Whether the summer heat has forced you indoors or you have just decided that you need to take advantage of the complimentary toiletries that come with the gym membership you haven’t utilized in four months, the treadmill is your friend. Many, if not most, runners cringe at the notion of working out on the “dreadmill”.
Manufacturers have pulled out all the stops to try to make treadmill running a more fulfilling experience. Treadmills now come with fans, cupholders, iPod hookups, and even cable TV! They almost universally boast pre-programmed workouts to simulate speed or hills sessions, with built in warm-ups and cooldowns. The newer models can even connect to the internet so you can run simulated sessions in the streets of New York, the hills of France, or the Sahara Desert, and then upload your workouts to a personalized website to track your performance.
Fitness centers position their treadmills in media rooms so you can watch blockbuster movies like Big Momma’s House 2 or The Wedding Planner while you pump out miles. If you’re lucky, maybe you can get a nice window view of the Zumba class going on next door.
Despite all of these forms of entertainment, many will still avoid the treadmill at all costs. I’m here to tell you that the treadmill is a useful tool, especially as you go from a fitness runner who runs a few miles, three times a week, to a committed distance runner. The treadmill enables you to get a really strong cardiovascular workout, but without the wear and tear on your body that the pavement brings. Less wear and tear = faster recovery & fewer injuries, which translates into more productive training sessions when you are finally able to get outside.
Getting motivated for a treadmill workout can be tricky. So here are some principles I try to apply:
- Keep treadmill workouts regular, but infrequent. If you run five days a week, one or two days on the treadmill should be the max. Running five days a week on the treadmill is no fun for anybody. Plus, you are likely to feel sluggish once you actually get to the pavement and have to generate more of your own force rather than just keeping up with the belt.
- Keep treadmill workouts short. Between 30-45 minutes, no more than an hour. No amount of peripheral entertainment is going to keep you focused on a treadmill for much longer than this.
- Get creative. If you’re a competitive runner, you probably have a very regimented training plan that calls for very specific mileage at very specific paces. 4 x 400m at 5k pace, 3 x 1600m at 10k pace w/400m recoveries, 8 x 200 hill sprints, etc. Don’t be afraid to tinker with these. Your training plan is a guide to help keep you on track and put you in position to reach your goals. It is not intended to be a militaristic schedule. Treat it like a living thing that can evolve in any way you want it to.
Here’s an example of a fun, challenging workout you can do on the treadmill that will drown you in sweat and give you a really satisfying endorphin release:
1 mile warm-up
3 sets of the following:
800 meters at 10k pace
2 minute recovery
400 meters at 5k pace less 30 (so if your 5k pace is 8’00 per mile, run these at 7’30 pace or 8.0 mph).
2 minute recovery between sets
1 mile cooldown
Hills and progressions can also be really fun on the treadmill. For a 30-minute run, start off at a really easy pace and take it up .1 mph after each minute so you are flying by the time you reach the end. Throw in an incline every 5th minute if you feel like it. Have fun, be creative, and share your workout ideas with me!