Get The Most Out Of The Treadmill

Transform your winter training with these treadmill treats


Posted: 22 January 2009
by Alice Palmer

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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."

Get Going

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!


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Speedwork
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.

Hillwork
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.

Rate Rise
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."

Fartlek
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.


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Discuss this article

I use the treadmills at my local gym (JJB) and the maximum heart rate limits seem to be fixed. If I enter my age, height, weight the maximum heart rate warning kicks in at around 150bpm. My actual maximum heart rate is 205. This makes heart rate training difficult. I can use my own heart rate monitor, but it'd be nice to be able to set my own heart rate limits on the machines.
Posted: 06/02/2009 at 13:02

Perhaps ask one of the staff members at the gym? 

They're more likely to know the answer than a bunch of people who have never even seen the machines in question!


Posted: 06/02/2009 at 13:11

It was just a general comment about heart rate training on treadmills. I've asked at the gym, but was told 'that's how they come'.
Posted: 06/02/2009 at 13:19

was told 'that's how they come'.

which sort of answers the question doesn't it?? if you can't use the treadmill HR system use your own!
Posted: 06/02/2009 at 13:25

Jimzzy wrote (see)
I use the treadmills at my local gym (JJB) and the maximum heart rate limits seem to be fixed. If I enter my age, height, weight the maximum heart rate warning kicks in at around 150bpm. My actual maximum heart rate is 205. This makes heart rate training difficult. I can use my own heart rate monitor, but it'd be nice to be able to set my own heart rate limits on the machines.
How do you know what your MHR rate is. IF you have had a proper test then you ought to know that the gym machines are not always accurate and I very much doubt you would get anywhere near MHR on the treadmill without some gym bunny interferring due to their Health and Safety Regs.
Posted: 06/02/2009 at 13:51

I expect the MHR on the treadies are set at 220 - your age as a standard. So if your max is 205 enter your age as 15 and voila ... maybe ... worth a try
Posted: 06/02/2009 at 13:55

Good idea. Thanks.
Posted: 06/02/2009 at 13:57

JPenno wrote (see)
How do you know what your MHR rate is. IF you have had a proper test then you ought to know that the gym machines are not always accurate and I very much doubt you would get anywhere near MHR on the treadmill without some gym bunny interferring due to their Health and Safety Regs.


I took a proper test using a treadmill and a heart rate monitor; 30 minute warm up and the a series of 4 minute maximum sprints with 30 second recovery between each. 205 was the maximum heart rate I got up to. The treadmills measure my heart rate accurately. I have a Polar HRM and the treadmill picks up my heart rate from the chest sender.

I know I can use my own heart rate monitor, but it'd be good to be able to use the built in one. You can set training zones based on your heart rate so that the treadmill varies the pace to keep you within your zone.


Posted: 06/02/2009 at 14:04

the technogym treadmills at mine let you change the heart rate on the training zone programme once you are actually running- you press the speed button and change the heart rate desired by pressing the + button to whatever you want-but you still get a warning if your heart rate enters the 'high' zone.
Posted: 08/02/2009 at 16:04

Thanks 'emmaclaiecate'. I'll give that a go. Cheers.
Posted: 08/02/2009 at 18:41

it makes you a stronger runner and faster as its more intense, what if you do  an hour every day. i mean change of pace on the dreadmill on you final two weeks of tapering, gradually withdrawing to every other day, then every three days before half maraothon will it work out?
Posted: 02/12/2010 at 11:27

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