It snowed at my house last night. I woke up to a soggy dusting of white with patches of muddy water in craters that have appeared in the road over the past year. Once again, the time of year that I dread as a runner, has arrived. As the days shorten it becomes increasingly difficult for me to run in the mornings. And long about October, running after work becomes a fight against darkness as well. I struggle with shortening days and dropping temperatures, but I love to run outside. The first snow of the year signals the end of the outdoor running season for me. Don’t get me wrong, I DO stay active and outside all winter. But as a runner, I detest this time of year because it means that I have to run indoors.
Running inside means befriending or at least using that most depressing piece of equipment; the treadmill. Most gyms have these modern cardio cubicles all lined up in a row, all looking at a single Television, or each with their own individual screen. Everyone is lined up, side-by-side, with headphones in, looking at the same unchanging scenery. And when the choices are Jerry Springer, 4 soap operas, or Fox News, my motivation to stay on just kind of sinks; no matter how fast I run, I just cannot tackle
So, what IS a treadmill good for? How CAN we get the most out our time on it?
Get Some Coaching
Since Treadmills don’t actually go anywhere, use that fact to get some coaching. This is
a great opportunity to get someone to watch how you run. Many times the people that I
want to hear from are people whom I cannot keep up with. On a treadmill, I can have a
conversation with my friend who holds a 7:15 mile, or my co-worker who runs at 13:21.
Focus on Technique
Even if you are a do-it-yourself-er, the treadmill is a great place for some self-coaching.
I can have anyone hold my cell phone to video my stride for a few seconds so that we
can talk about technique. This is a great time to dial in foot strike, arm swing, shoulder
posture, kick, and any other technique that you may be struggling with. This is a time
that I will even break out the metronome, a most cumbersome device to run outside with,
and work on my cadence.
Pace it up
Even under the best of conditions, your pace will vary when you run outside, or in a
group. If you are working on speed, a treadmill is a great place to set a new pace, and
just GO! Many runners have their “ideal pace” the same way that teenage girls have
their “ideal jean size”. Well, this is your chance to try on that new pace, and see if you
can still breathe.
The treadmill is also a great place for speed drills. Many of them have readouts that will
show your workout in terms of miles. This is an opportunity to run some 400’s, 800, and
miles. There is no guesswork about how far you have gone, or whether the woman with
the poodle is going to get in your way.
Even runners who wear a heart rate monitor on every run can’t monitor their heart rate
as consistently as they can on a treadmill. I use a heart rate monitor religiously, but even
with a convenient watch unit, I rely on the automated beep to tell me when I’ve left my
training zone. With the treadmill, I have the number on the dashboard in front of me, and
I can keep things in a tighter zone.
As much as I prefer running outdoors, the treadmill is a useful tool; IF you use it well.
Run Long. Run Strong. Happy Trails
Mark Carson ACE-CPT