Well Chicago, winter has finally arrived. A polar vortex descended upon us at the beginning of the week, causing many of us to move inside. If you’re like me, you’ve had to put up with this beast a few times:
The Treadmill. Also known as the Dreadmill. It’s an unfortunate side effect of winters in the Midwest, but I have some tips for running on the treadmill that can actually make it enjoyable, or at the very least more bearable.
Tips for Running on the Treadmill
1. Be Prepared Physically.
I tend to sweat a lot more on the treadmill than I do when running outside. Science says it’s because when you run outside, even on a hot day in the summer, you create wind relative to your body that cools you down. When running on the treadmill, bring your supplies. At the very least, I bring a towel and a water bottle and wear loose, light clothing. The towel also doubles as a shield- I use it to cover the part of the treadmill that tells me how far I’ve gone and how much time I have left. If I don’t fixate on those numbers then the workout seems to go faster.
If possible, also try to run on a treadmill with a TV. It’s a great distraction and makes the time pass faster. I prefer to watch sporting events or ESPN’s morning recap so I can catch up on the highlights from the previous nights’ games. Turn on whatever you like to watch, cover up the monitor with your towel, and focus on the TV rather than how much more time you have left.
2. Be Prepared Mentally
I once did 20 miles on the treadmill during the heart of the Polar Vortex. I know what it feels like to look at a treadmill and want to vomit. But, approaching a run on the treadmill with a negative mentality will only make it worse. Instead, think positively! Running on the treadmill is how you are going to reach your goal, whether it is just to get in shape or to train for a race. The treadmill is just a means to the end, you will get back to running outside soon, but for now the treadmill is how you are going to get faster and stronger. When I find my mentality on the verge of breaking I just start chanting “Boston, Boston, Boston… this will help me in Boston.” Mentally changing your attitude will make running on the treadmill more bearable.
3. Warm up.
You warm up when you run outside, so why would you just jump right into your goal pace on the treadmill? Even when you go outside for an easy run, your body takes a few minutes, even a few miles, to get loose. If you dive right into your treadmill run, you risk injury. This Monday, I had to do a 3 mile tempo. My goal pace for the tempo was 6:35 min/mile, but I started the run at an 8:30 pace and gradually increased to about a 7:15 pace over the course of 2 miles. Then I got off the treadmill and did leg swings and high knees like I normally would have outside. Yes, I go some weird looks from the other gym goers, but would I rather get hurt? Hell no.
4. Do a speed interval workout
One way to make the time pass faster is to do an interval workout. For example, on Monday I knew that I had 3 miles at a tempo pace. After warming up, for .75 miles I did a 1.5% incline at 6:35 pace, then for .25 I dropped the incline to zero and increased the speed to 6:25. Once I hit the mile mark, I returned to a raised incline and 6:35 pace. Thinking of the tempo in terms of 3/4 and 1/4 of a mile helped me focus for all three miles, and by raising and lowering the incline I was able to practice surging. I’ve had to use the treadmill to run 400, 800, or 1600m intervals. Just make sure to get a good warm-up and cool down!
5. Do a hill interval
Sometimes you don’t want to do a speed interval. Actually, a lot of times I don’t want to do a speed interval. Instead, you can turn a boring straight 7 miles into more exciting 7 miles by playing around with the incline. On Tuesday, I actually lost track of time because I was playing around with the incline to keep myself occupied, and I ended up running an extra quarter-mile! Here’s what to do: For 2 minutes, raise the incline to 2-4%, then 2 minutes later drop the incline to 0-1%. Repeat for however long you need to. As an added twist, every other time you drop the incline, increase your speed by .1-.5 points. By focusing on two-minute increments, the time that you have to spend running on the treadmill does not seem as daunting.
So those are my 5 tips for running on the treadmill. Warm-up, bring the right physical and mental supplies, and play around with speed or incline. While you might want to be running outside, it’s better to play it safe than sorry.
Boston Training Week 2 recap:
Continued to add strength, maybe a few too many miles…
Monday: 7 w/3 @ HMP. Day’s total = 7.00, tempo pace 6:35
- High was 0 when I woke up so hit the treadmill. Followed Tip #4 and did a “Tempo Run with a Twist” – .75mi at HMP with a .25mi surge to 5k pace.
Tuesday: EZ 6. Day’s total = 6.25, 7:43 pace
- AM: Barre
- PM run. Running on the treadmill wasn’t so bad to day! Followed Tip #5 and did an incline run.
Wednesday: 2×10 min @HMP, 4 min jog recovery. Day’s total = 7.34, 6:55 pace for tempo
- AM: 30 min. tabata class
- PM: Met with Fleet Feet for speed. Temperatures were rising throughout the day, but I still had the mindset that it was negative wind chills. Lesson learned: you don’t need 2 pairs of tights, three top layers, two pairs of gloves, a neck gaiter and a hat to run speed intervals.
Thursday: EZ 7, Day’s total = 7.43 mi, 8:06 pace
- Ran outside, wooo!
Friday: XT/Rest. Day’s total = 8.67mi (includes NP and run home), run pace 7:43
- AM: November Project and then run home. Favorite part was winning NP’s Positivity Award, a giant wooden baton, and then carrying it back on my run along Lakefront Trail and Belmont. I had a rest day scheduled, but the run is how I get home; I’ll have to adjust this in the future.
- PM: Corepower yoga
Saturday: 12 with 3@MP, Day’s total: 14.98mi, 7:33 avg pace
- Ran 2.5 miles to the Old Town Fleet Feet store then headed out on the run. Pushed 3 miles at the end to MP, splits were 7:07, 7:11, 7:07 and then a half mile cool down back to the store.
Sunday: EZ 5, Day’s total = 5.00mi, 7:45 pace.
- AM: Hit the treadmill for an easy recovery run
- PM: Buddha Yoga Burn – a hot yoga sculpt class
Total week’s mileage = 56.67. Definitely a bit too high in miles this week. Friday was a scheduled rest day but I get home from NP by running- I’ll have to think about adjusting this as the mileage really builds. Next week’s mileage will be lower, plus a half marathon on Saturday- my first race of 2016! Got in some form of strength Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday.
Enjoy the next week of running! Play it safe and use the treadmill when necessary; try out some of the tips to make running on the treadmill a positive experience!