Fitness, Health

Learning From The Pros: How To Triumphantly Train On Your Treadmill

Though most endurance runners prefer to get outdoors and run, there are so many reasons why they can’t live without a treadmill at home. Sometimes the weather is just too extreme. Or maybe you’ve just put the kids to bed for the evening and can’t leave them home alone. Perhaps you’re working through a HIIT session, and you want to work in sprints or hill climbs, but it’s 100 degrees outside? The list gets pretty long, but the conclusion remains the same – treadmills are one of the most effective machines you can have in a home gym, and it’s time you add one to yours if you haven’t already.

Treadmill training comes easily for some, but for others, not so much. Whether you’re just starting out or if you’ve been at it for years, finding an effective routine on your treadmill can be pretty tricky! So, what better way to gather some fresh ideas than to ask our favorite competitive running bloggers about how they tackle their treadmill time.

This article will benefit any level athlete from novice to expert, as it covers a range of topics surrounding treadmill training. You’ll get ideas for training schedules and boredom busters. Our contributors highlight the best and most difficult sides to using a treadmill in training. If you’re looking for a way to increase your running, a new training schedule to implement this month, renewed focus, or a boost in the entertainment realm during your workout, then read on!


MEET THE BLOGGERS

Another Mother Runner - MK Fleming

Another Mother Runner – MK Fleming

T-Rex Runner - Danielle Cemprola

T-Rex Runner – Danielle Cemprola

This Runner's Recipes - Laura Norris

This Runner’s Recipes – Laura Norris

Laurenabbott.com | Treadmill Reviews - Lauren Abbott

Laurenabbott.com | Treadmill Reviews –          Lauren Abbott

Lazy Runner - Marie Bean

Lazy Runner – Marie Bean

 

The Benefits of Race Training on a Treadmill

We asked the bloggers to explain in which ways training on a treadmill has improved their competitive running abilities. Read some stellar insight offered by Another Mother Runner, MK Fleming. This mother-runner knows what it means to train. Instead of dissing the treadmill, she’s learned to embrace it, and utilize this convenient machine to become one strong and disciplined endurance runner.

ANOTHER MOTHER RUNNER: MK Fleming

“You have probably heard runners complain about “dreadmills” and “insteadmills”. I don’t have patience for either term – treadmills are fantastic tools and should be embraced! I get that it’s cool to hate on the treadmill, but it’s even cooler to embrace it.  

I live in Denver, and it’s a toss-up which is more brutal around here- winter or summer!  If you care about your training and have your sights on a particular finish time, you have to embrace ALL training tools at your disposal, and if you don’t have a treadmill handy, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Here’s why:

  • Treadmills tend to be located in controlled environments – rain, snow, and crazy heat/humidity can’t affect your run indoors!! Treadmills also tend to be conveniently located near toilets, which is super helpful if you’re under the weather or pregnant. At the end of the day, the work needs to get done.  
  • The biggest setback to training plans is injury.  Even if weather is fine, road conditions may not be.  I’ve learned to be wary of sunshine the day after a snowstorm- melting snow has icy layers underneath. If it’s icy outside, think carefully about the risks. If you wipe out, you could set your training back several weeks; that is far less likely to happen on a treadmill.
  • When it’s stupid hot outside, do you really want to risk running in 95+ degree heat and dehydrating or getting heat stroke? Heat stroke recovery requires 2 nights in the hospital, and complete recovery time after that is two months to a year. TWO MONTHS TO A YEAR! That’s longer than my wildest training plans. Training plans can’t wait for ideal weather, thank God for treadmills.  
  • Does your race have hills? Even better, is it one big screaming downhill like the Revel series, Big Cottonwood, or Jack and Jill? Unless you plan to roll down that hill in a barrel, you need lots of practice running downhill; gravity only does so much. If you don’t live on the side of a mountain, you need access to a treadmill with serious incline/decline functionality. 3% is plenty.
  • Are you an ultrarunner? Those tend to be on hilly trails. Same logic here – unless you live right next to a steep, technical trail you can easily access several times per week, you’re going to need to embrace a treadmill with an incline/decline function. Otherwise, I have no idea how you expect to adequately prepare.
  • For many of my clients with demanding jobs, small children, or visual/auditory impairments, the treadmill in their basement is a solid guarantee that the run will get done. Be it at 4am before the kids get up or at midnight after that 1-hour video conference that actually took 3 hours from the evening.

