In winter when temperatures plunge and daylight wanes earlier, many runners find it hard to stay motivated. Hard won advances in stamina and speed, acquired during the summer and fall tend to slip away as runners find it easy to come up with excuses to skip scheduled workouts.
Treadmills have been around seemingly forever as an alternative when cold, dark or icy conditions make running outdoors a forbidding proposition. Yet for the average runner, treadmill running is viewed more as “dreadmill” running. Ways do exist to incorporate treadmill running into a running program that can make it more interesting and even fun and a treadmill running program can help avoid the loss of fitness gains.
Strategies for Running on a Treadmill
The biggest complaint by runners when it comes to running on a treadmill is that it is downright tedious and monotonous. One of the primary attractions for many when it comes to running outdoors is the welcome changes of scenery gliding by during a run. Typically the runner faces the challenge of hills or steep declines with nice, flat portions interspersed where they can catch a breather or step up the pace.
Moving running indoors for many takes all that away. Step after dreaded step on a treadmill seems to amplify the thought that treadmill running is an absurd abstraction of what running is supposed to be all about. Yet there are simple ways to make running on a treadmill not only productive but also less repetitive and less boring. Adding a bit of challenge and imagination to a treadmill running workout can pay big dividends in continued fitness improvement when conditions just are not favorable to hit the roads and trails outside in winter.
Race Previews During a Treadmill Running Workout
Spring road races may still be months away, yet future races can be previewed while running on a treadmill. Many race sponsors’ websites feature course maps with elevation guides. The elevation guides show hilly portions along the course and points where they occur. The site for the Boston Marathon is a good example. Google maps also have a means of plotting out a race course and determining key points of elevation.
One way to spice up running on a treadmill is to plot out a favorite 5K race, determining where the hills are and at what point they occur on the course. Then strategy is to then perform a treadmill running workout where the incline is increased and decreased to mimic the conditions of the course. This is a much more challenging and interesting alternative to just putting in some miles at one set degree of incline. Longer races like 10Ks and marathons can also be used by breaking them down into segments. Thus a marathon might provide five separate workouts.
Add Tempo Training to a Treadmill Running Program
Tempo training, a form of speed work is another strategy for making treadmill running more productive and fun. To structure a tempo run start out with a mile of easy jogging and then increase and hold a comfortably hard pace (about 15 seconds slower you’re your best 10K time) for about 20 minutes. Finish off the workout with an easy mile of jogging to cool down. 20 minutes seems the ideal length for the hard segment of a tempo run, according to Dr. Jack Daniels, sports physiologist and running coach.
Actually treadmills are perfect for this type of training because many runners tend to run the hard segment of a tempo run too fast and fail to choose an appropriate pace that can be maintained for 20 minutes. Treadmills take all the guesswork out of pacing since the speed settings on treadmills demand an even pace.
Hill Repeat Running on a Treadmill
One final strategy to make running on a treadmill more interesting and less of a chore is by incorporating hill repeats. Again, a natural choice for treadmill running. The incline function offers precision is setting the degree of incline and the time factors to provide one of the most effective hill repeat running workouts that can be found. Incidentally, the cushioned surface of a treadmill is also effective in preventing running injuries that frequently occur when running hill repeats outdoors.
Treadmill running need not be a dreaded chore but another tool in the arsenal of accomplished runners. Adding a bit of challenge and imagination to a treadmill running workout and produce more consistent winter-time running that will translate into big rewards when the calendar rolls over to the time for spring racing.