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Forced to Run on the Dreadmill? How to Survive

Posted Nov 30 2012 9:13am

(The following post was a post as part of my new gig with Innovation for Endurance .  Innovation for Endurance features exclusive, daily content on the latest innovations in running, cycling, and fitness from expert bloggers and elite athletes Ryan Lochte, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Ryan Hall and Chris Horner.)

If you live in a part of the country that’s about to go into a deep and dark freeze for the winter month (or is already there), then you’re probably also looking for ways to maintain the fitness level you’ve achieved during the summer and into fall.  You’re not alone if you’re one of many runners living in cold-weather states who find it hard to motivate to layer up and get out for their daily runs. Alternatives are few and inevitably include the “dreadmill.”  Yes, I’ve replaced the “tread” in treadmill with “dread” because most days when that machine is staring back at me that’s exactly what I’m feeling.  The idea of exchanging the fresh air, beautiful scenery, and changing surroundings I’m used to (and love) with a stationary running experience is tough to swallow.  Maybe you can relate.

I have a “15/15 rule” for determining when it is time to hit the treadmill:  If it’s below 15 degrees with over 15-mph winds I will stay inside and run on the dreadmill. Here are my top suggestions on how to make running on a treadmill at least a little more appealing so that you don’t skip your workout:

Keep It Interesting: Did you notice all those buttons during your last run on the treadmill? You probably didn’t since you were so unmotivated and the most you could manage was hitting the “Quick Start” button. Next time you’re on it, play around with the speed and incline buttons to create your own unique workout. You already know that if you mix up your run you’ll be constantly engaging your mind as well as your body, and the same holds true on the treadmill. Here’s a workout I like a lot that you can try too:

- 10-minute jogging warm-up at 2.0 incline
- 3-minute run at half-marathon pace with 4.0 incline
- 2-minute recovery at jogging pace with 4.0 incline
- 3-minute run at half-marathon pace with 4.5 incline
- 2-minute recovery at jogging pace with 4.5 incline
- 3-minute run at half-marathon pace with 5.0 incline
- 2-minute recovery at jogging pace with 5.0 incline
- 10-minute jogging cool-down at 2.0 incline

I start and end this workout with my normal stretching routine.

Try a Brick Workout: A brick workout is when you combine two or more sports into the same workout. You simply transition from one activity to the next without stopping or resting for more than the time it takes to get your shoes changed. Brick workouts are the bread and butter of many triathletes and something worth taking note of for us runners.

Start by simply going to a Spin class at your gym and giving a strong, consistent effort there.  When the class is over, make your way to the treadmill where you will run at a significant incline and low speed to get your heart rate to the equivalent of a marathon or half-marathon pace for 20 to 60 minutes (I run at a 2.5 incline and 7.5 speed, for example).  The result is an incredible blend of strength and endurance that passes quickly and won’t make you bored!

Now that you have the workouts to get you through indoor-training days, it’s time to find the perfect treadmill for you. Here are a few tips:

  • If you’ve been using a specific type of treadmill at your local gym, start your research with that brand and/or model, as this will be the one most familiar and comfortable to you.
  • Enlist the help of consumer reviews; no treadmill should be purchased without visiting Consumer Reports or .
  • Have a budget in mind and stick to it! Everyone wants a zero-gravity AlterG, but trust me, that will break the bank for most people and you can find a sturdy, reliable model for much less.
  • Measure the space (including the height) where you will put the treadmill before you start shopping. You don’t want to get home to find out the one you chose doesn’t fit in your spare bedroom or your head hits the basement ceiling when you run.
  • Find a place for your treadmill that is not the bedroom you sleep in. It’s important to separate where you sleep from where you work out.

When do you switch over to the treadmill during the cold months? How do you make the “dreadmill” more interesting? Is there a brand/model of treadmill you prefer, and why?


(Scott blogs at and is co-founder of #RunChat , a twice-monthly Twitter chat for runners.  He has completed multiple races, from marathons to 5ks. When Scott isn’t running or blogging about it, he is a sales executive, a supportive husband, a Mets fan, and enjoys everything that the New York City area has to offer.)

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