Posted by: thehungryrunner | April 18, 2011

“Post Treadmill Shock Syndrome”: Key muscles to stretch when resuming outdoor running

I’m always humbled when at last spring’s milder weather permits me to start taking my running workouts outside, for no matter how faithful I have been in maintaining a base of running on the treadmill on even the gloomiest of winter days, those initial street/sidewalk runs are a mighty shock to my legs and lungs.  Even when I feel as though I’m “running like the wind,” upon checking my pace, I’m dismayed to learn that on the contrary, I’m not even up to what has become my typical warm-up speed on the treadmill!  I suppose the only consolation is that I now have a starting point off of which I almost can’t fail to make improvements in the weeks and months ahead.  But darn it if it feels like for the 3 steps forward I took last year, I took 2.9 steps back over the winter!

Even so, the other notable change is that of my post-run stretch routine, and the need to stay vigilant to staying on top of my muscles’ recovery through proper stretching.  Nothing new here, except that the treadmill normally allows for many creative stretches I can conveniently perform immediately after the belt stops and I’m still swimming in the euphoria of my runner’s-high endorphins.  Not so with outdoor running, and it’s amazing how easy it is to simply “forget” to stretch when there isn’t that immediately easy way of doing so.  I find I really have to discipline myself to hit those brakes en route to the shower, and take time to run through at least the most important stretches, and I find a great way to do this is by using the stairs.  There, I can go through several rounds of stretches for the muscles most in need of TLC when making the transition back to pavement, and those muscles include my hamstrings, calves, and glutes.  It’s also important to release the low back, which often takes a beating due partly to the repeat pounding on a less-forgiving surface than the more resilient treadmill.  Yet, a few minutes of dropped-heel calf releases, gentle twists, foot-on-stair hamstring stretches and some hip openers, and it’s like someone hit the “refresh” button in my body; I can sashay to the shower with ease and look forward to a soreness-free morning the next day.  Amazing what happens when I work WITH my body, rather than ignore its signals!

So, if you’re dealing with “Post Treadmill Shock Syndrome” as I am, make sure you’re not shortchanging your stretches, at a time when those muscles need it more than ever!

Additional information on stretches and flexibility training can be found at my website,



  1. I find my body takes more of a beating on the treadmill. The ones at my gym are only 2 years old but they aren’t great and get used a lot.

    • Funny you should say that. I used to assume that all treadmills provide a better surface for running than any sidewalk. I first learned otherwise on a business trip, in which I was using the hotel treadmill. It was worse than running on any concrete!

  2. I also tend to put my post-run stretches on the back-burner when I transition outdoors. Perhaps it’s because I feel more self-conscious about bending my twisting my body in public as opposed to the comfort of my basement.

    Kudos on being able to run 5 miles on a treadmill. I don’t understand how anyone can stand that much monotony. The most I can mentally accomplish on a treadmill is 3 miles, and that’s with a television and radio to reduce boredom. Even the monotony of a high school track is a welcomed change to the extreme boredom that comes from treadmill running. 5 miles on a track goes by in the blink of an eye.

    I have found that treadmills are generally inaccurate in determining pace and speed. On the treadmill, it says I run about a 11-12 minute mile. On the track, my pace is about a 9.5 to 10 minute mile. Even though my pace is better on the track, I feel like I’m running much slower than I do on the treadmill. So I think this inaccuracy on treadmills causes people to run faster outdoors, and thus, makes them struggle more.

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