It’s February here in the Northeast and we are deep into treadmill season. Despite some brief respites of days over the freezing mark, the majority of my runs over the last two months have been on the treadmill.
As a replacement for the bulk of base miles the treadmill often gets maligned, but as a training tool for specific, targeted workouts, I think it is often neglected. I wouldn’t want to run all my miles on a treadmill, but the treadmill can have a purpose in your training cycle.
However, if you just jump on the belt and hammer out the miles, you’ll not be doing yourself or your knees any favors. Here are 4 easy ways to improve your treadmill workouts, save your joints and have a successful workout.
I’d guess that most people skip a warm-up or consider starting out with a slower jog for 5 minutes an adequate warm-up. It’s better than nothing, sure, but it’s not good. Variability is good (that word is going to come up again).
You don’t need to spend much more than 5 minutes, but try a dynamic set of light exercises as your warm-up. I like the standard warm up set from Strength Running. You might also consider putting together a set of your own such as, quad reaches, leg kicks, lateral lunges, and deep squats. The idea is to take your joints and muscles through a large range of motion and priming your joints so they’re ready to work properly.
You’re likely to run faster and your body will thank you in the long run if you make this a regular part your routine, treadmill or not.
2. Mix Up Your Workout
When you run outside, there are small terrain changes that require your mind and body to adjust and engage different small stabilizing muscles to keep you balanced propel you forward. These subtle adjustments make you a stronger runner.
Obviously, you won’t be able to add any irregular surfaces to your treadmill, but altering the speed or incline every minute or two will help combat the machine’s consistency and your own boredom.
3. Pay Attention to Mechanics
Being stationary and not having to pay attention to terrain changes makes the treadmill a good place to check in on your running mechanics.
Make sure the act of just running on the treadmill doesn’t alter your stride mechanics. Typically, your foot will initially act more as a brake. Make sure your foot strikes are quiet and quick.
Avoid the temptation to over stride. Your foot should land directly underneath your hip.
4. Focus On Your Cadence
Turn the treadmill’s monotony to your advantage by using it to improve your form by increasing your cadence.
First, there is not a magic cadence number and just increasing it is not a panacea for all running injuries, but there is a lot scientific evidence that says a higher cadence results in less force per foot strike which does appear to help limit running injuries.
There are two ways to run faster: longer strides or more of the same length strides. Increased cadence is the easier part of the “running faster” equation, and a treadmill is the perfect place to get this done.
After establishing your baseline number (if you don’t know it) by counting one foot every time it hits the belt for 15 seconds, then multiply by four. Ideally you want something between 80-90. Now you know the number of steps you need to increase.
Here you can turn to a metronome on your phone to help increase your turnover and close that gap. Remember, just like increasing you mileage, you won’t make it all up at once, nor should you. A good goal is to aim for 2 steps per week.
The treadmill doesn’t have to be a dreaded part of your training cycle. It can be an effective and efficient training tool. Warming up, mixing it up, focusing on mechanic and increasing your cadence are 4 easy ways to improve your treadmill workouts and make sure that the time you do spend on the treadmill is time well spent, not junk miles.