If you are reading this then chances are you have a pretty strong feeling about the treadmill. There was a time in my life where I hated the treadmill. If you would suggest I run on it I would just skip my run that day. Then I moved to Erie, Pennsylvania where it snowed for roughly 6 months out of the year. The hated treadmill became a necessity and slowly but surely I learned how to love it.
The treadmill also became extremely beneficial to me during pregnancy and now postpartum as I begin training again. My husband works a lot so if it’s just me and my sweet boy at home, the only way I am going to get my run is on our home treadmill.
Now, before I continue I should mention that I do believe when it comes to road racing there really is nothing that can replace running outdoors. Your body needs to learn your paces and also adjust to the pounding of running on pavement. That being said, sometimes a treadmill is still a necessity.
I’ve learned over the years that the treadmill can actually make some workouts easier. While that might sound fun, if you truly want to prepare for a race and get the most out of your workout you don’t want to cut corners or not get the full benefit out of a workout.
So, how do you make sure you are still getting the benefit out of your prescribed workouts?
Adjust Your Incline
One of the first things I do when running on the treadmill is to adjust my incline. If you want to simulate running outdoors then it’s best to set your incline to 1%. This has been shown to accurately simulate running outdoors.
As I train for Boston I have actually been increasing my incline to 2-3% to allow my body to adjust to running hills a bit more. Chances are when you are running outdoors your incline is adjusting throughout so sometimes it’s important to switch up the incline throughout the run or workout. It may feel hard at first but the more you work at it the easier it becomes. Adjusting your incline throughout your run is also a great way to help the time go by quicker.
Run by Effort
I’ve found that when running workouts such as tempo runs on the treadmill it can often feel easier. I know it may sound crazy, but the treadmill is forcing you to run the pace. One trick I have learned over the years is to run by effort instead of running by pace.
I don’t mean that if your pace is 8:00 min/mile for a tempo run to go run 7:30 min/mile; however, if you find that your pace seems to easy then increase your speed just slightly. When I was training to qualify for Boston the first time, Hansons stated my pace should be 8:00 min/mile. I would often run my tempos on the treadmill at 7:53 min/mile when it would feel too easy.
Don’t Speed Up Your Warm Up/Cool Down
One common mistake I see many runners make is that when on the treadmill they speed up their warm up and cool down. It’s easy to do because often runners get bored and wanted to speed up the process; however, this can end up hurting you in the end.
I always set my warm up and cool down very slow to begin with. It almost will feel like I am crawling, but it makes the biggest difference in making sure I can complete the prescribed workout. Don’t worry about what the pace says on the treadmill, your warm up and cool down will not affect the benefits you get from the workout. Increasing the pace on those will only increase your chance of injury.
Get Off the Treadmill and Walk
Treadmills often cannot speed up/slow down or raise/lower as quick as you can when outdoors. This can sometimes cause us to not truly run the entire interval or run at the correct incline during a workout. One trick I have learned over the years is to get off the treadmill and walk for recovery.
My home treadmill is very slow at getting up to pace and incline. Instead of having to worry about continually moving it up and down, I keep it on the correct incline/speed and simply hop off and walk around our basement to recover. I know as runners we often don’t want to do this because the total miles will be off, but in the end it doesn’t matter.
Use the Treadmill to Increase Mental Toughness
Have to do a long run on the treadmill? It may sound like the worst thing ever but use it as a way to help increase your mental toughness. There are all sorts of tricks you can do to help break up the time, but sometimes you can greatly increase your mental toughness simply by sticking it out.
Sometimes while the treadmill may not be ideal it can be just what you need to help train yourself push through less than ideal conditions. I learned many tricks when I was forced to do many of my long runs on the treadmill when living in Pennsylvania.
The treadmill isn’t always your best friend, but it can be a great tool! The more you put into it the more you get out of it just like with any kind of running!
Do you enjoy treadmill running?