Even the hardy runners of Team USA Minnesota, a group of elites accustomed to subzero chills, make time for treadmills running. In fact, Dennis Barker, the team's coach, once lined up some of his marathoners for a three hour run indoors. "If you have a winter or spring marathon like Houston or Disney World, the treadmill gives you some heat training without having to go down to Florida," Barker says. "Besides, you can't leave your fluid bottles outside for long runs in Minnesota. They'll freeze."
That certainly won't happen indoors, where you also can monitor the thermostat, tackle made-to-order hills, and enjoy cushioning that protects your joints. Most important, you force yourself to stick to a pace. "You've got to keep up, or you're flying off the back of the machine," says Rick Morris, author of Treadmill Training for Runners.
It may take a little experimenting to build a routine you enjoy. That's fine — just don't get locked in. "Be playful with your workouts," says Gregory Florez, a treadmill expert and CEO of Fit Advisor. com. "One day do a steady run, the next do intervals. Never get locked into the same routine, otherwise your body is going to adapt pretty quickly and you won't get as much out of it." With that kind of improvisation in mind, here are five workouts that make the best use of a treadmill's programmable features.
Do it to train for the course
Some treadmills offer simulations of famous races, like the Boston Marathon and Bolder Boulder, to let you mirror the topography indoors and practice the hills in a condensed run.
The Workout: If your treadmill doesn't have your race as a preset course, you can use a race's elevation map to time your ups and downs on the treadmill to mimic the course. For instance, say you know there's a killer hill two-thirds of the way into a 10-K you've entered. Hit that "up" incline button at the same point in your treadmill run, and get used to the feeling.
Inside Scoop: Don't let yourself be surprised on race day. When you get to that hill, you can think that you've done it before — and it felt much worse when you were in your basement.
Do it to mix it up
Unpredictable incline and speed changes provide a more complete workout than a steady pace on a flat surface, because they force you to work different muscles.
The Workout: Just a little variation in your run helps the time go by much faster. Try a 10-minute warmup, 20 minutes of random intervals, and a 10-minute cooldown.
Inside Scoop: If you don't have much time for a run, you'll get an extra burst of intensity in a short duration. Plus, a mystery workout is a healthy change for obsessive runners who like to plot out and then log every split.