Treadmill Training For The Blind And Visually Impaired

Training on a treadmill when blind has a number of challenges mainly interacting with the controls, monitoring progress and trying not to fall off. There are however, a number of steps we can take to make the experience as accessible as possible. THis is thanks to a few pieces of technology: an iPhone, some Bluetooth sensors and an Apple Watch.

The key to tracking progress is having two metrics. For example, time and heart rate, time and distance etc. With two data points progress can be tracked. Therefore, that is our target, to always have two accessible data points for progress monitoring.

Treadmill

Before we can start using technology to make tracking progress accessible, we need the right treadmill. Any treadmill that has speed and elevation as physical buttons will suffice. Generally, even touch based treadmills still have physical buttons for speed and elevation.

When starting the treadmill it starts at a default speed. It is important to know the default speed of your treadmill, to learn how many presses to get to a given speed. YOu can do this by using something like SeeingAI or ask a sighted person. From that point on its a case of pressing the buttons the required amount.

But how do you not fall off? Practice! After years of running on a treadmill i still find myself holding onto the hand rails now and again. So do not be afraid to hold on until you are comfortable. If you still retain light perception focussing on a light source and ensuring you keep it central can also be a great help. Additionally, using a physical tether you place on the hand rail can be helpful.

Wahoo

Wahoo on the iPhone is a fantastically accessible application that works with a whole host of Bluetooth sensors. The app is well worth exploring to discover all its functionality as you can create some very detailed and specific setups to suit your needs. The important thing to note for accessibility is that it has a highly customisable audio feedback system. You are able to create triggers for distance, time heart rate, battery level and so on. This enables you to create a system that can give heart rate every minute, battery level every 10 minutes, workout distance every 3 minutes. The customisations are up to you. I however, have an announcement every minute for distance, speed and heart rate. I find this sufficient for my training needs.

Heart rate sensor – Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor, Bluetooth / ANT+

The Wahoo heart rate sensor is a Bluetooth enabled heart rate strap. It is simple to configure, strap it on open up the wahoo app and add a new sensor.

Heart rate crucially is a simple and effective way for a blind person to train on a treadmill. Choose a heart rate zone to train in and off you go. A good start would be to run at 65% of your maximum heart rate. With audio triggers set to every minute this is easy to track and just requires you to adjust speed and elevation on the treadmill as you see fit.

Bluetooth foot pod – Zwift RunPod

**PLEASE NOTE: the Bluetooth sensor mentioned here is not the one i use. The sensor i use has been discontinued, with the Zwift RunPod its replacement.
Zwift RunPod
Is another sensor that will enable a broader range of data points: cadence, speed and distance.

The setup is similar to the heart rate sensor, open wahoo add a sensor and away you go. With multiple data points you can choose the ones you would like to train with. It is worth noting however, that speed is a difficult metric to train with using this type of sensor, as the speed will jump around quickly making it difficult to track. Distance or cadence are easier to train with. I have found the distance is accurate to my treadmill distance, so is an ideal pairing. There is an option to adjust the sensor within Wahoo if you find the distance metrics do not match those of the treadmill.

Apple watch

The Apple Watch removes the need for Wahoo and its additional sensors. It is capable of heart rate, distance and cadence. I find my watch tracks quite well to my treadmill distance. The one downfall however, is automatic audio feedback. I find that so useful when i am training long on the treadmill. I do however, find my watch incredibly useful for outdoor running and prefer to use it over the app based system on my phone.

SO what do I use?

Right now i use a combination of all the systems above. With Wahoo i use a 1 minute interval for feedback but still find myself tracking on the watch too. For treadmill training it appears we have lots of options and its worth trying them all.

If you have any questions feel free to ask and i will do my best to answer

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