Sweating In a Colder Clime

For outdoor enthusiasts, this can be a tricky time of year to stay motivated. Snowfall, cruel temperature dips and limited daylight hours too often can preclude running, cycling or team sports activity. Yet winter workouts don't have to mean freezing to death for those who live in northern regions. Treadmill workouts like the ones below will keep you in shape and far from bored.

Part of what many runners find distasteful about treadmilling is its ability to quickly turn training into a mental battle against, at best, repetition boredom and, at worst, claustrophobic angst from staring straight ahead too long at a wall. By mixing in these three variations to everyday base training, you’ll see great gains while staying interested enough to literally stay on track.

Marathon Pace Run. The marathon pace run—widely known as long slow distance—is a good one to incorporate on a semi-regular basis. The first reaction many people have when contemplating long runs on a treadmill is the excruciating fact of spending so much time running in place. But it is precisely the sameness of the treadmill experience that is to be embraced in the case of the long slow run: Consistent pacing is the goal of this run out of doors, because it enables this run's primary benefit. On a treadmill, that locked pace is far easier to achieve, and so you can use the experience to deep dive into what the pace really feels like, making as you go increasingly subtle observations about every aspect of your performance.

The primary beneficiary of your long slow distance workouts is your biological mechanism for increased stamina. Stamina differs from endurance in that the latter reflects your ability to hang tough at increasing levels of discomfort for the duration of your race; stamina refers to your ability to run long and slow without much exertion—maximal heart rate should never rise above 69% during these workouts. This is essential to marathon training, because by increasing the time you can run just under your anaerobic threshold, you’ll help tremendously to avoid hitting the Wall late in your race.

How does this type of long-duration, light-exertion running help? The body relies heavily on fat burning in the later stages of endurance events—after about one hour of running, the ratio of energy derived from fat burning to that derived from carbohydrates (glucose and glycogen) is three to one. It is not the triggering of the fatty-acid metabolism that causes the onset of the Wall. It is exercising above your anaerobic threshold. Without oxygen, the body requires a striking 18 times the amount of glucose to derive the same amount of ATP as it can aerobically. And fatty acids generate a particularly large portion of the energy in the aerobic system. The anaerobic system relies only on glucose. It's entirely possible, then, to run out of glycogen and continue to produce ATP aerobically. This is the desirable state of affairs in marathoning, and is known as running just below your anaerobic threshold.

It’s therefore very adaptive to perform these stamina-building runs at an exact pace, both to feel what that pace is and to experiment with it over specifically preordained times and distances. And the machine designed to provide you with this information with the greatest precision is, of course, the treadmill. Try warming up with one mile of easy jogging and then run at your ideal marathon pace for a distance of between six and 15 miles (depending on where you are in the training process).

Maximal Oxygen Test. At the opposite end of the intensity/duration spectrum, when you feel you’ve held down a solid mileage base for four weeks or more, a VO2max test can be a powerful fitness-building tool. The treadmill is the ideal place to control such a test and accurately measure its results.

Start on the treadmill running easy for five to 10 minutes. Next, increase the belt speed by 0.5 mph and run for one minute at that speed. Now increase the belt speed by another 0.5 mph, hold the new speed for another minute, and continue in this fashion until you feel unable to run any faster. Reduce the belt speed and cool down for at least five minutes. Note the maximum speed you attained and try to beat it when you repeat the workout in three or four weeks.

Recovery Walk. And finally, in terms of health benefit, walking at high intensity on a steep gradient is very much like running, except that the impact forces are much lower than they are in level-ground running. For this reason, steep uphill walking makes a great recovery run.

One study put subjects on a treadmill and asked them to walk or run and then gradually increased the incline. They found that at very steep inclines, the biomechanics of walking and running become indistinguishable. By walking for 20 to 40 minutes at a comfortable intensity on a 12 to 15% treadmill gradient (angles between 7 and 8.5 degrees), you get neuromuscular running practice without much impact, so that your muscles and joints can recover from previous running.

5K and 10K Training by Brian Clarke, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2006, pp. 33-40

The Complete Guide to Running by Earl Fee, 2005, Meyer & Meyer, New York, NY, pp. 17-37, 93-97, 152

Running Competitor, “Improve Your Running Indoors This Winter,” by Matt Fitzgerald and Brad Culp, http://running.competitor.com/2011/11/training/improve-your-running-indoors-this-winter_19551

RapidTables.com, Arctangent Calculator, http://www.rapidtables.com/calc/math/Arctan_Calculator.htm

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