Rather than lying in wait in winter for the day you can again pound the pavement without ice, snow, cold or darkness compromising your runs, why not get reacquainted with your gym or at-home fitness equipment?
In addition to easing you through the winter months, treadmilling is useful because pace can be monitored very precisely; each "lap" of an interval workout will be consistent with the last. And without the unexpected encounters associated with road running, treadmilling allows you to focus on technique.
To fight the tedium of these indoor workouts, try mixing things up a bit.
On the Up and Up
At zero incline, run for 10 minutes at a comfortable pace. Set the incline to 1 percent and run at the same speed for a minute. Drop back to zero incline and run a minute.
Raise it to 2 percent for a minute, then down to zero for a minute. Next raise it to 3 percent, then down to 1 percent, then up to 4 percent, then down to 2 percent—all for a minute each. Then go up to 5 percent and down to 3 percent.
Work your way back down from there: four, two, three, one, two, zero, one, zero. Finish with 10 minutes of comfortable running at zero. Total running time: 38:00 (14:00 uphill).
The Short Circuit
This workout combines toning exercises with running for maximum efficiency and minimal boredom. Warm up for 10 minutes at an easy pace. Stop and do 10 or 20 push-ups.
Get back on the treadmill and run at a moderately-hard pace for five minutes. Stop and do 30 abdominal crunches. Run for five minutes. Get off and do 20 bicycles. Run for five minutes. Stop and do another set of push-ups.
Run for 10 minutes hard and then cool down with a 10 minute jog. Total running time: 45:00.
For a little light entertainment, tune in to your favorite sitcom and, whenever the show is on, run at a moderately-hard pace. At a commercial break, slow the treadmill to an easy pace. Run hard again when the program returns. Repeat the pattern until the show ends. Guaranteed to break up monotony and keep you off snacks during primetime. Total running time: 30:00.
Run to the Rhythm
Prepare a CD or tape of your favorite workout songs first. You can adjust the suggested length by adding or removing music; the key is to pick songs with varied tempos. Then, while running on the treadmill, punch up or slow down the speed to match the song tempos you've recorded.
Kick off the mix with 10 minutes of easy listening, then insert a five minute interval at a medium pace. An optimal stride rate that minimizes stress and injury risk is one of about 180 footfalls per minute; use this as your guide for medium tempo.
Next, put five minutes of music at a fast tempo, followed by eight minutes at a medium tempo. Go fast again for eight minutes worth of music, and finish off the mix with 10 minutes of slower songs to cool down. You'll find the up-tempo numbers can help you sustain the faster programmed speeds. Total running time: 46:00.
American Running Association, empowering adults to get America's youth moving. For more information or to join ARA, please visit www.americanrunning.org.
Adapted from The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik, Pocket Books, New York, NY, 1999, 432 pp. $16
American Running Association, Running & FitNews 2004, Vol. 22, No. 1, p.3