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The Long Run: Using Your Treadmill to Train for Your Next Race

Posted on 2016-03-14


Whether it’s training for the 10th 100-mile ultramarathon or getting ready for a first half marathon, distance runners know that regular endurance training is the key to maintaining strength and stamina. They also know that variety is important for maximum benefit, and a fantastic treadmill workout can offer that diversity. These exercises should be regularly intermixed with the rest of your training regimen to help you take advantage of what treadmills can offer serious runners. Here are some ideas to get started improving your training regimen.

Intervals with Lunges

Cross training with lunges is an excellent way to build endurance and strength. This focus on the leg muscles helps to build lactic acid in the area, and then forces you to run through it. It is an excellent way to learn how to push yourself, particularly towards the second half of a long race when the body begins to feel worn down. Consider crafting a standard treadmill workout, such as a distance run with an incline trainer. Right around the halfway mark of the workout, slow your speed down to do your lunge routine. The number that works best for you will vary depending upon your skills and experience, but consider about three to four sets with about five to eight lunges on each side. If you don’t have enough space on your treadmill, you can do lunges on the floor.

Alternating Inclines

One of the fantastic aspects of treadmill workouts is that you can control your incline and challenge yourself to build endurance on hills. This can help you train for the naturally varied terrain that you will find in most outdoor environments. Using an alternating incline workout can also help you hit target mile goals and train for the end of races, when your body feels the most exhausted and maintaining your goal pace becomes significantly more challenging. As an added bonus, the challenge that the inclines add mean that you can workout for less time, but still reach your target heart rates, making this a great workout on those days when you might have less time available for cardio. Set your pace on these workouts slightly slower than your target mile pace. With every mile you run, alternate your incline, going from a low incline to a high incline. As you progress through the workout, also increase your pace so that by the end, you are hitting your target pace. By the end of the workout, when you have a low incline, you can finish your workout on a high note by feeling fast and hitting your target pace.

Sprint Intervals

Sprint intervals might sound like the opposite of what an endurance runner needs to do, but these types of workouts can actually be highly beneficial. They can help improve cardio endurance and make it easier to finish races at the target pace. These workouts can also be particularly effective when they are paired with a strength-training workout, when the body has already been pushed. Remember that if it is easy to maintain your sprint pace or if you think you can easily continue running after finishing your interval, you are not running fast enough. The right pace will be one where it feels impossible to maintain, but you force yourself to do so anyway. Start off sprint intervals by going hard for 20 to 30 seconds and then recovering for about 30 seconds. Your recovery can be a very slow jog or a walk. As you become more accustomed to this type of workout, increase your sprint pace and the amount of time you sprint by about 10 seconds at a time. You should try to work up to intervals of 1 to 2 minutes of sprint pace and one minute of recovery.

Hand Weights

For experienced runners who can maintain their running posture, hand weights can be an excellent way to push just a little harder. Make sure to choose ones that are heavy enough to force you to work but light enough that you will be able to complete a workout without losing your proper arm pump. Adding hand weights to a treadmill workout will force your heart to work harder, helping you to build your endurance. After you have become accustomed to workouts with weights, to run without them in a race helps you feel light and fast and can increase your speed. Specially during a shorter 5k race.

Getting ready for the big race

These treadmill exercises can play an important role in helping you prepare for peak performance before a big race. With the ability to measure your speed, inclines, and distance with precision, you can have a laser-like focus on your training plan. As you find the weeks on the calendar counting down to your big race, make sure that you do not neglect other aspects of strength — such as getting enough sleep and eating the right foods. Many experienced runners recommend drinking plenty of water and healthful proteins, such as eggs, lean meats, and beans. Effective training means taking holistic care of your body while also pushing your body to be as strong and fast as possible.