MK Fleming Quote- Train On Your Treadmill- NordicTrack

If you want more gems of knowledge from Coach MK, check out her Treadmill Tips!

Our other running bloggers have countless experience treading on the machine, and have shared with us their advice. This is what a few of our other running pros have to say about treadmill training benefits for distance running:

T-REX RUNNER: Danielle Cemprola

“To be perfectly honest, I have never liked running on a treadmill. Prior to the summer of 2017, it had been more than five years since the last time I ran on one! I’ve always preferred to do my training outside, and while I think there are many runners that feel that way, I’ve learned that the treadmill can be a valuable tool. As someone who runs very poorly in the heat and humidity of South Carolina summers, I often see my training drop off massively this time of year. I have tried and failed to train successfully for fall races simply because of how much I sweat and how hard long runs are on my body. This year, I finally decided to join a local gym for access to a treadmill – an idea that I absolutely despised. However, I wanted to focus on speed work this summer, and it just didn’t seem realistic to think I was going to have success at tough workouts when the temperatures and the humidity are in the upper 90’s!

The past two months have dramatically changed the way I feel about treadmill running. Although, I still only run on the treadmill for my speed work, I have found that I actually enjoy it. Constantly changing up my pace keeps things interesting, and being indoors means I can push myself much harder than I would be able to outside. This summer, I ran a half marathon having not done a run over 6 miles for more than two months beforehand. While I ran for fun and wasn’t attempting to race my best effort, the distance felt easy. I attribute that directly to being able to run on the treadmill and improve my fitness at a time in my life when I normally am the most out of shape. I’m looking forward to seeing what my race results are when the temperatures cool down in the fall!”

ZOOM PERFORMANCE: Antonio Vega

“There are a lot of benefits to running on the treadmill. I have always found that running on the treadmill has kept me honest both on my pacing and the distance that I run. Most runners, including myself, always tend to push the recovery pace or run further than intended. I have always found that when I run on the treadmill, I will never run further then I plan and the pace tends to be a true recovery pace. I am always amazed after running several weeks on the treadmill for how good I feel and how much slower my recovery runs at.“

LAZY RUNNER: Marie Bean

“Up until a few years ago, I had never been a fan of running on a treadmill. I found them boring and couldn’t see the sense of running on the spot for five or more kilometers. One of the reasons I run is to get outdoors, enjoy what nature has to offer, and the treadmill didn’t cut it. However, I was on a holiday overseas a few years back and I couldn’t run outside – I was midway through training for a marathon, so I just had to jump on the dreadmill. Oh, I mean treadmill.

I devised myself a program and found that once I had a plan for how I was going to run on the treadmill, I actually enjoyed the sessions I did.

I have also coached many runners over the years, who love their treadmills and prefer to run inside rather than out. That is “ok” I tell them; however, I do insist that one day a week, they take their run outside – there is something about running outdoors that is good for the mind and soul, and I think we should get out there and just run.

I prefer to use the treadmill for speed and tempo work. It is perfect for that sort of training. It has all the gadgets to let you know how you are going with your pace during your run, and you can also see how you are doing every step of the way.

The treadmill provides a very controlled environment for your running, so there are no excuses when it comes to failing on a workout – you cannot blame the weather or traffic or any normal hazard that occurs when you run outside. It’s a great way to focus just on your running and pace.

Running on the treadmill is different to outdoor running. It’s easier! It may not feel easier whilst you are running on it, but usually we can run faster on the moving mat. This is where it’s a good opportunity to try to run as fast as you can on the treadmill; faster than outdoor pace.

