Ever notice that it's nearly impossible to sprint at max speed on a treadmill?

This week I wrote about how refrigerator design reflects (and influences) what we eat.  Well, so too with our gyms.  The rows and rows of treadmills and ellipticals are a sign of our chronic cardio habit — and the treadmill itself reinforces the habit by making it hard to do anything other than jog in a straight line at a moderate pace.  Spend too many years in a gym and you almost forget that sprinting is even an option.

I actually sprint on a treadmill sometimes.  Other people in the gym get nervous because nobody ever sprints on a treadmill.  There must be rules against such a thing!  They get worried that I'll wipe out.  And I do hold back just a little, just in case I don't find the Stop button on the first try.  (But only a little.)

Probably better to just go to the park and do some sprints.  Of course, I rather enjoy blasting the zombie joggers out of their treadmill stupor.


9 Responses to “It’s hard to sprint on a treadmill”

  1. joshua says:

    In the early days of CrossFit NYC, before we had a space of our own, we used to co-locate inside of other gyms in the city.

    At one such gym, we used to play a game where we’d rev the treadmill up to the maximum 12mph, and take turns running on it as long as we could, until we’d literally go shooting off the back of the treadmill, unable to keep up.

    For some reason, they didn’t like us very much there.

  2. Samantha Moore says:

    I sprint on the treadmill every time I go to the gym.  I sprint in Vibrams, too.  I push the button over and over until my feet go as fast as they can go, and the machiine makes a loud whirring machine noise, and I’m running so fast I could wipe out pretty bad, but then I pretend I’m chasing a kudu across a savanna and I’m HUNGRY, and that’s why I’m running so goddamned fast.  I like using the treadmill that way, even if other people look at me.

  3. Luke Sconzo says:

    Pheeeeeew! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one! I actually just attempted a treadmill sprint two days ago after a workout, but the treadmill I was on didn’t really get fast enough (it only went up to 10.0, or  a 6 minute mile). I also tried this at school, and like you, I definitely felt out of place amidst the hordes of zoggers. Keep blastin’ away, John!

  4. darnell says:

    just some random thoughts on sprinting on a treadmill…

    * i hate it… tried it – but much rather suit up and do them outside (despite hot/wet/cold weather…)

    * folks that look usually come from these schools of thought:

    - he’s going to hurt when he falls off

    - don’t understand the benefits of interval training vs. long slow distance (lsd) training

    - are distance runners and are probably thinking, "he won’t be able to keep that up for long"… no i have nothing against distance runners (i’m training for a marathon myself), but their focus is usually on "getting in the mileage" – eg. people are more impressed with someone saying, "I ran 10M today" vs. "I ran 5x1M or 12x400m repeats" – the latter often being way more punishing (but just doesn’t sound impressive… usually the spoken/unspoken response is, "but you get to rest in between sets?")

    • John says:

      Yeah, true.

      I often do intervals / circuits of a quarter mile (or less) and pull-ups. And do a handful of those. Sweating more in 10 minutes than most people do in an hour.

  5. Haig says:

    I love the sound the treadmill makes when I sprint–as if it’s about to take off.  By the time I’m done with my session I’ll know I’ve done a good job when the two treadmills to the left and right of mine are empty and all others are in use!

  6. Gordon says:

     Here’s another variation: try sprinting on an elliptical machine.   Your neighbors will give you a wide berth when you get up around 280 strides per minute.    

    Aside from being essential to those of us whose knees can’t take the impact of running anymore, it gives you a more precise reading of exactly how much speed and power you’re gaining (or not).  You’re not guessing whether you can keep up to a certain belt speed, you’re pushing it to your top speed and getting a "strides per minute" reading (plus resistance) you can  compare from work out to work out.

    After years of being stuck at my 1-hour chronic  cardio max,  I started doing 30 second elliptical sprints followed by a minute rest, eight to ten times, or until I could no longer maintain a speed 10 strides per minute below my top speed.

    Doing this once a week, I’ve gone from 180-190 to 270-280 spm in a few months, watching my maximum ratchet up 5 to 10 spm every single week.     This week I experimented with a three day rest and for the first time made no gains in speed.   Point is, it gives you a very precise measure for assessing your progress.  

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