How to Not Hate Running on the Treadmill

Four ways to make the most out of your indoor workouts.

treadmillWhen the weather outside is frightful, the treadmill inside – is boring and monotonous. Sure, you can make basic adjustments like boosting the incline, varying the pace or distracting yourself with a TV series, but you can also take those strategies a step further if you want to emerge from winter an even better runner. Here are four methods that will build strength and help you get more out of your treadmill workouts before the spring thaw:

1. Warm up properly.

Maximizing your workouts starts by prepping your body to run at a more intense pace. Simply jumping on the treadmill and beginning your run won’t get that engine running effectively enough to achieve faster paces and survive rolling hills.

To properly warm up, start walking briskly for four to six minutes. During this time, focus on loosening up your legs, back and arms. You’ll start to feel your body warm up, but you shouldn’t be breathing hard yet. Next, pick up to the pace to a light jog and run for at least two to four minutes. Only now should you start breathing more heavily and sweating lightly. After your easy jog, increase the pace to your typical running workout pace and hold it for two minutes. Finally, do two or three very short intervals – about 30 seconds – at a pace quicker than your running pace. Return back to your typical pace and hold it for one to two minutes. This entire process takes only 10 to 15 minutes, but it primes your muscles for running hard.

2. Raise the incline liberally.

After you’re primed, use the treadmill’s incline feature to simulate hills, which can build a great deal of strength and power. While you should always avoid running on a treadmill at a less than 1.5 or 2 percent grade, which simulates a flat road, if you want to really run hills, you’re going to need to dial it up to 4 to 10 percent.

On a 4 percent grade, which is similar to a gentle hill outside, try to keep running your typical pace for four to six minutes. As you increase the grade to 6 or 7 percent, you’ll start to feel like you’re climbing outside and may need to back off your pace slightly (perhaps 0.5 miles per hour), especially as you start climbing these hills. Hold on to these hills for two to four minutes. Finally, crank up the incline to 10 percent or more for some steep climbs, but stop after about 30 seconds to one minute and back off the pace more if needed.

Mixing and matching the steepness of the inclines and the length of the hills is a recipe for a great hill workout similar to what you’d experience outside. As an added bonus, you probably won’t feel bored as your push through these hills.

3. Train yourself to run faster.

The treadmill is also a handy tool for learning to run faster because you have tight control over the speed and can adjust your pace in very fine increments. At first, you’ll only be able to run fast for short periods of time, but as you build the proper form and strength, you can continue to increase the pace.

After warming up properly, start by increasing your pace in 0.2 mile-per-hour increments and hold the faster speed for one minute. Once you have a feel for how fast you can safely run, run through sets of high-speed intervals that range from 30 seconds to two minutes with a break of one to two minutes in between. The faster the pace, the shorter the interval should be. Start by doing two to four intervals and, over time, try to get up to as high as 12 to 16 minutes of higher-speed running. Once you’re able to hit, say, 15 minutes of high-speed intervals, drop the number of intervals and increase the pace again.

4. Use long intervals and recovery times to build endurance.

The treadmill can also build endurance if you perform a series of long intervals with lengthy recovery times. Start by warming up, and then increase your pace by 0.2 to 0.5 miles per hour more than your typical running pace, and hold that pace for 10 minutes. Back off to 0.2 to 0.5 miles per hour below your typical pace and recover for 10 minutes. For a second interval, increase the pace again, hold it for 15 minutes and recover for 10 minutes. Finally, try to run 20 minutes and recover for 10 minutes.

If you’re training for a marathon, you can add additional 15- to 20-minute blocks to lengthen the workout. These runs take more time and can last one and a half to two hours, so you’ll want to have something to distract you. I binge-watch shows or movies on my laptop during these workouts. The most important aspects of these longer intervals are holding on through them and giving yourself a good, long recovery before doing another.

By Joe English for US News