Making the Most of a Treadmill
by Paul DeWitt
Running Goals Contributing Author
Living in the Colorado Mountains with plenty of beautiful places to run right out my door, it might seem surprising that treadmill running has always been an important part of my training. I know many runners prefer to call them “dreadmills” and with good reason! Running on a treadmill can be terribly boring if you always run the same pace and same incline. So in this article I’m going to describe some of the advantages of using a treadmill, and then I’ll give several examples of workouts you can try.
A treadmill can be particularly valuable when you are dealing with a minor injury. By experimenting with different paces and inclines, you may still able to run (or walk - see Derek’s article in the
October Issue of Keeping Pace
) without further aggravating the problem. And a good treadmill will always be a more forgiving surface to run on than a road or trail, particularly if you use a slight uphill grade. And finally, if the injury does get to where you are hurting too much, you can just stop the run. Many times when outside, we end up finishing a run rather than stopping and walking back home.
We can’t all live in the mountains, but many runners do enjoy hilly races. And even if your races are pancake flat, you will still benefit from the strength you gain through hill training. The only thing you cannot do when it comes to hills is hard downhill running.
I prefer to never skip an easy run or long run due to bad weather; you never know when you’ll be faced with adverse weather during a race after all. But when it comes to quality workouts, you want to be able to run hard and get the full value of the run. The weather is always the same in my basement!
You can do the same workouts on the treadmill that you might do outside on a flat road or track, such as a flat tempo run or 8 x 1000 meters. But the real value of a treadmill is in the granular control you have over both pace and incline. Here are a few of my favorite treadmill workouts that take advantage of these abilities.
- Cut-down run This is my all-time favorite workout to do on the treadmill because it is so hard to do accurately outside. It is also a good workout to consider when you have a hard workout scheduled but don’t feel like it, because you are gradually speeding up rather than having to run fast right off the bat. You will need to experiment a little, but the basic idea is to speed up on a defined schedule. For example, start running at your normal easy pace and then speed up 1 “click” every 2 minutes, or every quarter mile if that is easier. Continue this progression till you aren’t able to increase anymore. Be sure to allow enough time to do a slow cool-down after your progression.
- Cut-down run, hill version Same concept, but instead of speeding up, keep the pace the same while increasing the incline by 1 percent on a defined schedule. Doing the hill version, you will max out much quicker than the flat progression, so lower the grade back to 0% and start the progression over.
- Minute on/Minute off This is a variation of the famous Univ of Oregon “30/40” workout in which they would run as many laps as possible with alternating 200s of 30 seconds and 40 seconds. Alberto Salazar has the all-time record with over 20 laps of this protocol which is just amazing. Again you’ll need to experiment the first time you run this workout, but start with about 5K race pace for the “on” minutes and about marathon pace for the “off” minutes. Start with 20 minutes of this with a goal of doing it for 30 minutes once you figure out the correct paces. To make this harder, I do all speeding up and slowing down on my “off” minute so I’m always running the full minute at the fast pace and less than a minute at the slower pace.
In addition to the quality workouts above, here are a few games to try on the treadmill.
As always, remember my friends: Train SMARTER not HARDER!
- Wearing a heart rate monitor and running at the same speed, see how low you can get your HR. Concentrate on easy, relaxed form and a quick cadence.
- Count your strides – most runners over-stride which means you are braking. Studies have shown that regardless of your pace, the ideal stride rate is about 180 per minute. See what yours is and then spend time each week focusing on increasing your stride rate if needed.
- Practice drinking (all runners) and eating (ultra-runners) w/o slowing down. The ability to drink while running fast is especially important for shorter races where you don’t want to waste any time.
- How quiet can you run? Not only is a loud foot slapping sound annoying, it means you are wasting effort. *Derek has a great page on
that is definitely worth reviewing periodically!
*Paul is a founding member of Team CRUD based out of Denver Colorado. He has been passionately running and helping other runners to succeed with their running goals for decades. A few notable accomplishments include:
- 2005 Montrail Ultra Cup Champion
- 2003 and 2004 Leadville Trail 100 Winner
- 2005 Vermont Trail 100 Winner
- Course Record Heartland Trail 100, KS (14:26)
- Course Record Umstead Trail Marathon, NC (2:40:35)
- Course Record Pemberton Trail 50K, AZ (3:11:53)
Paul offers online and in-person coaching services for runners of all levels and distances. He can be contacted at:
Post Workout Recovery
Here's a really quick post-workout nutrition review:
- Running converts and utilizes your blood sugar as well as sugar(glycogen) stores and fat stroes for energy
- Glycogen stores should be replenished as soon as possible after your workouts (within an hour)
- After longer training bouts you benefit from starchy carb replenishment (sweet potatoes)
- Shorter intense runs (like intervals and hills) require more non-starchy carbs (think GREEN)
Some great words of wisdom on workout recover from Julie Meyer, one of Switzerland's premier personal trainers:
"When you push yourself during a workout, you are actually breaking down muscle. Your carbohydrate and muscle protein stores also start to become depleted with high intensity exercises. All the magic happens after you are done working your muscles while they are recovering".
Quick Spinach and Shrimp
- 100 grams of shrimp (about 3 ounces)
- 1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups of fresh spinach
- 2 teaspoons of ghee or coconut oil
- salt to taste
- Melt your ghee or coconut oil over medium high heat.
- Throw in your mushrooms and cook until they start to release some moisture.
- Now throw in your shrimp and stir until they start to turn pink.
- Add in your spinach and cook until it’s wilted. By this time your shrimp should be done.
- Season to taste with some sea salt.
MYRG Quote of the Month
"THERE IS NO TELLING HOW MANY MILES YOU WILL HAVE TO RUN WHILE CHASING A DREAM."
HERE'S TO KEEPING PACE WITH YOUR RUNNING GOALS!
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