I might be blasted for what I’m about to say, but I’ll admit it; I love the treadmill! I know this isn’t a popular opinion among runners, but it’s true. I love my runs on the treadmill. Don’t get me wrong, I love running outside in any condition rain, snow, sunshine, heat, wind, cold; it all has its place. But there is also a place for the treadmill in your training.
Now that winter has set in I hear a lot of people complaining about the treadmill. Many people actually refer to it as the “dreadmill” and that word and the way it’s said just make me cringe! I believe the treadmill plays a key role in making you a better, faster and stronger runner.
Here are a few of the ways I incorporate the treadmill into my training:
1. Speed work: the treadmill allows you to set a pace & forces you to maintain that pace for the full interval. It also makes it so your recovery period is a set time. I enjoy workouts on the track, but there are times when weather won’t allow or I want to hit a specific pace and just don’t know if I can do it. This is where the treadmill is your best friend. One of my favorite speed workouts on the treadmill is ½ mile repeats with a ¼ mile recovery. I’ll start with a one mile EASY warm-up and then move into my main set. Depending on my fitness level and where I am in my training cycle, I’ll do anywhere from 4 to 10 of the ½ mile repeats. I try to do my half mile repeats a little faster than 5K race pace. You shouldn’t be dying at the end, but you should be ready for that rest interval! I’ll then do an easy walk for ¼ mile before my next interval. I always do a nice easy cool down of jogging and walking for at least another mile. This workout has definitely helped me gain speed, especially for longer races.
2. Hill repeats: This is especially great if you don't live near any hills. And, even if you do live near hills, the treadmill allows you to do your intervals at a specific incline. Hill work is definitely necessary if you’re training for a hilly race. But regardless of your race terrain, hills makes you a stronger runner. I’ll add hill repeats in to my workouts in a couple of different ways. After a moderately paced run, I’ll do hill sprints at the end. You want to set the incline to a 5-7% grade and sprint! I’ll do 5 sprints of 30 seconds of with a 1 minute rest inbetween. You should be running so fast that you’re ready to step off the side of the treadmill when 30 seconds hits. Don’t forget to do an easy cool down of walking and jogging.
The other way I like to include hill work is with a progressively harder incline. Start with an easy warm-up for 10 to 15 minutes. Then pick a pace that you can sustain, but will be difficult to hold toward the end of this workout. I’ll usually go around marathon race pace for this workout. Start your treadmill at 5% incline and pick your speed; you don’t want to adjust your speed through all of these intervals. Run for 3 minutes and then walk for 2 minutes (I’ll often get off the treadmill and just walk around the cardio area at the gym). Repeat this increasing the incline by 1% for each set until you’re at a 9% incline. Cool down with 15 minutes of easy jogging and walking.
3. Tempo runs: Another key workout that can be easily done on the treadmill. One of the big reasons I like doing this workout on the treadmill is to help my body learn pacing. I like to hold a specific mile pace for my tempo runs and the treadmill allows me to do just that. After my warm-up, I’ll just set the treadmill to my pace and go. I don’t have to constantly check my watch to see if I’m running too fast or too slow, the treadmill keeps me in check. It also helps my body to know what that pace feels like. After a few tempo runs inside I’m always much better at knowing my paces when I’m outside.
4. Easy days: I often do my easy/recovery runs on a treadmill. Again, you’re forced to hold that very easy pace that’s necessary for good recovery. I noticed that I was running way too fast on my easy days. Running outside and enjoying the scenery I noticed my pace would often creep up.
5. Mental training: I admit, the treadmill can get boring! But if you're able to push past that boredom and complete your workout, you're building mental strength that will come in handy on race day. I've been known to do 2 hours on the treadmill. And trust me, that focus and determination always helps on race day. It also helps to enlist your friends to come run with you. I’ve done so many workouts on the treadmill with friends. It makes the time fly!
I also believe that shifting your attitude from "ugh, I have to run on the dreadmill" to looking forward to your treadmill workouts helps. Our attitude and mindset really does play a major role in how we view things. Just a simple “I get to run on the treadmill” can make all the difference in how well your workout goes.
These are just a few of my tips for not only surviving but enjoying the treadmill. When several months out of the year are cold & dark, you learn to develop a good relationship with the treadmill. Even when the weather is perfect, I've been known to do the above workouts inside. How do you incorporate the treadmill into your training?
Written by: Melissa Stratton
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