Treadmill 2.0

Last week we talked about how to take advantage of nice days and get the heck away from the treadmill.  Today we’ll cover a few ways to keep the time you DO have to spend on the treadmill both interesting and beneficial.

It’s easy to just be a hamster on a wheel, plugging away for mile after mile doing the same workout, at the same pace, probably with the same blank expression on your face.  Here are five ways to mix it up.

Adjust incline.  Of all the broken treadmills out there in the world, we’re guessing very few have been the result of overusing the incline feature.  Some treadmills make it from shiny and new to aging craigslist bargain without ever being operated with a single degree of incline.  Outdoor runners probably know better than anyone that the real world is definitely not a flat place.  Adjusting incline during your treadmill runs will help prepare you for outdoor running season and also help you build strength and stamina overall.  Start off perhaps with a middle 10 minutes with slight incline and experiment from there.

Go multi-media.  We’ve all had those runs with the headphones cranked up when the miles and minutes fly by.  You zone out and the next thing you know you’re halfway through the best run you’ve had all week.  The great thing about treadmill running is that you can go beyond audio and find ways to push your body while entertaining your brain.  Battling boredom is a huge factor in treadmill running, so see if you can set a nice steady-state pace and enjoy a TV show or a movie while you run.  It isn’t an ideal approach for a fast, high-intensity run, but if you’re looking to pound away in the endurance zone for a solid block of time, some TV can be just the ticket.

Play with pace.  One great thing about treadmills is that they never lie.  Six miles an hour is six miles an hour.  Period.  Consider planning out a workout in advance by choosing, for example, several intervals at various speeds.  Then all you have to do is execute the plan and let the treadmill keep you honest.  When it’s time to switch up the speed, let your fingers do the walking – bump up the pace where it belongs and let your legs know they’d better keep up.

Any of your Bluefin running apps are a good source of workouts like this…just browse through older workouts and choose one that has lots of strong interval work (as opposed to one that’s mostly steady-state running). For example, Week 5 of Ease into 5K has three solid workouts that are great for alternating speeds on the treadmill…just substitute the walk/run cycles for two treadmill paces (maybe 5 and 7).

Here’s another approach.  (Until you get used to the math, you may want to make yourself a cheat sheet to let you know when to switch.)

Interval Speed Switch at…
10 minutes 6 10 minutes
5  minutes 7 15 minutes
2  minutes 8 17 minutes
5  minutes 7 22 minutes
10 minutes 6 32 minutes

Watch your heart rate.  In February we talked about how to incorporate heart rate into your training.  The treadmill is an ideal environment for experimenting, since it’s easier to focus on your numbers and many have built in functionality, including plug-in monitors or handles that can give you a reasonably accurate reading.  Take a look at those heart rate posts and give it a try.

Turn around.  Ever try running backwards?  You’ll engage your legs differently, sharpen your focus, and generally make yourself a more versatile runner.  Just be sure to proceed with caution.  You’ll want to make sure you are nice and warmed up.  Then start your backwards work at an extremelyslow pace.  You might be surprised at just how challenging it is at first.  Just begin (literally) walking and very slowly increase the pace as you get comfortable.  This is no place to push the envelope – no hero stuff, just see if you can get moving backwards in a decent rhythm.  Keep track of where the handrails are in case you end up off balance.

Hopefully one or two of these ideas will help keep you from ending up in a training rut in the weeks ahead.  Mix it up and have fun!

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