.  This might mean planning recovery runs on your treadmill to take advantage of the added cushioning and controlled environment  or challenging interval runs utilizing pre-programmed settings that get your legs moving and your heart rate out of its comfort zone.  You can also schedule days of simply walking on your treadmill, to assist your muscles in their recovery after a particularly long or difficult run outdoors. Space efficiency is another advantage of treadmills.  Many models fold up, making them easy to move out of the way, a particular advantage if your home gym space doubles as a living area.

Woman Exercising on Elliptical

Ellipticals:  An elliptical trainer can also be a terrific complement for both new and serious runners.  Elliptical trainers offer a simple, low impact movement that allows joints and muscles to recover from the stress of running, while continuing to burn serious calories and challenge the cardiovascular system.  If you’re new to running, are concerned about the impact of running, or simply want to burn as many calories as possible while minimizing the wear and tear on your joints, an elliptical trainer is a great option.  Virtually any workout that you can do on a treadmill can be adapted to an elliptical trainer.  Additionally, you have the option of strengthening the upper body at the same time, improving your running form.  Elliptical trainers can also be used in a backwards pedaling motion…a factor unique to this particular piece of equipment.  This allows you to strengthen the posterior muscles of the body that provide the power needed for other athletic endeavors (think beach volleyball or 3 on 3 basketball), while allowing the quads time to recover.

Recumbent Bike:  If you see yourself completing a few runs outside each week and would like a way to recover from your runs that will keep you active, or if you like to mix up your workouts with different types of training, a recumbent bike is a good addition to your home fitness equipment.  Recumbent bikes are also a great, no impact option for continuing to work out through or following injury.  The position of your body in this piece of equipment takes the stress of your workout off of your low back and your knees, so if these are vulnerable areas for you, mixing recumbent bike workouts into your running or walking just makes sense.  Some of these machines take up a bit of floor space and the seated position can make it harder to get your heart rate up if you don’t make a conscious effort to overcome that through increasing the resistance and speed of your workout, but if you’re looking for a convenient, no-impact workout that you can use for cross-training or recovery, the recumbent bike is a great option.

Tell us your story:  Are you using your home fitness equipment to add training options and variety to your running?  What do you use and how?