Does running on a treadmill make you feel like a caged animal, spinning your wheels like a hamster, perhaps? Does it bore you and hamper results? While many runners have those feelings, the treadmill doesn’t have to be such a drag. And, it’s actually a powerful tool – when used correctly – to do some great indoor workouts.
1. Set the incline to 1.5 to 2 percent.
Start by setting the incline on the treadmill to at least 1.5 percent. (Use 2 percent if your treadmill only increases the incline in full percentage points.) This is important because running on a flat treadmill reduces the effort substantially compared to running outside. This little bit of incline helps compensate for the lack of wind resistance and variation in outdoor ground surfaces that make running more challenging and “active” when you’re outside.
2. Vary the pace and incline.
Architecting a good treadmill workout means changing the tempo and effort level. If you’re running one pace for the whole workout, you’re not giving yourself much of a workout. First, warm up for several minutes. Then, increase the pace every one or two minutes. When you really feel warmed up and ready to run, take the pace up to a challenging level for one to two minutes. Then, back it off for one minute to recover. Repeat that routine a few times, depending on the length of your workout. You can follow the same pattern with the incline to simulate hills. The intensity should be enough that you are counting down the time for the interval to end, but not so much that you risk falling behind the pace and potentially falling off the treadmill.
3. Mix it up.
Perhaps the most common mistake for treadmill runners is that they do the same things every day, all winter long. Give yourself the same variety that you would expect to have outside – changing up the duration, intensity and elevation. This strategy helps keep both your mind and body engaged and keeps you progressing throughout the winter, rather than simply passing time until you can get back outside again.
4. Distract yourself.
One of the keys to running long distances on the treadmill is giving yourself something to do. Staring at the clock or the wall just makes the time feel like it’s passing ever so slowly. Even listening to music sometimes doesn’t help much because it doesn’t actively engage your brain in thought. In other words, your mind can go right back to thinking about the time. If you have access to a tablet or laptop, watching a TV show or a movie that you really enjoy will help speed the time along. You can also listen to talk radio, podcasts or audio books. One stormy winter, I watched all the “Lord of the Rings” movies in chunks to get through some very long runs.
5. Drink fluid.
When running inside, you will sweat a lot! This is due to both warm indoor temperatures and the lack of airflow moving past you when running on the treadmill. With that in mind, drink fluid just like you would on an outdoor run. Here, the treadmill may come in handy by giving you a bottle holder that hangs onto your fluids. Take advantage of it and drink, drink, drink.
6. Run with a buddy.
If you like running outside with a buddy, you can do the same thing indoors at the gym. Pick treadmills next to one another and presto! You can have the same conversations inside you’d have outside. There’s no reason to slog through treadmill workouts alone. Plus, you get the added benefit of a friend to give you the peer pressure to show up and keep at it.
The keys to the treadmill are twofold: Mix it up and keep your mind engaged. If you can do those two things, you can make it through the indoor season without dying of boredom – and you may just be in pretty good shape when the time comes to get back out on the roads.
By Joe English
First published at US News and World Report: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2016-01-21/6-ways-to-improve-your-treadmill-workouts