4 Boredom-Busting Treadmill Workouts You Haven't Tried

"Being in a warm, humid garage was very friendly to my lungs," she says. "I was able to get the work done. A lot of the sessions started with 4 to 6 miles easy, then simulated threshold runs [such as 5 - 10 minutes hard, 1 minute easy] and I would do it at all different combinations of speed and grade. I would go all the way from 5 to 10 percent grade just to get all the muscles involved." In the end, she says, she was often on the treadmill for up to two hours at a time.

Your turn: You don't need to spend 120 minutes on the treadmill to reap some of the benefits Lewy Boulet found. Rather, after a solid 20 minute warm-up, begin running at your lactate threshold pace for 1 to 2 miles, resting a minute in between. As you begin to recognize your threshold pace (through physical cues such as breathing or the treadmill's heart rate monitor), change the gradient on the treadmill to add a new stimulus. Continue until you've run between 4 and 8 miles hard. You'll have to slow down your pace, but as Lewy Boulet says, you'll find a whole new way to use your muscles and the miles are sure to fly by faster.

More: What Are Threshold and Tempo Runs?

Since most post-collegiate runners take to the roads, and because very little of the world is truly pancake flat, this is one place where the treadmill truly shines. "You can vary the gradient to match any terrain," Pfitzinger says. "You can [also] manipulate the gradient and speed to get in training with less risk when recovering from some injuries." With that in mind, Pfitz likes to prescribe his runners a good dose of workouts that simulate their upcoming races.

More: Get Ready for Race Day With Simulation Workouts

Your turn: Using an upcoming race's website, study the course's topography. Then perform intervals that closely mirror what you will encounter on race day.

For instance, say the 5K course is constantly rolling with short hills that are generally around 3 percent gradient, and you planned on doing 6 x 800m (or roughly 3 minutes) as a prep workout. On the treadmill, spend the first minute of each interval running at a 1 percent grade (to offset wind resistance) to simulate the flat portion of the course, then crank the treadmill's gradient up to 3 percent for the next minute, before lowering it to 0 percent for the final minute (which will best simulate downhill running). Another option might be 4 x 5 minute intervals, with the first minute flat, the next two uphill, and the last two flat again. The options are as limitless as the courses you choose to race on.
More: 5 Ways to Improve Your 5K Speed

Please note that you may have to adjust the treadmill's speed to maintain a steady effort. On the positive side, come race day those hills won't seem nearly as daunting.

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Workout #3: Graded Marathon Tempo

  • Long Tempo with Grade Changes
  • Magdalena Lewy Boulet, 2008 U.S. Olympian (Marathon), 2011 Falmouth Champion
Short races are far from the only courses that have varying terrain. Boston and New York, two of the most popular marathons in the world, are hilly to say the least, never mind the hundreds of local marathons in the U.S. that feature even more challenging terrain. To succeed at the distance requires a combination of mental fortitude and physical preparedness that is hard to attain. To Lewy Boulet, the treadmill gives her a chance to practice both skills.
More: 5 Ways to Run Past Your Mental Blocks

"Treadmill running to me is not a very exciting thing; I'd rather be on the trails any time of the day or night," she says. "It takes practice to be able to get on the treadmill and be on it for a long period of time. When I haven't been on it for a long time, I don't last as long mentally and emotionally. I want to get off it and do something else. I think you do learn to deal with the very tedious type of work. And that's what the marathon is and you need to learn to embrace it. It's something that for most people doesn't come naturally, but it's a good idea to practice as well."

Lewy Boulet was forced to take this practice to a new level in preparation for the 2008 Olympic marathon trials. Ill with bronchitis that was exacerbated by running outdoors, Lewy Boulet faced some of her most challenging marathon training runs indoors.
More: Indoor vs. Outdoor Running: 3 Things to Know About Treadmill Training

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