Outdoor running throws up many different challenges especially with the terrain you are on. Hills and different paths all make us run differently. The treadmill can never match these challenges; however, you can make running on the treadmill harder by adjusting the incline. This will make your workout tougher and add the strength into your legs that outdoor running gives from the different inclines and terrains.”


Treadmill Workout Tips from the Pros

We wanted to know how these experienced runners trained on their treadmills because for most of us, we hop on, hit start, and run until we’re done. But below, you’ll find an effective schedule and workout advice to help you see significant changes in your speed, stamina, and strength!

LAZY RUNNER: Marie Bean

“One of the tempo workouts I do for myself and the runners I coach on the treadmill is ascending and descending tempos. Meaning you run faster and faster until you are running as fast as you can then you start to slow down until you are back to normal pace- most of the speed or tempo sessions I set are over 5 kilometers distance.

The important thing is to warm up, which can be easy on the treadmill as it’s hard to run fast on it at the start. This may affect your overall run time, so if that worries you, warm up first on the treadmill for a kilometer, then reset the treadmill and start your session. You need to put your pace in, so start at the normal pace you usually run. Once you are running your normal pace and feel comfortable on the treadmill, start to move your pace up, maybe by 10 seconds, so if you start at 6minute/kilometers pace, go to 5:50 kilometer pace. I would lift 10 seconds each half quarter or half kilometer. If you do it by 250 meters, it means by one kilometer, you are running at 5:20 pace. That is a lot faster; by 3 kilometers you are running under a 5 minute pace. If this feels like it’s going up too fast, lift your pace each half a kilometer. Once you get to the pace that is fastest for you, try to hold it for at least half a kilometer. Even more, push to one kilometer of your fastest pace. This is your climax. Once you’re running as fast as you possibly can, start to reduce the pace by 10 seconds per kilometer – do this the same way as you went up, every 250 or 500 meters until you are back at your normal pace.”

Tempo Workout, Marie Bean- Train On Your Treadmill- NordicTrack

T-REX RUNNER: Danielle Cemprola

“For me personally, I find that constantly changing up my pace is key to keeping my interest on the treadmill. I start at a 1-2% incline to simulate the friction of the road, and do a 1-mile warmup before focusing on speed. I love to do quarter-mile intervals at progressively faster paces with a quarter mile of recovery in between. Recently, I’ve started doing half-mile progressive intervals with a quarter-mile recovery. I find that more challenging mentally, but it’s a great workout! One thing that is really important for me is to cover the screen on the treadmill with a towel, so that I can’t see the elapsed time or distance. It makes my intervals go by faster, as well as the run overall. If I can constantly see the clock, I tend to go a little stir crazy, and want to be done sooner. Pumping up a great playlist and covering the screen allows me to zone out a bit and just focus on my workout!”

TREADMILL REVIEWS: Lauren Abbott

“I love treadmill training, but after about a year, I really started to plateau. I had reached a certain set of miles that I could run comfortably, but had a hard time pushing past that. It made treadmill training feel very uninspiring. Once I started incorporating weight lifting and intentionally building the muscles in my body (and my legs in particular), I realized the huge positive effect it was having on my running. This helped me to push past my plateau, and now I run and lift on a semi regular schedule each week. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I focus on alternating muscle groups, lifting heavy weights, strength training, and increasing flexibility. I’ll follow these sessions up with a quick, steady mile. After my mile warm up, I’ll continue treadmill training by doing either incline runs, or sprints. These consist of 20 seconds of running with 10 second breaks in between. It’s a great way to strengthen and condition my leg muscles, increase cardiovascular strength, burn calories, and stretch my legs after a heavy workout.

Then Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, I’ll focus solely on running. I usually run two days indoors on the treadmill. This is most conducive to my mommy-schedule. My first indoor run of the week (Wednesday) is a casual, comfortable run with a particular distance/time combo in mind. My second indoor run of the week (Friday) is comfortable, but broken into sections separated by tempo runs that last 3 minutes each. My third run of the week (Sunday) is my long run and I prefer to take this run outside on either the road or a trail.”

