Conquering the Dreadmill

shutterstock_229972081 (2)[3]There will come a time for every runner where for one reason or another, they need to step on the dreadmill (ahem, I mean treadmill). I have never been a fan of this tortuous device. After all, one of the reasons I feel in love with running in the first place was to get outside and closer to nature. However, when you are snowed in or travel to an area that you don’t know (or might not be the safest place to run), the treadmill is sometimes the only option.

This past week I found myself in this situation. I was staying at a hotel near UC Davis Medical Center, where my mom was undergoing surgery. If you know the area around UC Davis, you know it is not advisable for a 30-something-year-old-girl (or anyone for that matter) to go for a solo run. Knowing that I have the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey coming up in a few months, I had to find a way to get my miles in. This left me with one option, that awful, never-ending, conveyor belt, torture machine. (Fun fact: Did you know that treadmills were invented as a way to torture prisoners?)

So, what does one do to spice up those dreaded treadmill workouts? Below are some of the workouts I have found to both be effective and help the time pass.

TV Commercial Fartlek 

The word that make most people giggle and my personal favorite. If you are watching a TV show with commercials while on the treadmill, this is a fun way to mix it up in an unpredictable way. Warm up first for 10 minutes and then set into an easy jog. Every time a commercial break comes on, increase the pace by 1.0 – 2.0 mph. When the commercial break is over, resume to your normal pace.

Intervals 

These can either be run-walk intervals or run-jog intervals depending on your fitness level. Warm up and then pick a distance or a time for your hardest effort and about half of that for your recovery. For example, I will run at 6.0 mph for .25 miles and then jog at 4.5 mph for .15 miles. I will repeat this as many times as necessary to get my target miles. Note: this is also easily adaptable to hill workouts. Instead of increasing speed, you would increase the incline of the treadmill.

Pyramid

Also similar to intervals, in a pyramid workout you would gradually increase the duration or intensity of your hard effort during each interval. Once you are halfway to your target miles, you would decrease the duration or intensity gradually until complete. Think of your intervals becoming longer to the top of the pyramid and then getting shorter coming back down the other side.

By adding some regular variety to the otherwise mundane treadmill run, you will find that time goes by much more quickly and it is a great way to increase fitness. If you have other good treadmill workout ideas, please share in the comments below.

shutterstock_222191515 (2)No matter if you are an experienced runner who has taken an extended hiatus or a spring chicken looking to start a healthy routine, the first step out the door (or on the treadmill) is always the hardest. As someone who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with running for most of my life, I understand this more than I care to. Over the years, there have been times when for one reason or another, I ditched my running shoes in favor of focusing on other things. This last time I had to take the hard first step, was this past November after an 18-month breakup with running.

In the Spring of 2013, I found myself in a good routine. I was training for the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, I had lots of energy, and life was good. Then May came around. I started studying for the GMAT in hopes of being accepted into the MBA program at UNR (which I did), I realized my 3-year relationship was going nowhere, and my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. Life got complicated really quick. In between studying, stressing about my relationship, and worrying about my mom, running disappeared. It happens. Life happens.

A few months ago – with a dead-end boyfriend in the rearview mirror, a mom who is responding to treatment well, and an inspiring MBA class on Change Management – I decided it was time for running and I to go steady again. Overflowing with motivation and desire, there was only one thing standing in my way, my out-of-shape physical-self. For anyone that has experienced taking time off and then trying to start where you left off, you know just how hard it can be…especially that first step.

So, what are some tactics you can employ to get on the path to health again? For me, it is about embracing the small victories. Here are some things I do to help get me motivated:

  1. Commit to just ten minutes. That’s all. By the time I get to ten, I always want to go further.
  2. Set out running gear the night before in an unavoidable spot, like your bathroom. When I get up in the morning or home from work in the afternoon, it’s in my face and screams, ‘Go!’
  3. Plan a super-healthy breakfast everyday. It tends to set a positive tone and keeps me eating healthy all day.
  4. Keep a running log. Documenting miles everyday in a journal is rewarding and helps visualize small (and big) victories.
  5. Think of life in six months. Will I regret going for that run? No. Will I regret not going? Probably.

Those are some of the things that have helped me take the first step over and over again. Do you have any tricks you would like to share?