Different variations of the standard treadmill have developed this machine to suit the needs of modern living and diverse training goals. For example, a walkpad (hyperlink to walkpad article) is a compact version of a treadmill that is suitable for people who are tight on space or who want to work out while working at their standing desk.
A curved treadmill is another such re-imagination of the treadmill. This machine is ergonomically designed to move without a motor, almost like an analogue version of the motorised one we know so well. Why might you choose to work out with a curved treadmill? Keeping reading to find out…
What is a curved treadmill?
If you have never seen a curved treadmill before, then you might be a little surprised by the look of one. Rather than having the flat base of a standard treadmill, the base is shaped like a banana. The middle part that you stand on is flat, but the edges of the treadmill rise up. This design harvests the force of your feet striking and pulling the surface in order to move it along, thus dispensing with the need for a motor.
Whether you are walking, jogging or running, a curved treadmill is simple to use. Simply hop onto the base and start moving your feet; the machine will move along with you. As ever, your form is important. Stand straight with your chest out, gently squeeze your glutes, and avoid hinging at the hips. A curved treadmill is particularly good for correcting hinged hips because if you are tilting forward (an easy posture error to make) you will feel uncomfortable, almost like you are falling forward, because of the front curve of the base.
Setting your own pace
One of the benefits of using a curved treadmill is that is allows you to control the pace in an intuitive sense. If your body is able to give a bit more, then you can naturally adjust to go faster. If you are starting to lag, then the speed will drop back. Of course, you can use the control panel on a standard treadmill to adjust the speed as you think fit, but sometimes this creates a hurdle to pushing yourself or it causes you to go too hard because you are adjusting your pace to match the machine setting.
It has to be said though, a curved treadmill is better suited to a steady and constant workout. If you want to do a HIIT workout involving bursts of sprinting, your better option is to use a standard treadmill, where you can easily and quickly adjust the pace. This is not to say that you cannot run at a high speed on a curved treadmill, but unless you are planning to maintain that speed and develop your endurance, you might want to stick to the traditional model.
Kinder to the joints
Running is a high impact exercise, which means that it puts stress on the joints. The knees and the ankles bear the brunt of this. For regular runners, protecting the joints is a priority and there are various means of doing this. It almost goes without saying that perfecting your running form should be your primary line of defence. After this, using knee and ankle supports, wearing special running shoes, and using shock-absorbing insoles can all help to safeguard your joints.
A curved treadmill is another one to add to this list. The shape of the base combined with a surface that is moved by the runner, rather than moving under the runner, reduces the force that is generated through running. It also naturally coaxes you into a position that is conducive to good running form and promotes the use of the hamstrings. The science behind all this is a bit complex…and boring…all you really need to know is that a curved treadmill delivers a more comfortable workout that is safer for your joints.
If you are training for a marathon, there are a few reasons to choose a curved treadmill over a traditional one. The first is that it mimics the conditions of running outdoors because the base does not automatically move under your feet. This also allows you to retain your natural running gait because you do not need to adjust to meet the demands of a motorised surface. Its design is also kinder to the joints, which is a big consideration when you will be training for hours at a time.
A curved treadmill can therefore be an ideal way to train for long-distance runs. This is not to say, however, that you need to exclusively use one machine to prepare for your race. Outdoor running, curved treadmills, and standard treadmills all carry unique benefits. Varying your workout to draw on these features will result in faster and more efficient progress.
Quieter, greener and easier to maintain
Finally, it is worth mentioning the pragmatic benefits associated with a curved treadmill. Due to the fact that it does not have a motor, it is quieter to use than a standard one. If you live in an apartment, your neighbours might thank you for choosing a curved treadmill!
It uses a lot less energy too. This makes it a greener option for those of you who are concerned about your carbon footprint, and a cheaper option for those of you who are interested in managing your electricity bills. A curved treadmill is also easier to maintain and less likely to break down.