ZOOM PERFORMANCE: Antonio Vega

“I don’t have one specific workout that works best on the treadmill. I have always found that I am able to simulate any workout on the treadmill that I could do on the roads or track. The only difference is that running on the treadmill requires more focus on what you are trying to accomplish, meaning if you want the workout to be a tempo run you need to ensure that the pace is at your tempo pace, and that you do not cheat while doing the workouts. I have had moments where I have thought it would be nice to just jump off the treadmill for a couple of seconds just to take a short break. I try to avoid this as it changes the intention for the workout.”

Antonio Vega Quote- Train On Your Treadmill- NordicTrack

Looking for a new workout to switch things up this week? Here is a speed training workout that’s sure to catch your legs on fire. By working through this HIIT workout, you’ll simultaneously strengthen your legs, core, and cardiovascular system all at once, working in your favor to improve your running game.

Begin with a walking warm up [5:00]

HIIT workout- Train On Your Treadmill- NordicTrack

Alternate leg and core routines for a total of 3 rounds. If your treadmill does not have a decline feature, set your incline to 0% for a flat sprint. Use caution getting on and off your treadmill to avoid injury.

Share this workout with your running buddies!


Choosing A Focus While On Your Treadmill

Treadmill training tends to be more beneficial when you have a specific focus in mind. This could be a particular training schedule, a set time, or a goal of some kind to beat. Here’s what these runners had to say about their focus:

THIS RUNNER’S RECIPES: Laura Norris

“Since gym treadmills might not be perfectly calibrated, I focus on perceived effort over pace on the treadmill. The lack of changing scenery can also make it more difficult to gauge speed if you are accustomed to running outdoors, so your normal easy run pace outdoors may not feel the same on the treadmill. For some runners, the treadmill feels easier, while others find that paces feel more difficult on the treadmill.

If I am training for a race, I replicate my planned workout on the treadmill with some tweaks to prevent boredom. If I am not training for a race, I use the treadmill as an opportunity to have fun with a workout that is normally not part of my routine. My main focus is enjoying my run and getting a good sweat in!”

ZOOM PERFORMANCE: Antonio Vega

“This always depends on the race that I am training for. If I am training for a longer race like a marathon or a half marathon, I try to focus on hydrating while running. If I am getting ready for a shorter race, I tend to focus more on form and staying relaxed at a faster pace, as this is what I generally try to do when I am running outside.”

ANOTHER MOTHER RUNNER: MK Fleming

“I have had 3 babies in the past 5 years, and have leaned heavily on treadmills during that time! Before my first pregnancy, I was a pretty well-tuned machine that didn’t have to work hard to find or hit paces. Each time it’s taken at least 18 months for my body to find that same familiarity once more. At the beginning of each training cycle, I do my first few tempo runs on the treadmill to get familiar with a specific pace and effort levels that feel like before I set loose on the roads. This has been so effective; I recommend most of my run clients to employ the same strategy.”

LAZY RUNNER: Marie Bean

“It’s easy to focus on pace on a treadmill as it’s all there in front of you. There is not much else to focus on except all the flashing numbers and buttons in front of you.

Marie Bean Quote- Train On Your Treadmill- NordicTrack

It is easy to set a running plan or you can just get on and see where the button pushing can take you.

I tend to use the treadmill for shorter, fast pace sessions. I usually focus on the 5 kilometers distance, or if I am feeling very motivated, I work on my 10 kilometers pace- going any further I find a bit too long and tedious on a treadmill. However, on saying that, once I ran on a treadmill for 20 kilometers when I was training for an event and I survived!”


