As we enter the cooler months, there are a lot of things that come out of the woodwork. That favorite scarf your best friend gave you. Your grandma’s go-to chili recipe. And of course: ever-adored (or dreaded) treadmill miles. During spring, summer and fall, we reap the benefits of warm mornings and longer daylight hours. But that all comes to a pretty rapid drop in late October when the temps drop and the days grow darker. Although the chillier temperatures are no reason to abandon outdoor running altogether, they do encourage indoor workouts every now and again.
“Running on the treadmill can be a great tool to have in your running toolbox,” says Todd Buckingham, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Mary Free Bed Sports Rehabilitation Performance Lab. “It allows you to run at specific paces or inclines that you might not have access to running outside. Want to run up a hill at a 10% incline, but live in the flatlands of Florida? Just hop on the treadmill and there’s your hill! Plus running inside on the treadmill can be a safer option when the weather is bad, it’s dark out or there are other obstacles in your way.
Instead of dreading your time on the treadmill, use these expert-backed suggestions to get the most out of your winter-friendly workout. Besides, it’s a myth that treadmill workouts have to be boring.
RUN NEXT TO A FRIEND
Just because you’re stationary doesn’t mean you can’t still squad up for your run. Hit up a friend or two and see if they want to tackle a workout together. It’s also the perfect time to catch up, and can even make you stay at it for longer. According to an October 2012 study published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, people who exercised with buddies they thought were in better shape boosted their workout time and intensity by an impressive 200%.
FOCUS ON TECHNIQUE
You can use your treadmill time to dial in your form, breathing and overall running style. “Remember to keep your eyes up and facing forward, your shoulders relaxed and turned back, with your feet landing underneath your hips — not in front,” suggests Thomas Watson, UESCA-certified running coach and creator of Marathon Handbook.
NAIL AN INTERVAL WORKOUT
There are few people who can hop on a treadmill and truly enjoy completely tuning out for long periods of time. Make things more interesting by playing with pace and incline — like with this 30-minute speed workout. “Running at the same speed for an hour can be daunting and mind-numbing,” says Buckingham. “If you change the speed or incline throughout your run, you will stay engaged, and it will go by much more quickly.” Here, Buckingham offers one of his go-to treadmill workouts, an incline ladder:
- Run at a comfortable mile pace and 0.5% incline. This best simulates the effects of outdoor running.
- Run 2–3 minutes, increase the incline to 1%, decrease the speed by 0.3 mph
- Run 2–3 minutes, then increase the incline to 2% and decrease the speed by 0.3 mph
- Run 2–3 minutes, then increase the incline to 3% and decrease the speed by another 0.3 mph
- Run 2–3 minutes, then decrease the incline back to 2% and increase speed by 0.3 mph
- Run 2–3 minutes, then decrease the incline to 1% and increase speed by 0.3mph
- Run 2–3 minutes, then decrease the incline to 0.5% and increase speed by 0.3 mph
- Finish with a 5-minute cooldown at a casual pace.
CATCH UP ON AUDIOBOOKS OR PODCASTS
Treadmills can be a great place to spend some quality time listening to great audio — Think: a good audiobook or an addictive podcast — even more so if you plan out your listening material in advance and start to look forward to it. They’re also a good opportunity to tune in to one of your favorite shows, as long as you’re cautious. “You want to make sure that the screen is directly in front of your head; otherwise, if you’re looking up, down or to the side it could affect your running gait,” says Watson.
EXPERIMENT WITH NEW THINGS
Because we’re capable of controlling absolutely everything on the treadmill — from conditions to incline and speed — runners have the unique opportunity to really test themselves indoors. Want to know how fast you can really run a mile? Hit the treadmill and give it a whirl. After a few weeks, perform another time trial and see how you’re progressing.