Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: Three Treadmill Workouts

>> Thursday, February 08, 2018

I’ve been stuck on a treadmill for my last 4 runs. The slipperiness outside is hard on my body, and the constant turning on the track upsets my ankle, so the treadmill is where I end up. Here are parts of an article from about using the treadmill to boost your running speed:

Workout #1: “Boil the Frog”

There’s an old saying that if you place a frog in boiling water, it’ll jump right out to save itself. But if you put the frog in lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, she won’t even notice the slowly escalating temperature of the water.

While this particular piece of folklore has been proven false, we can still model a workout after it. To start, run at an easy pace for 10 minutes. After you’re warmed up, increase the pace by about 5-10 seconds per mile every 3 minutes based on the duration of your run.

You can also make this workout more difficult by simultaneously increasing the incline of the treadmill by half a percent.

After several miles of increasing pace and incline, reverse the order and slowly transition back to your easy pace and the starting incline.

You’re obviously not a frog and you’ll definitely notice the increasing difficulty of this run - which is called a progression. It can be used in place of more traditional tempo or marathon-paced runs and is a great session for runners training for the marathon or half marathon.

The real benefit of a workout like this is to teach runners to run fast when they’re tired. Running fast on fresh legs is easy - but can you keep running faster and faster with mounting fatigue?It’s a critical skill and one that will serve you well during your next race.

If I’m not just running easy, this is basically what I do for most treadmill runs (I don’t usually slow down for as long as this mentions, and I usually plateau my speed at some point instead of keep speeding up). I did my “long run” of 8 miles on the treadmill on Sunday, and I kept speeding up a bit until I hit a decent pace. (My half mile splits throughout the run were 3:58, 3:54, 3:53, 3:43, 3:34, 3:30, 3:29, 3:29, 3:29, 3:29, 3:29, 3:29, 3:28, 3:28, 3:51, and 4:00. And I played with the incline just moving it up and down to mix it up throughout.)

The idea of still speeding up when you’re getting tired is one I can get behind. In fact, I used to do a VO2 Max workout on the treadmill (mentioned a bit in this post from 2010) where I'd warm up on the treadmill and then add 0.5 mph every 60 seconds until I can't any more. That was a workout I did 2 times each winter back then.

My gym yesterday morning at 5:30 am - I was the first up to the endurance floor.

Workout #2: The Running Power Hour

Load a playlist with with sixty 1-minute songs and run a workout based on that lineup, alternating between fast and slow paces.

This type of workout is traditionally called a fartlek - Swedish for speed play. First, make sure you warm up with some dynamic stretches and at least 10 minutes of easy running.

When the playlist starts, alternate between a comfortable pace and a faster pace. The beauty of this workout is that there’s flexibility to run as fast as you want.

The main benefit of the running power hour is the ability to change paces frequently. This happens often in race situations so it’s a valuable skill to practice during training as well.And the side benefit? You get to listen to 60 abbreviated versions of your favorite songs!

OK, I like fartlek work, but the first sentence of this is already asking for trouble: am I supposed to take the time to edit parts of my favorite fast and slow songs to 60 seconds each? Yeah, I’m not going to do that. Just do a damn fartlek workout by changing your speed every minute. Jeez.

Workout #3: iPod Roulette

Warning: this can be a challenging treadmill workout. It’s great for runners who want to run faster but don’t have a lot of time.

The first step is to make a playlist of about 10 songs that are each about three minutes long. Make sure that half the songs are upbeat, high intensity songs and the other half are more mellow.

Start the workout with a warmup routine and at least 10 minutes of easy running. Set your playlist on random or shuffle and you’re ready to go! When an upbeat song starts, run fast. When a mellow song starts, run slow.

Don’t be fooled: this workout will test you. Occasionally, you’ll run fast for two or more songs in a row, meaning you’ll have to pace yourself and be a bit more cautious than you would for a running power hour session.

This workout teaches the brain to handle and accept uncertainty. Too often we run structured workouts where we know exactly what’s coming. But in a big race, you may not know when your competitor is planning a surge or when the next big hill will jump out at you.

Get comfortable with the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty and you’ll race faster.

Truth be told, I don’t train with music, so I’ll never do this. But I *do* like the idea of uncertainty in this workout. It reminds me of bike workouts I’ve done on the trainer before: while watching “COPS,” I’ve biked hard or slow based on what the perp is doing; and while watching football, I’ve biked hard at the start of pass plays and slow at the start of running plays while doing sprints when the refs throw a flag. Fun and important to do now-and-then.

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE. As always, back with some "Friday Funnies" tomorrow.


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