Enjoying Your Treadmill Time

The first few months of treadmill training are easy going. The running may be hard, but you’re so focused on something new that the time flies by. When you’ve been training for months and even years, you’ll want a little more entertainment during your hours-long run besides your thoughts and the wall in front of you. Here’s what these pros are doing to help pass the time on their treadmill:

LAZY RUNNER: Marie Bean

“Enjoy, running, and treadmill are three words I wouldnt put into a sentence, but I have found that it can be made a little bit more enjoyable if you focus on the running and your workout. This is easy to do as there is often not much else to focus on.

Outdoor running can be the opposite; there is so much more to see and enjoy that, often, you don’t focus on the running and you get into a relaxed, slow, plod state of running.

If the treadmill is high tech and has the TV screens, I have been known to take my earphones, plug in, and channel surf all the way through my run.

I know music whilst running is a big thing for many runners and some cannot run without it. I am not that sort of runner – in fact, I like running due to the peace I get whilst running. There is nobody or nothing to annoy me whilst I am out there, besides myself of course.

To make treadmill running more enjoyable, I play with my pace a bit. I try to push myself to run faster in short increments, going up and up and up until I feel I cannot run any faster. Then I try to maintain that pace for as long as I can. When I am feeling like I am going to fly off the back of the treadmill, I start to decrease the speed slowly until I get back to my normal pace and then cool down. By the time I do all this, I have usually run 5 kilometers, and I am really happy with this. The time goes very fast when I run on the treadmill this way.”

TREADMILL REVIEWS: Lauren Abbott

“I like to bounce between a running playlist that I’ve made as well as podcasts. I found that if I start my run by listening to a podcast, I’m more capable of setting a maintainable pace. Sometimes music can throw off my pace because my feet want to stomp along to the beat. If the beat is too fast, then my lungs will wear out before my legs get tired; however, I do have particular songs on my playlist that help me hit a targeted steps-per-minute, which is helpful for increasing speed and distance.

Lauren Abbott Quote- Train On Your Treadmill- NordicTrack

THIS RUNNER’S RECIPES: Laura Norris

“The lack of variation can make the treadmill feel boring for me – and many other runners can relate. Thankfully, the customization options on a treadmill allow you to program in variability of pace and incline. I vary the incline to mimic the rolling terrain of the outdoors, changing the grade from 0-3% incline on most runs. The constant changing terrain activates different muscles and adds physical variety, which prevents mental boredom.

I also like to do fun workouts on the treadmill, including interval runs and hill workouts. One of my favorite treadmill workouts is a variation of hill repeats that utilizes different grades from 0% incline (to mimic downhill) to 6% incline. Fartlek workouts with effort-based intervals make time fly by – one of my favorites begin with longer intervals that gradually get shorter and faster as the run progresses.

While I opt to run without headphones outdoors, I rely on podcasts, audiobooks, and music to entertain me during a treadmill run. My favorite running podcasts include Running for Real with Tina Muir, Diz Runs with… Radio, and I’ll Have Another with Lindsey Hein. These podcasts interview inspiring runners and motivate me throughout the run. If I am running with music, I will change some element of the run such as the incline or pace with each new song, and use the music to create a new workout.”

ZOOM PERFORMANCE: Antonio Vega

“Making the treadmill more enjoyable is a hard thing to do as it’s different for every runner. What I tend to do is have something on that is monotonous. I have always found that listening to music or watching a TV show gives me a way to tell time – as one song is roughly 3 minutes or one tv show is 30 minutes. This always makes the run feel really long. What has worked for me is to watch infomercials as it is a great way to watch something mindless, and you don’t need to pay to close of attention to know what is going on.”

You heard it from the pros: treadmill running can be boring, but if you put together a good routine and plan ahead, you will see excellent results in your training. That’s why setting goals and developing a plan before each training session is so important! Knowing exactly what you’re aiming for is going to push you past the desire to hit that “STOP” button too soon. Your treadmill is a multi-faceted dream machine when you know what you’re doing with it.

NordicTrack appreciates all we’ve been able to learn from these seasoned runners and hope you’ve found a little more inspiration to get up and at ‘em tomorrow morning for one of many, many treadmill runs this fall.