I know many of you in most parts of the country right now have no need for treadmills – the weather is perfect for running – not so for us out here in Phoenix, AZ. This time of year is what we call “triple-digits” season. And I’m not talking measly 100-degree days, but more like 108 to 118 degree Fahrenheit types of infernos. But in a few months, the running shoe will be on the other foot. While the Phoenix area will be a perfect 65-80 degrees from November to early May, a majority of the U.S. will start dipping into temps in the 40s, 30s and below – this is when many of you dread your running because you hate either waking up early to workout in the cold dark morning air or dread heading over to your local gym and jumping on a “boring” treadmill to get your miles in.
Well, I’m here to tell you, that when used correctly, treadmill running is a great tool and a way to improve your overall speed, conditioning and pacing – even when you can’t get outside as much as you would like.
I know many of us hate running hills, but a treadmill is a great way to get in some hill repeats without the fear of not making it to the top. You control the speed your running and the incline of the hill on the treadmill, so as not to be too mentally overwhelming for you. The hill repeat can be as long or short as you like, as well.
Footing and Foundation
As I’ve gotten older I have appreciated more and more the footing and the sound foundation of many good treadmills. Treadmill running is better for your joints compared to running on pavement and concrete because you body weight is getting absorbed better on the machine’s belt. Moreover, you’re not worrying about potholes, gravel, tripping over fallen branches, etc., which you find when running outdoors.
How better to learn proper pacing than getting on a treadmill and programming the pace you want to run and then go for it. What I love about treadmill running is that when you are feeling good, you can up your pace a bit and when the energy level is a bit lacking, pulling back is as easy as pressing the pace button down a few times.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a track to get on or the weather is just too unbearable, so using a treadmill for interval work is a great tool. Many good treadmills these days have an interval function or a toggle switch to change speeds from your interval pace to your recovery pace. Again, the beauty of treadmill running is that if the pace you are trying to hit is a little too lofty (or too easy) then you can change to a pace that fits your needs that day.
Nearly every time I run on a treadmill it’s some sort of progression run. I will start the first couple of minutes at a comfortable warm up pace and then every 30 seconds to 2 minutes increase the pace (and sometimes the incline as well) by only .1 miles per hour (which is about 4-6 seconds per mile). What this accomplishes is not focusing on the entirety of say a 45 minutes run on a treadmill, but breaking it up by focusing on keeping a certain pace for a minute or so and then increasing the pace ever so slightly. You may find when doing this that you are running faster than you thought you could because you’ve eased into this faster pace rather than trying to jump right into it, like many of us do when we are outside.
Basically, anything you can do outside you can do on a treadmill (there are even treadmills that decline to simulate downhill running). And while I’d rather roll 10 miles through trails or a desert landscape, the analytical side of me really appreciates being able to know exactly how far and how fast I am moving in a controlled environment. Yes, gps devices have made this so when you are outside running; but when the elements are not allowing you to do your 6 x 1 mile repeats or your 12-mile steady state run, then if possible, find a treadmill and not lose a step in your running workout.