I sometimes kill time running, especially on the treadmill by letting my mind wander. I actually get a lot done while running that ins't very obvious. I can think through quite a few things that I might have to otherwise sit at my desk and think through. It is actually pretty good multitasking. It also helps get through everyday runs that can sometimes be boring. Especially lately as I've been just dawdling on the treadmill, having something to think about is the only way I can tolerate it.
The last few days I've been mixing in some incline on the treadmill, which got me thinking about what grade to put it at to simulate different real roads, like Sagamore hill in Portsmouth, NH. That led me to think about Mount Washington. I think the treadmill at work maxes out at 10% so I know it isn't capable of simulating Mt. W, but that got me thinking more about it.
I wonder if there is some existing treadmill or program which allows you to program your treadmill to automatically adjust grade to simulate a road or race course of your choosing? The quick web search I've done since then only revealed one person wondering something similar, but the closest thing I've found is the NordicTrack iFit and I can't tell exactly what that does.
I tend to shoot holes in my ideas pretty quickly, so the first thing I thought is that you can't really simulate downhills on a treadmill, at least with current designs. I suppose you could design one with a rear lift as well as a front one, but I assume that would create some kind of safety issue. For the time being, let's assume it could be done safely. Maybe limit the rear lift to 5% rather than the 10% you can get on the front.
Whatever the format for loading the program, you would have to set it to make adjustments almost constantly if you were being really precise, so you might have to do some feathering to smooth it out a little bit, like make adjustments every 1/100 of a mile rather than every foot. The program would have to constantly compare your distance traveled to the corresponding grade at that distance into the route. It would also have to ignore or limit grade to the constraints of the treadmill, let's say 10% incline and 5% decline. Though to be honest, many people assume you should run at 1% incline on a treadmill normally anyway to more closely simulate outdoor running. Maybe this would be factored in.
Collecting data for inputting programs becomes the next thought. Could something as simple as an elevation profile from something like Google Maps be somehow converted into data that could be programmed and transformed into a format that a treadmill could be set up to decipher and execute? If so, that would be pretty simple.
The other piece of my fantasy treadmill that I would want to add is a handheld remote so I don't have to actually touch the screen. Reaching to touch the screen can actually be a little difficult once you get moving at close to race pace. I'd rather have a small (wireless for safety) remote with just an up/down button for adjusting the pace and an emergency stop button.
The other thing that would be cool, but possibly cost prohibitive would be a video monitor mounted to the front which could show your route as you move. The key here would be making a video of the course at a closely calibrated speed so that it would be slowed precisely to follow along with the distance traveled on your run. You wouldn't want to have the video get too far ahead of you or behind you. Collecting the data for this would be next to impossible, but it is a cool idea.
So there you have it. My thoughts on a programmable, varying course treadmill with interactive grade adjustments and dynamic video route display. Anyone want to help me patent this thing?
Maybe you're thinking "Just go outside and run." Well that isn't always possible for a variety of reasons. And imagine how much more enjoyable treadmill running would be if you could be indoors in Maine during a blizzard and decide you want to run part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, or through downtown Cairo, Egypt? Wouldn't that make your hour on the Dreadmill go by a little quicker?
Who's with me on this???