Ordinarily, I find treadmills to be pretty boring. This includes the new fangled ones with internet and television as well. However, there are times when only the heartiest of souls are willing to risk the cold and the wet in order to get in a run. This was the situation I found myself in earlier in the Spring. The weather was balmy one day with snow the next. As I was almost desperate to start running again, I turned to a treadmill workout to get back in the groove.
You may recall a series of posts I wrote last Summer about the Couch to 5K program (C25K). It was a positive experience for me and I continued to run and increase my distance until Rick and I moved to Spain and other priorities took over. Once we came back to the States to take care of some personal business I decided (and my rear end concurred) that it was time to start running again.
I’d like to run a 10K this Summer, but I would also like to increase my pace. While my fastest days are probably behind me, there’s no reason I can’t run faster than a turtle! In order to run faster, I’ve turned to interval training, which is where a treadmill is exceedingly helpful.
The theory is by alternating periods of intense activity (sprints) with periods of recuperation (walking or slow jog) you will train the body to maintain higher rates of speed for longer periods of time. Determining the pace is entirely up to you, of course.
The treadmill is great for this type of workout because you can easily increase and decrease the speed in order to adjust the effort. Since the treadmill has preset levels, it’s also a great way to determine if you’re making improvements in your speed.
Here’s how it works: warm up at an easy pace for 5 minutes. You should be able to speak without gasping. Then alternate intervals of 30 seconds of hard sprinting /90 seconds recovery at an easy pace. You shouldn’t be able to speak while sprinting, and only say one or two words during most of the recovery portion. Repeat the two minute intervals 10 times for a total of 20 minutes. Then cool down for 5 minutes at the same pace you used to warm up, take longer if needed.
There are all kinds of apps you can download to your smartphone capable of timing the intervals for you. Look for HIIT trainers, Tabata timers or Interval Trainers and set up the intervals for 30 seconds/90 seconds. If you prefer you can purchase an interval timer like this one (affiliate link) to keep you on track.
You’re not obligated to maintain the same level of effort all the way through. For example, I like to bump up the speed a notch every third or fourth interval, and if I need a longer recovery period, I’ll take it. As the intense portion of the intervals gets easier, try matching the pace when doing your longer, everyday runs. You’ll find it’s easier to maintain a higher rate of speed.
The treadmill I use has buttons to set the pace from 1 to 10 mph. I use 3 or 4 as my easy pace and 6 or 7 as my fast pace. I started out with 5 as my top speed. Your mileage may vary (see what I did there?). Trust me, the 30 second sprints seem to take forever! I do this workout once a week. It makes a nice change, and even though I still don’t like the treadmill, it’s been interesting watching the scenery outside my garage window change from snowy days to spring sunshine.