Old school purists often refer it as the "dreadmill." Runners who reside well north of the Mason Dixon Line prefer the label of "useful winter tool." Read on for tips on how best to implement treadmill workouts and a couple of specific workouts to try during the winter season.
What to Look for In a Treadmill1 of 6
Before we get into the workouts, it's important to note that not all treadmills are created equally.
When searching local gyms for a treadmill look for one which has a wider belt--ideally 30 inches or wider--and preferably one with a segmented platform (Woodway Treadmills are an example of a brand with a segmented belt) as they disperse impact more effectively. It's in your best interest to find a machine with both uphill and (harder to find) downhill functions in order to replicate rolling runs and change prime mover engagement. Most decent gyms will calibrate their treadmills to ensure accuracy of treadmill speeds--don't be afraid to ask about it.
Treadmill Session #1Forward 3 With Uphill Finish 2 of 6
After warming up with 12-15 minutes of easy running, execute 4-10 (depending on your level of fitness and weekly training volume) separate 3:00 intervals. Each 3:00 piece should start at roughly your current 10K race pace for the opening at one percent grade uphill, the middle 1:00 (from 1:00-2:00) pick up the pace roughly 4-6 sec per mile faster. Then the final 1:00 should be executed at a three percent uphill grade another 4-6 seconds per mile faster. (If you don't know your 10K pace, know that it should feel like you are breathing hard--a considerable effort--and managing only a few words if you need to speak.) Then recover slowly with the treadmill at no incline for 3:00 before repeating.
At a Glance
Minute | Effort | Incline
1-15: Easy, 0%
16: 10K pace, 1%
17: 4-6 seconds faster, 1%
18: 4-6 seconds faster, 3%
19-22: Easy, 0%
Repeat four to six times.
Treadmill Session #2Power into Economy 1200s 3 of 6
This workout is a great way to build a strength and power base. You climb a half-mile to open, followed by a transition into a quicker final flat quarter-mile.
Execute by running run three to seven (again depending on your volume of training and fitness level) 1200m repetitions. This is three-fourths of a mile. The opening 800m (half mile) should be run at current 10k pace and a three percent uphill grade followed by the final 400m (quarter mile) at a one percent downhill grade or flat at 5K pace. (Your 5K pace should feel like you can control your breathing, but cannot speak). Below, we've converted the figures to miles so you won't have to do any calculations while you run.
At a Glance:
1: Easy 1%
0.5: 10K pace, 3%
0.25: 5K pace, 1% downhill or flat
Run 3:00 minutes easy and repeat three to seven times)
Treadmill Session #3Hills on Hills 4 of 6
Call me crazy, but hill workouts are my personal favorite. These longer sustained uphill runs are excellent ways to improve aerobic strength without the pounding associated with hilly paved runs. Plan to go 4-10 miles at varying grades, generally starting at one percent and increasing to four percent. You should peak at 85-90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
At a Glance:
Mile | Effort | Incline
1: Moderate, 1%
2: Moderate, 2%
3: Moderate, 3%
4: Moderate, 4%
Continue based on your fitness level.
Treadmill Session #4Race Course Prep 5 of 6
Treadmills are perhaps most effective in replicating courses. Be it a marathon or a 5K, being able to duplicate topography of your chosen target race is critical, and the treadmill can make this happen. The most obvious example is that of the Boston Marathon, a course replete with considerable amounts of downhill running prior to the Newton Hills from 16 to 21. Few people possess training environments like this. In this instance, a treadmill is the ideal tool to mimic a long, downhill 12-14 followed by your very own Heartbreak Hill in your hometown gym.
This winter, train aggressively and intelligently. Stay healthy by being open to heading indoors to the treadmill--even if only for a small portion of your weekly training.