It might be known by some runners as the 'dreadmill', but don't let that put you off. If the weather's absolutely miserable, there's no shame in heading to the gym to put the miles in.
Why train on a treadmill?
The humble treadie can come in very handy for a huge range of runners. Personal trainer Liz Fulford (www.fitnesstrainingspecialists.co.uk) says, "A lot of women worry about safety during the winter – it can be cold, icy and dark outside. For people in rural areas too, treadmills can be great for avoiding uneven ground and lonely routes without street lights."
Unlike perilous icy pavements, the treadmill's completely stable surface means there's little chance you'll slip or trip too. If you're already injured, training on a treadmill can also be a safe way to control your return to running. Treadmills place much less strain on your joints and connective tissue than running on roads or pavements.
For many runners, the reason why the treadmill stands out is its perfect pace. Hitting your target pace becomes simply a matter of setting the speed and pressing start. This absolutely precise level of control over your pace makes a treadmill the perfect partner for speedwork.
You might have already noticed how much easier it feels to run on a treadmill. To get the most out of your treadmill sessions, try setting it at a slight incline or up the pace a little to better mimic outdoor conditions.
Box of Tricks
Don't just trot along watching the telly – making full use of the treadmill's impressive collection of gizmos will keep you engaged and make sure you get the most out of an indoor session.
Pre-set workouts can also push you harder than you might push yourself outside. Liz says, "If I set up a session, I have to stick to it – I'd feel too guilty to push the stop button! When I'm running outside it's tempting to get lazier and lazier with fartlek intervals."
Try our top treadmill sessions from Alica Dancisinova, personal trainer at The Third Space gym in London (www.thethirdspace.com).
Before you get going, remember to enter all your information so you get the most accurate results. The treadmill's pre-set stats aren't ‘neutral' – they assume a certain weight, gender, fat level and other information which could throw your results out of whack and make you work too hard, or give you an easy ride!
Get your heart rate up and see your speed on longer runs soar with this sprint session. As you get fitter, increase the speed settings to make sure you're always sprinting at 8/10 effort.
If you've only got time for a short workout, this short sharp session (10-15 minutes) does the trick.
Warm up with an easy jog on an 0.25-1 per cent incline for 5-10 minutes, then set the machine at a really high speed (equivalent to 8/10 effort) and do 30-second sprints with 30-second jog recoveries, 10 times. Do the first five sets of sprints, and then jump off and stretch your legs before hopping back on for the last five.While sprinting, try to overtake the speed of the treadmill – really give it your all.
This workout pushes your heart-rate capacity. You'll be sending it very high in the sprints, so it needs to go accordingly low in the recoveries. If you feel like you have to walk during the recoveries, you've probably got the speed too high for the sprints. After 10 sprints, cool down with an easy jog for 2-3 minutes.
Even if you live in the flattest fens this side of Norfolk, there's no excuse to neglect hillwork. It's great for building your thigh muscles as well as your endurance, and will have you tackling those ‘undulating' races with ease.
Warm up at a comfortable jog for 2-3 minutes.
Now, up the treadmill's incline by one per cent every 15 seconds. Keep running constantly as you do this, and push your effort up accordingly. Keep going, all the way up to the absolute maximum you can manage.
This should last for about five minutes, or until you feel that you can't stand it anymore.
When you reach that point, bring the incline gradually back down in one per cent increments every 15 seconds, and your effort down with it.
After scaling this virtual hill once, warm down with an easy jog for 2-3 minutes.
More treadmill treats
Try these classic treadmill workouts from the Runner's World archive.
Use the heart rate monitor (on most treadmills) to get yours a little higher than it would be for the same session outdoors, to take into account the impact the higher humidity levels but zero wind of running indoors.
A 20-minute threshold run is the perfect treadmill session, as you can maintain an even pace and keep your heart rate at the right level for the maximum training benefits. "Aim for 80 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate," says running coach Nick Anderson. "Learning how it feels to run at this pace will be useful when you come to race."
Mike Gratton, the winner of the 1983 London Marathon, runs a fartlek session for a quick but effective workout on the treadmill. The changes in pace and gradient simulate the effort required to complete an undulating route, providing an excellent cardiovascular workout while increasing leg-muscle strength.
Start running on a small incline for five minutes, gradually increasing the pace until you have warmed up. For the next 15 minutes regularly change the speed of the treadmill by varying amounts, both up and down, for one-minute bursts. Change the gradient too if you feel like it. Cool down with a three-minute jog.