To Treadmill or Not To Treadmill?

Should You Be Using a Skating Treadmill?

I have often wondered about the pros and cons of using a skating treadmill to improve skating ability and endurance.  Unfortunately, I had to ask quite a few people before getting what I considered a satisfactory answer.  Surprisingly, even two well-known and well-respected individuals within the New England (and beyond) hockey community did not address the question to my satisfaction.  One response was, “If the skating treadmill helped improve skating ability, then everyone would have one.”  There were too many other factors running through my head like cost, space, and liability to accept that answer.  The other answer was, “We don’t use gimmicks.”  Ok.  Why do you consider the treadmill a “gimmick”?

The answer that made sense to me came from a power skating coach.  He cautioned that the treadmill does not force you to skate properly.  It might relieve you of gross errors in your skating stride.  But, for the most part, it reinforces whatever problems you have with your stride. 

The second thing he pointed out was that even if you do have a good stride, the treadmill cannot help you with the final push of your stride which utilizes the inside edge of the skate blade “toe”.  You simply are not able to scrunch up your toes in your boot and dig the inside tip of your blade into the surface of the treadmill like you can on the ice.

So when considering using a skating treadmill, decide if you want to use it to improve technique or endurance or both.  If it is better skating technique that you are looking for, then it would be best to use the treadmill under supervision of a skating coach or, at a minimum, in conjunction with an on-ice program that focuses on skating technique.  If you are looking for a way to build cardio stamina and muscle strength specific to skating, then the treadmill can be a good option for those who simply like to exercise on the treadmill or for those who would benefit from committing to a regularly scheduled exercise regimen.  More convenient and less expensive at-home exercise programs that achieve the same physical benefits can’t equal or beat using the treadmill unless one has the discipline to do them.

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