By Jason Fitzgerald,
Running on a treadmill is an unfortunate reality for many runners during the winter months. With frigid temperatures, slippery roads and snow drifts, it’s often the safest (and more comfortable) alternative.
But there’s a reason it’s called the “dreadmill” or a hamster wheel for humans: it can be boring!
Since a treadmill is often your only choice before an important race, it makes sense to have fun with your workouts. After all, the faster sessions in a training program are what help you improve your speed, economy and ultimately your race performances.
If you’re stuck inside on the dreadmill, use these three workouts to reduce the boredom of running inside. Instead of passively watching television or staring at a wall in your basement, these are designed to increase engagement with the run itself so you can have fun and gain fitness at the same time.
Workout #1: “Boil the Frog”
There’s an old saying that if you place a frog in boiling water, it’ll jump right out to save itself. But if you put the frog in lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, she won’t even notice the slowly escalating temperature of the water.
While this particular piece of folklore has been proven false, we can still model a workout after it. To start, run at an easy pace for 10 minutes. After you’re warmed up, increase the pace by about 5-10 seconds per mile every 3 minutes based on the duration of your run.
You can also make this workout more difficult by simultaneously increasing the incline of the treadmill by half a percent.
After several miles of increasing pace and incline, reverse the order and slowly transition back to your easy pace and the starting incline.
You’re obviously not a frog and you’ll definitely notice the increasing difficulty of this run—which is called a progression. It can be used in place of more traditional tempo or marathon-paced runs and is a great session for runners training for the marathon or half marathon.
The real benefit of a workout like this is to teach runners to run fast when they’re tired. Running fast on fresh legs is easy—but can you keep running faster and faster with mounting fatigue?
It’s a critical skill and one that will serve you well during your next race.
Workout #2: The Running Power Hour
Load a playlist with with sixty 1-minute songs and run a workout based on that lineup, alternating between fast and slow paces.
This type of workout is traditionally called a fartlek—Swedish for speed play. First, make sure you warm up with some dynamic stretches and at least 10 minutes of easy running.
When the playlist starts, alternate between a comfortable pace and a faster pace. The beauty of this workout is that there’s flexibility to run as fast as you want.
The main benefit of the running power hour is the ability to change paces frequently. This happens often in race situations so it’s a valuable skill to practice during training as well.
And the side benefit? You get to listen to 60 abbreviated versions of your favorite songs!
Workout #3: iPod Roulette
Warning: this can be a challenging treadmill workout. It’s great for runners who want to run faster but don’t have a lot of time.
The first step is to make a playlist of about 10 songs that are each about three minutes long. Make sure that half the songs are upbeat, high intensity songs and the other half are more mellow.
Start the workout with a warmup routine and at least 10 minutes of easy running. Set your playlist on random or shuffle and you’re ready to go! When an upbeat song starts, run fast. When a mellow song starts, run slow.
Don’t be fooled: this workout will test you. Occasionally, you’ll run fast for two or more songs in a row, meaning you’ll have to pace yourself and be a bit more cautious than you would for a running power hour session.
Choose to run at the following paces:
- Half Marathon
These paces are challenging, but manageable. And since you may be running “fast” for 5-10 minutes at a stretch, it’s wise to be more conservative.
This workout teaches the brain to handle and accept uncertainty. Too often we run structured workouts where we know exactly what’s coming. But in a big race, you may not know when your competitor is planning a surge or when the next big hill will jump out at you.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty and you’ll race faster.
Running through the winter on a treadmill is nowhere near as fun as running outside with the sun shining on your face. But these engaging treadmill workouts can help spice up your winter training when it’s too uncomfortable or dangerous to venture out.
This article was originally published in the Competitor.