Great Question: Treadmill Workouts

>> Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blame it on the subwoofer. The intense synth at the end of Muse's "Apocalypse Please." Or maybe the 8 MPH speed I programmed into the treadmill's belt. Whatever made it happen: I reached nirvana Monday night while cresting an imaginary hill at mile 7 of my 8-mile run.

That's right: On a TREADMILL.

Which brings me to our Great Question today. It comes from Fiona, who asks: What are your favorite winter running workouts -- specifically on the treadmill?

Those of you who have been reading our blog for a long time know that we're not exactly pro-treadmill. We'd much rather run like the postal service -- through the rain, sleet, and snow.

But as time moves on, so do our opinions and ways of working out. My recently discovered love of aqua jogging and swimming are definitely testament to that phenomenon. And so is my new appreciation for the dread treadmill.

We were lucky this weekend to get a great deal on a treadmill from my parents (who recently joined a gym and didn't have space to store the bulky thing). But I've been running in place with a smile on my face for months now, in the wake of my knee/IT-band injury. I started out using the treadmill because it made sense. If my knee hurt, I could stop my workout early and not have to walk home. I could also keep myself on an even, flat surface.

Getting used to the boredom was another matter. Though, this year I've found it much easier because swimming isn't exactly the easiest exercise to do mentally either. It's all breaking the workout into different segments. So, my favorite workouts aren't runs all at the same MPH. They vary much in pace AND incline, keeping my body AND mind guessing.

NOTE: For these workouts, just substitute in your own paces. For me, my usual warm-up pace is around a 6.6 MPH. Other days it's faster/slower depending. But keep those increments proportional if you can. (For example, if I say start at a 6.6 MPH and you are comfortable starting at a 6 MPH . . . and then I say crank it to a 7 MPH, crank yours to a 6.4 MPH. I hope this makes sense.)

Workout #1: The Hill-Lover. (4 to 6 miles)
  • Warmup: 1/2 mile at 6.6 MPH.
  • Keep the incline at 1, but bring up speed to 6.8 MPH.
  • At the beginning of mile 2, increase the incline by .5 every (1/10) tenth of a mile until you reach 3 miles.
  • Increase speed to somewhere between 7 and 7.5 MPH. Bring incline back down to 1. Run 1/2 mile.
  • At 3.5 miles, keep your speed, but increase incline by 1 every (1/10) tenth of a mile until you reach 4.5 miles.
  • Repeat this whole sequence again at a slightly higher speed or incline.
  • Then cool down with half a mile at your beginning pace.

Workout #2: Made For Speed. (3 to 5 miles)
  • Warmup: 1/2 mile at 6.6 MPH.
  • Push the pace up to 7 MPH for a quarter mile.
  • Then push it up to 8 MPH for a quarter mile.
  • Back down to 7 MPH for a quarter mile.
  • Back to 8 MPH.
  • Repeat this process until you reach your desired distance and have half a mile left to cool down at your beginning pace.

Workout #3: Long Run Or Bust. (8 to 12 miles)
  • (Guess what!) Warmup: 6.4 MPH for half a mile.
  • Then settle in at a comfortable pace. For me, this ends up being somewhere between 6.6 and 6.8 MPH.
  • Crank the tunes. Pop in a movie. Sprinkle in some hills. Some (short) faster segments. Anything to keep it interesting.
  • Cool down with half a mile at that 6.4 MPH.

Workout #4: No TIME! (2 to 3 miles)
  • Warmup: 6.6 MPH for a quarter mile.
  • Push the pace up to 7 MPH and crank the incline to 3 or 4 for half a mile.
  • Lower incline and increase speed to 7.3 MPH for a quarter mile.
  • Lower speed back to 7 MPH. Crank incline to 5 for half a mile.
  • Lower incline and increase speed to 7.6 MPH for a quarter mile.
  • Lower speed to 7.3 MPH. Crank incline to 7 for half a mile.
  • Lower incline. Cool down (or do more craziness, if you want).
If you're wondering how treadmill running converts to "real" running, don't worry. As long as you up the incline (and always have it at least at a 1), you'll not have too much trouble switching between the two. I try to still get in at least two outdoor workouts per week. And plenty of cross-training.

With this method, I've kept my recent race times -- at least in the 10K -- relatively speedy.

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