It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of running in the cold. I really can’t tolerate much of it. I can maybe handle one or two runs a week in sub-freezing temperatures before I scream for mercy. Yet here I am training in the midwest for a spring marathon. I’m running Pittsburgh in about four months. Last year was the winter that made us question everything we believe in as Northerners (polar vortex, anyone?). Despite our historically snowy and cold winters here in Cleveland, I picked a spring race with a booming American development program: I don’t want to just finish it, I want to crush it and run significantly under my current PR of 2:58:54. The Pittsburgh Marathon barely comes when the snow has melted, and that doesn’t leave winter-wusses like me much outdoor time in final weeks leading up to the race. That means making progress as a runner while training mostly on the treadmill for several months.
So here I am wondering whether one can run a fast marathon on the roads off of almost nothing but treadmill training?
When it doubt, look to elites for inspiration.
For those of you in a similar predicament this winter, let’s make Annie Bersagel our idol. You remember her– She’s the attorney at the NY Marathon who lives in Norway and runs with the front american professional pack. A little geography review: Norway is cold. Most of her miles are logged inside on a track, treadmill and even an underground tunnel. That’s badass. Bersagel ran a very strong race in NYC taking 10th place, 2nd american in the women’s race and is a real contender for the third spot on the American Olympic team in 2016. Her feature article in the NY Times a few days before opened with a picture of her training inside on a treadmill. (It was a really, really nice woodway treadmill, but still it’s just a treadmill.) She is the hero that proves that you really can train mostly inside, be a professional businesswoman rather than a professional runner, and still be among the top in the world. If Annie can make it through Norwegian winters and still be a top american runner, I say the rest of us can remain competitive through winter too.
It’s all about adapting.
I’m barely back into what I would call a real training season, but I’m already making progress, and I’m doing almost all of it inside. Not just inside, but I’m doing it in my own house on a treadmill. You really can run intervals, tempos, marathon pace runs and long runs on a treadmill. Anyone can do it. It is not as trite as it sounds. Once a week, I fire up some music videos and run intervals. I work my way through TV shows and movies while putting on easy miles. I ran my first indoor cruise intervals and marathon pace miles this week. You know what? So far I love it!
In a few months, I’ll be ready to run outside every day again. Right now it is nice to work through some TV shows that have been on my list for years. Running intervals without thinking about pacing has been enjoyable. Time will tell if it’s as effective as the speed work I did outside preparing for my last marathon over the summer and in the fall.
Some little tricks and tips I’ve discovered so far that might help you!
Wear the treadmill safety strap, duh! I can’t believe I have to put this on the list. Those of you who laugh in the face of the safety cord know who you are. We’ll be pealing you off of the carpet with a spatula some day.
Run workouts by time instead of distance. Speed intervals and cruise intervals are supposed to be run by time anyway. When we run them on a track, measuring them as revolutions on a track make more sense. But on a treadmill, you really can run a 3, 4, or 5 minute interval and recover for 2:30 — or whatever your workout is because you don’t have to make it back to the starting line. It is also much easier to keep track by time than distance. Hint: when you take a rest on a cruise interval, you can leave your treadmill going at 1 mph so the clock keeps counting.
Turn your heat off and let your house cool down before you run workouts. I do these in the morning and just leave my house cold from overnight night until I am done and turn the heat back up. A fan also helps a lot — including finding a good place to put it that works for you. Why they don’t have fans and “cold rooms” at gyms is beyond me. If a gym near me put in a cold cardio room that they kept at 55 degrees, I’d be all over it in the summers.
Put your treadmill in a nice room, in front of a nice TV. You might as well enjoy the time you spend on it. Mine is in front of a 115-inch screen with surround sound and a computer hooked up to it. I can watch anything on the internet including Netflix, Amazon Prime and music videos on Youtube. It’s really helped to make the miles fly by.
I know I’m not alone and I know many of you out there are curious whether a runner can be successful with this strategy. Well, there’s one way to find out!
So over the next few months, each Monday Salty is going to post my training log on the front page so we can all witness how this grand experiment unfolds. Will my treadmill lead me closer in my quest for elite marathoner status? Stay tuned!
Have you successfully trained for a marathon almost exclusively on a treadmill? Please share your stories, tips and advice!