It’s that time of year! Colder weather, dark mornings and some dark late afternoons. Depending upon where you live, the reasons can be lack of daylight, cold temperatures or simply convenience that force you to take to the so-called ‘dreadmill’. But, listen here, it does not have to be boring and monotonous! With a little bit of creativity, some good music to keep you going and a focused workout, you’ll find that you may even prefer (*gasp!*) the treadmill for certain workouts. So, push aside your loathing of the old treadmill and listen up on how you can use it to help improve your running.



One huge advantage to using the treadmill is the time flexibility. Most gyms are open at 5 am (unless you belong to 24-hour fitness, in which case, you can even workout at 2 am!) so an early, dark morning becomes no good excuse. I personally do not like to run in the total darkness, seeing that I am rather klutzy and have taken a few very hard falls which left me limping for a few days. Especially if you are doing a faster paced workout, dark trails or roads can be hazardous to your health. Maybe you have an interval workout (such as 3×1-mile repeats). If you need a track, you likely have to do this in a small time frame in the early morning before school starts, or in the evening once the high school kids are finished. If you take this workout to the treadmill, you can knock it out at lunchtime or any other time of day. Flexibility… you do not have to base the workout time on anything other than when you can get to the gym; even if it is a speed or interval run.

Which brings me to my second point of why treadmills are good – speed work. Perhaps you are training for a half-marathon, and you have been doing intervals in the range of 800’s to 1-mile repeats. This can be done on a track, as stated above, which is most likely ideal. But, if you take this workout indoors, you can peg the goal pace specifically to what you ‘need’ to be doing and rest assured that you are hitting the necessary paces. Example: I trained for an Ironman last summer, the summer we had 70+ days over 100-degrees in Austin. Rather than doing speed work in the muggy, humid Austin mornings (also limiting the ability to do any OTHER workouts in the early morning) I saved the run for later in the day and took about one run/week indoors. A common workout was 1-mile repeats. I would get on the treadmill, warmup for 15 minutes, then begin anywhere from 3×1-mile intervals up to 7×1-mile repeats. Before I knew it, an hour had passed and I was practically finished. To see yourself start at say 7:23 pace for your first interval and drop to exactly 6:41 pace by the last one is incredibly rewarding.

A good trick:

  • Start interval #1 at ‘x’ pace, and half-way through, drop the pace by .1 mph (or a similar small amount)
  • Start the second interval at the pace which you left off the previous interval, and halfway through, drop it again .1 mph
  • Repeat until finished

This way, you almost trick your body into going faster without even realizing it! When you have a planned, focused interval workout that you execute on the treadmill, you can accomplish the goals of the workout and sometimes, even get yourself to go significantly faster than expected.

When doing a treadmill workout, try to stay relaxed and occasionally think about your form. It is easy to feel like a gerbil on an exercise wheel, so think about the little things you may overlook when outside. Are you holding tension in your shoulders? Tension in your face? Is your posture optimal? Are you keeping your hands relaxed (not clenched) and aiming to drive your elbows back, not out to the side? Shake out your arms every so often, just to keep a relaxed feel in your upper body. If there is a mirror nearby, glance over every so often and check out your form. While we will not all look like gazelles, and there are some parts to our form that are natural and need not be ‘changed’, we can always aim to release excess tension when running, especially in the shoulders.

And, who does not like the simple feeling of accomplishment? This is something that I think we can all agree on…it feels good to go fast, and it feels especially good to know exactly what we did and tell our coach, our friend or simply bask in a good workout on your own. With the control factor of a treadmill, you can step onto it with a purpose and know that you can step off of it a few miles later knowing exactly what you did. If you feel good, all it takes is kicking the pace down another notch or two and bam, you are running 5:59 pace instead of 6:07 pace. There is a huge sense of achievement to be gained by knowing that you nailed the workout perfectly and perhaps even kicked out those last 5 seconds/mile that you had struggled to find on the track.

Keep in mind, it is not recommended to do ‘too much’ treadmill running if possible. And while speed workouts can be appropriate for indoors, try to do some outside as well, so that you also have a sense of what you can do on a track. You’ll likely see pretty similar times, but if one is notably faster, it may give you an idea of how hard you can really push yourself. The bottom line is, the treadmill can be your friend; if you can accept that yes, you are indoors, and yes; you may feel like a hamster. Let it help make you faster! And who knows, maybe you will even enjoy it.