5 ways to use the treadmill as a key training tool, not just a bad weather stand-in.
by Kara Deschenes
If this year’s winter weather has had you hibernating indoors, or you’re looking for ways to change up your training, the treadmill offers a solid option for your run workouts. We surveyed some of the world’s top triathlon and run coaches to help take the dread out of the ‘mill.
Benefits of the belt
Mario Fraioli, Senior Editor of Competitor magazine and Olympic running coach, considers the treadmill an asset for certain workouts. “The ability to manipulate pace, incline and distance in a controlled environment to suit your training needs is by far the biggest benefit a treadmill offers,” he says.
But the benefits don’t stop there. For those hoping to strengthen their mental game, the treadmill provides a challenge. Siri Lindley, coach to three-time IRONMAN world champion Mirinda Carfrae, acknowledges that treadmill running can be tough, but recommends going into the workout with a purpose. “Have a specific goal and aim to maintain perfect run technique throughout,” she says. Before you know it, the session is over and you’ve done double duty by tackling a physical and mental test.
How to keep your head in the game
If you struggle with motivation on the runner’s version of a hamster wheel, try these tricks and remember that the work you put in now will pay dividends on race day:
“Imagine yourself on the last mile of your goal race, focusing on the finish during a hard interval. Think of your friends and family waiting to cheer you on while a fellow competitor is close behind, trying to make a move to take your position. Don’t let him catch you. Having your mind go through this scenario over and over will prove to be beneficial on race day.”– Bob McKeown, founder and head coach of South Shore TRI
“Crank up the music or use the time as an opportunity to catch up on your favorite TV show or the movie you’ve been meaning to watch. There are also apps that allow you to follow popular race courses and routes around the world.” – Mario Fraioli, Senior Editor of Competitor magazine
“Interrupt your rhythm every five to 10 minutes by varying the incline and pace, even on an easy run. This will keep your mind engaged since you have to initiate the change, but it will also force changes to your stride, which can help minimize risk of injury.” – Mario Fraioli
“While you are ‘running in place’, treadmills are most boring when you simply fail to focus on anything. By removing the stimulus or the dynamic outside environment, it opens the door to replace this with great focus on HOW you are running, and making great strides in form and technique.” – Matt Dixon, founder of purplepatch fitness and exercise physiologist
Below are five varied workouts to bring with you to the gym, brought to you by top coaches from around the world.
Jesse Kropelnicki, one of only 17 USAT Level 3 Certified Coaches in the world, recommends this workout next time you’re short on time but want to squeeze in a sweat:
→ After a quick warm-up, rotate hard and easy efforts. Set the incline at 6 to 8 percent for the hard portion, and return to flat for the recovery interval. Interchange one-minute efforts, with 90-second recoveries for 12 reps, totaling a 30-minute workout (not including warm-up and cool-down).
The Tempo Trucker
Bob McKeown, owner and head coach of South Shore TRI, stresses the importance of warming up before a tempo run. Try this sequence to push your pace:
→ Warm up for at least 10 minutes. Perform two intervals, 10 minutes in length at tempo pace. Take four minutes of recovery between the intervals and cool down for five minutes for a total workout time of 39 minutes.
The Hill Hurdler
Fraioli values the treadmill for its ability to simulate a hilly run course. Use this workout to build hill-running legs:
→ After warming up with 1 to 3 miles of easy running, increase the incline on your treadmill to a 6 to 8 percent grade and perform ten to 12 60-second hill repeats at your 10 km race pace with 60 seconds of easy, flat running between reps. This workout will pass by quickly while also helping you build speed and strength. Cool down with 1 to 3 miles of easy running. Total workout time varies based on individual pace.
The Speed Demon
Siri Lindley, coach of three-time IRONMAN World Champion Mirinda Carfrae, recommends slowly increasing speed during the warm-up to wake up your legs and get the blood flowing. This speed session is sure to get your heart and legs moving:
→ Warm up for 15 minutes by building in speed just slightly within that time. For the main set, perform 4 x 30-second intervals at a speed that feels hard, but not crazy. Use a one minute very easy jog between each rep. Start building the speed up at the end of your recovery time and before the interval begins, as it takes time to reach your goal speed. Next, rotate 4 x 1-minute intervals using the same threshold as the previous set. Jog really easy for one full minute between each rep. Then, perform 2 x 2 minutes, again using the same guidelines with two minutes of an easy recovery jog in between. Finish off your workout with one solid race-pace effort for four minutes. Wind the workout down with a cool-down before calling it quits.
Tips to get the most out of this workout:
-The 30 second efforts should be the fastest.
-The one-minute efforts should still aim for speed, but be a tad easier than the 30-second reps.
-The two-minute reps should be a bit easier than the one-minute intervals, but still really challenging in the last 30 seconds or so.
Matt Dixon, founder and CEO of purplepatch Fitness, recommends his clients use the treadmill for specific workouts while focusing on form and technique. Here he gives a sample pyramid run, perfect for the belt:
→ After a solid warm-up, perform the following reps: 1 x 12 minutes, 2 x 9 minutes, 3 x 6 minutes, and 4 x 3 minutes while increasing the effort and pace as the time gets shorter. Use 1-2 minutes of recovery time at an easy effort between each rep. Finish with a cool-down, for a total workout of just over an hour.
Kara Deschenes is a health and fitness freelance writer living in Tampa, FL. For her latest musings follow her @KaraDeschenes