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SALT LAKE CITY — There once was a time when I considered myself one tough nugget. I would run in any weather under any conditions. Snow? No problem. Just add a few layers and head out. Rain? Please. I’m from Oregon, remember? Heat? Grab an extra water bottle and soak up the sun.
Then one morning I headed out for my usual run in below freezing temperatures. A broken sprinkler had been running through the night and created a layer of ice an inch thick on the roads. Although I was careful and slowed down to a walk, I was no match for the ice and I went down hard. I hit my head on the pavement and blacked out for just a moment. Slowly, I got up, shook myself off and began to run the last mile back to my house. The only problem was I couldn’t remember which street my house was on.
A quick trip to the doctor confirmed two things: I had a mild concussion, and I would never again run in slick conditions.
This year, Mother Nature has made running outdoors more than a little challenging. Rather than risking life, limb and consciousness, I have become reacquainted with my treadmill. Commonly known as the “dreadmill,” treadmills get a bad rap. Most runners characterize treadmill running as tedious, boring and a drag. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips to take advantage of treadmill opportunities. These tips can be used for any indoor fitness equipment.
Break up the run
Long runs and workouts can be daunting on the treadmill. Sixteen miles can feel like an eternity. So don’t do them.
Break up the routine. Warm up for two miles. Increase the incline and run the hills for four miles. Run comfortably hard for four miles. Bring back the hills for four miles and cool down for the last two. By focusing on just a few miles at a time, the workout flies by much faster.
I use the same idea in the cycle classes I teach. I want to notice the seconds, not the minutes. We focus on segments ranging from one to six minutes in length and before we know it, the hour is over.
Listen to new music
Except for new workout clothes, nothing gets me more excited to work out than new music. With iTunes, Pandora, I Heart Radio and other music outlets, there’s no shortage of options. There are even podcasts that are specifically designed for treadmill workouts. Podrunner offers preset music designed for target workouts whether they be tempo runs, easy runs or speedwork.
Run with a partner
Why save a group run for the outdoors? Any workout is better with friends. Grab your buddy and partner up at the gym to keep each other going. Even if you aren’t talking, there’s something comforting about knowing your best running friend is suffering right alongside you.
Focus on the positive
As much as I love running outside, there are advantages to running indoors that I don’t get elsewhere. I can run in shorts and a tank top. There’s always a bathroom close by, and the toilet paper never runs out. My water is within arms reach. I don’t get lost. I can catch up on all the movies I never have time to watch otherwise. My basement becomes my cocoon, and I love it.
Focus on speed work
Treadmills make it so easy to monitor speed, incline, distance and mileage. With these readouts forever in front of you, speedwork can be much easier inside rather than out.
My favorite speed workout is one I do both on the treadmill and the bike. For 30 seconds I jog comfortably. Then I increase my speed and run for 20 seconds. For the last 10 seconds I increase the speed again and sprint as hard as I can. I repeat that sequence five times without a break in between. Then I might run at a comfortable pace for a mile and repeat the whole process again.
You can do as many or as few of these sets as you like. I’ve done as many as 10 in one workout. Again, by focusing on the seconds, the minutes and sometimes hours fly by.
There’s no reason to resign yourself to the “dreadmill.” Soon enough the sun will be out and the roads will be clear. Until then, grab a water bottle, some good music and a friend and get your sweat on inside. In the end, your legs, lungs and limbs will thank you.
*Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and marathoner who, after battling a weeklong stomach bug, is elated at the thought of running anywhere, including a treadmill.**