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Don’t Dread the Tread

Posted Feb 12 2011 4:32pm

If wearing your Vibrams on the treadmill at the gym doesn’t get you any looks, taking a picture of yourself wearing your Vibrams on the treadmill at gym should totally take care of that.

Star Trac

I actually don’t know if anyone gave me the stink eye on this particular day while donning my favorite pink toe shoes.  I do know that I was fully prepared to say “but look at how stinkin’ cute they are !!” if someone called me a freak or a did that thing where you hold your pointer finger near your temple and swirl it around a bit.

In the past I have preferred to heave a big, dramatic sigh at the thought of spending any time on treadmill.  It’s boring and is not my friend and if I might now borrow a phrase used by a couple of small children I know – I am not inviting it to my birthday party.

More recently though, I’ve had a change of heart.  With a difference perspective, I’ve found that this machine comprised of a rotating belt with varying speeds and optional incline can be used for good instead of torture.  All you need are a couple of fresh ideas.

Jumping on the treadmill with an actual workout in mind has helped me a.) stay on top of the to keep those teeny muscles in my ankles and feet toned and strong and b.) hiss and spit on something other than the track for speed work .  These two items would otherwise be on hiatus during these cold and snowy winter months if it weren’t for the Star Trac.

Fine.  Beam me up, Scotty.

Beam Me Up, Scotty

For me, any time spent on the treadmill these days is either in my Vibrams for a combo of walking, walking at an incline, easy running and/or giving dirty looks to anyone who dares stare at my cute, pink feet for one too many seconds.  If I’m not in my Vibrams, then I’m in my sneakers for sprints – giving dirty looks to everyone by default because I’m sure I must make some unintentional nasty faces when running at maximum effort.

If you too have found yourself avoiding elements on some of the harsher days and are faced with treadmill for any amount of running time, my suggestion is to do what you can to make the most it while keeping it interesting at the same time.

Sprint. Most training programs for any 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon include some speed work, especially as you advance in your running career – so get on it.  As Hal Higdon would say, if you want to run fast, you have to run fastMark Sission has me convinced that sprinting once a week is a good thing for every body anyway, whether or not you’re training for a race or even consider yourself a runner.

Remember too that “sprinting” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing for everyone.  Move at a faster pace than you otherwise might and feel free to call it a sprint.

I keep my speed workouts short.  25 minutes and that’s a wrap.  My favorite these days is a 400 meter spirit followed by a 400 meter recovery at a super easy pace.  Warm up, sprint, recover – lather, rinse, repeat 3 – 4 times – cool down, time to go.

You can also sprint for time instead of distance.  Sometimes I’ll do “pyramid sprints” – that is, beginning with a 15 second sprint and work my way up to 90 seconds – increasing by 15 seconds for each consecutive sprint.  Recovery time for every sprint matches the sprint time that came right before it, then bump it up another 15 seconds for your next round.  Pyramid back down until you get back to 15 seconds once you peak at 90 seconds.

(Faux) Barefoot in your minimalist shoes on the faux running surface.  While running in barefoot shoes on a treadmill couldn’t feel further from running as nature intended , it is better than running barefoot on snow filled streets.  This would be my only other option if it weren’t for Vibrams and a Y membership.

In other words, it’s better than nothing.

Incline Walk. Walk at a comfortable pace but crank the incline up to somewhere between a molehill and Mt. Everest.  Vary your incline throughout your workout just like you might vary your pace.

If you think incline walking is a joke, go ahead and try it and then see if you’re laughing.  It ain’t at all easy once you get that ramp up high enough!  Incline walking is a great way to get your heart rate up and still send saliva flying out of your mouth while you curse if you can’t or don’t want to run.  Goofy looking shoes optional.

Run Backwards. Trying this for the first time will be quite entertaining, for both you and everyone else around you too.  Before you go launching yourself into the air to spin around, you’ll want to slow the speed way, way down first – a lot slower than you would probably expect.  You’ll know you’re going slow enough when you feel really stupid walking forward at that pace.  You’ve now reached the speed where you’ll feel comfortable trotting backwards.  Trust me.

This is probably the juncture where I should throw in that line about “trying this at your own risk”, “checking with your doctor first” or better yet, “don’t try this at home.”  (Cause you’ll be at the gym?)

All of the Above. If I’m not there for a speed work out, I typically aim for an hour of changing up the speed, the incline and the direction to keep from falling asleep or shedding tears of boredom and then getting even more bodily fluids onto the machine.  Combine these things with an iPod loaded with music, audio books, podcasts and a bunch of TV’s with closed captioning?  No hissing, spitting, cursing, sighing, crying or dirty looks required.

What’d I miss?  Got any fun treadmill tips to share?  Please do!

<img src=”” width=”419″ height=”389″ alt=”Beam Me Up, Scotty” />
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