A Treadmill Love Story, Or Why (and How!) Triathletes Should Embrace the Treadmill in the OutSeason

150 150 Coach P

treadmillPreparing for a winter of training isn’t exactly exciting. OutSeason® training in the Winter is, for most triathletes, simply about getting back to the warm weather without putting on weight or falling too far behind. This is exactly why the OutSeason® is a great time to leapfrog your competition (or your former self) and lay the foundation for your racing season. In this article we are going to discuss how to make this happen for the most important weapon in your tri-arsenal…the run.

Don’t Call It A Dread-Mill

People dislike treadmills for a variety of reasons. They don’t feel like “real” running; it’s hard to run in one place, the speed can be variable, gyms are crowded, etc. Despite all of these shortfalls, the treadmill is actually a fantastic training tool. This is nowhere more true than during the OutSeason, when your training will be very focused and requires speed work when conditions outside are typically less than optimal. Think of the treadmill as simply part of the resources you will use this winter to make sure your run fitness will be top-notch by the time the seasons change.

Beat the Vampires & the Polar Vortex

The biggest enemy to your consistent, happy running self in the Winter? The elements. Forget Granny’s fruitcake, public enemy number one is sub-zero temperatures, windchill, icy roads and unplowed sidewalks. This winter has been beyond epic, with periods of time where the temperature in Chicago was colder than the South Pole. Enough said.

Let’s not forget that you can fall, get sick, or both. It will take you 20 minutes simply to dress up for each run, and let’s not forget the insane amount of laundry your winter running habit brings.

Instead of dealing with all of this, you can run inside on the relative safety and security a treadmill brings. The temperature is always the same, there are no obstacles or crazy drivers to dodge in the early morning. The hardest part of your treadmill sessions will mostly likely be waiting to find one that’s unoccupied!

What if you live in a heavenly place where snowflakes can only be found on TV an the only think in your world that is sub zero is your refrigerator? Well aside from the fact that you should never, ever tell me such a place exists, you can still use a treadmill to gain the benefits outlined below!

Pace Specificity

The way the Endurance Nation OutSeason® is structured, each workout has a Main Set that requires a specific pace. For athletes without a GPS watch or are new to training with pace, the treadmill represents an opportunity to dial in the desired pace and then focus on running. Changing paces between repeats is as easy as a push of a button.

Incremental Ability

Each weekly session also builds incrementally off the previous workout. For example while last week you might have done two one-mile repeats at threshold pace, this week you will add another two half-mile repeats. Using a treadmill makes managing the pace and duration of these increments very simple.

Visible Form Adjustments

Another side benefit of running on a treadmill is the opportunity to review your running form. While we all run differently on a treadmill than if we were on the open road, the differences are subtle enough that it’s possible to address some basic technique issues. There might be some mirrors near the treadmill, or maybe you can convince someone to watch you briefly or even film some video. There’s nothing like being able to look in the mirror and seeing you arms crossing your body or you back rounded and drooping to make you get your act together.

Consistent Nutrition

Perhaps the most direct connection between the treadmill and your race performance is the need for excellent nutrition. After all, it’s cold so you aren’t that thirsty. It’s hard to carry your nutrition, much less use it with gloves and a balaclava face mask.

It might be 8-degrees outside, but on your treadmill it’s about 75-degrees and relatively warm. In other words, you can’t skimp on the winter fluids or calories when training on a treadmill like you can — and most likely will — when running outside. Plan on having plenty of sports drink available and the caloric equivalent of a gel every 30 to 40 minutes of treadmill running.

Basic Treadmill Settings & Equipment (Call out box????)
* A treadmill that you can set to anywhere between 1 and 2% incline.
* All your requisite tracking tools — heart rate monitor, gps+footpod for indoor tracking.
* A face cloth or small towel to soak up all the sweat you’ll be generating.
* A bike bottle to hold lots of sports drink and a gel or gel-equivalent for each 30-minute period you are running.

Don’t Ignore the Outdoors!

While the treadmill is a great addition to your winter running experience, there is no complete substitute for running outside. To balance the indoors, I suggest you plan on getting in one solid run a week on the open roads. If possible, you should consider doing your weekend long run outside. The long run usually has minimal speed requirements; a consistent pace/effort means you can layer appropriately and stay warm for the duration of your run. Besides, running long on the weekend also means you should be able to wait a bit to let it warm up before you head out.

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Coach P

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