If you plan to run a spring marathon, you're probably aware of the fact that you'll have to train through the winter to meet your goals. While this may not be a big deal for runners living in warmer climates, it presents a real challenge for those of us who live in states that get pounded by ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures.
There are plenty of apparel and footwear options to help you battle Old Man Winter, but the extra layers and winter shoes can be restricting when it comes to hard workouts like intervals. For many runners, the solution to the problem is the treadmill.
"Winter marathon training can be difficult to get the mileage in, especially while fighting icy roads, snow, freezing cold temperatures and fewer daylight hours," says Nicole Hengels, a personal trainer and founder of Momentum of Milwaukee. "Treadmills are a fantastic tool to combat each of these barriers."
The treadmill also gives you a chance to focus on and perfect your running form, which can be more difficult on variable terrain.
Liz Corkum a coach in New York City, does warn not to rely on the treadmill too heavily. "When running on a treadmill, we don't use our bodies the same way we do when running outside on solid surfaces. Form also changes, which can lead to injury," she says.
While we're constantly activating different muscles to respond to the irregularities of a road or trail, the treadmill doesn't provide such diversification. Using it for key workouts can be beneficial, but you should avoid logging the majority of your mileage that way.
The best workouts to do on a treadmill are those that require a faster pace that you might have trouble with on icy sidewalks or against a cold headwind. Geoffrey Badner of JGB Coaching in Brooklyn, New York recommends setting the incline of the treadmill to 1 to 2 percent for faster runs. "Since there's no wind to fight against, running on the treadmill is easier," he says. "Bringing up the incline better simulates the challenge of running outside."
Consider the following marathon-specific treadmill workouts the next time the snow flies or the temperature drops. Although many runners dread "the mill," it can be a great way to get in a quality workout with the weather isn't cooperating.