As the winter months quickly approach and the cold weather creeps in, it can be a little discouraging to runners who see it as a threat. To most, it’s often the treadmill or nothing. However, many do not know that the treadmill can actually be your best training partner and help you get faster than when you were training outside.
TREADMILLS PROVIDE CONSISTENT PACING
I find that my speed increases significantly during Winter training because I am almost always on the treadmill. I can control my pace and have no option to slow down – I am at the mercy of the unrelenting pace that I set on the treadmill.
When I run outside, my easy days would be around an 8:45 pace because it is hard to keep a consistent pace throughout my whole run. My easy days on the treadmill however are about a 7:50 pace because I am able to control the speed and push harder. I also love doing tempo runs on the treadmill because I find that I can push the pace to my max and have no choice but to keep with it, resulting in faster workouts indoors and outdoors.
After a few weeks of training on the treadmill at faster paces, I feel the difference outdoors as well. Paces that used to feel hard no longer do. This is because I have been running those paces on the treadmill consistently.
BREAKING THROUGH MENTAL BOREDOM
The treadmill can often be referred to as “the dreadmill” because it is sometime boring just staring at the wall and running in one place. For me, I try to constantly increase the speed of the treadmill throughout my run to keep it challenging and fun. That way I am ending my run at my fastest speed. Here is how I survive the treadmill:
- Every time a new song comes on I increase the speed one notch. Make sure to start at a speed that is slower than goal pace. Because most songs are between 4-5 min, you are increasing the pace about every ½ mile or so. This makes you relax into the pace for the duration of the song and then switch into gear the next. A nice mixture of slow and fast songs can help you mentally tune in with your body. If you just play fast songs, you are purely surviving on adrenaline so that when you don’t have music, you aren’t prepared for the mental toughness. Adding some slow songs helps your body loosen up and remind you to correct your form, focus on mindfulness and your breathing.
- When using a streaming app such as Spotify or Pandora, pick a genre with some unfamiliar artists and force yourself not to skip any songs. Not only will this be interesting because you are listening to new music, but it will also mentally force you to keep running just so that you can hear the next song.
Speed it up:
- Similar to the first music option, increase the speed of the treadmill every half mile, it is fun and helps the miles disappear since you are gradually getting faster and running negative splits. One of my favorite 6-mile speed workouts is starting a minute slower than my expected finishing pace. For example, starting at an 8 minute pace and increasing speed every half mile until I end the last half mile at a 7 minute pace. It is quick and challenging, and a great workout.
- When I want to get my mileage out of the way, I will do a “4 mile speed up” where I run the first 2.5 miles at a pretty conservative pace like 8:30 and then once I hit 2.5 miles, I increase the speed of the treadmill one notch every minute. This helps time go faster because you are only focusing on one minute at a time and anyone can run one minute even if you are really tired.
MY FAVORITE TREADMILLS
If you haven’t run on a Woodway treadmill, you haven’t lived. Running on the Woodways is like running on a cloud. The unique treading helps cushion your steps and is easy on the joints. I would recommend using these if you are prone to injury or don’t like how heavy your feet hit on ordinary treadmills. An interesting feature on the Woodways that nobody knows about is the manual feature. This feature makes it so that you are the only one powering the belt to move. It is difficult to just run like this so I recommend this short strength workout:
- Place one leg on the belt and one on the side so that only one leg is free to move. Set the treadmill to manual mode and start pushing the leg on the belt backwards in a repetitive motion like you are propelling yourself on a skateboard. Push for 1 minute and then rest, and repeat again 4 times. This is tiring, so make sure to give yourself adequate rest. Switch sides and do the same motion on the opposite foot.
I personally like running on the life fitness machines for speed days since they have a feature that allows you to see your average pace. I like using this when I am using the increasing pace method because it is encouraging to see my pace continue to drop as I get faster.
If you are injured or need low-impact running I would recommend the zero-gravity running machine in Cardio Theater. It is almost as if you are running in air because while running as you normally do, there is no moving belt. It is almost as if your feet are in slings and you can control the resistance. Although you go a lot slower, it is a good workout to practice resistance and give your legs a break from the heavy-hitting that running usually provides.
As these winter months approach, use the treadmills as your training partner. You will increase your speed, overall conditioning and watch your pace drop. Just be warned that we are also entering prime gym season so plan accordingly to ensure space on a treadmill.
Written by Gabrielle Rackner
Author of the running blog, Tacos and Tempos