Insights on Treadmill Distance Running

I have to confess that I sorta love running long distances on the treadmill. There’s something rhythmic and soothing about it (after awhile, your body is just doing the same motions over and over and your mind can wander). While I know that treadmill running isn’t the best training because it doesn’t simulate hills, weather conditions, etc, it’s a great workout and training resource throughout the winter or if the weather is nasty. In my past three marathons I have done at least 2 training runs on the treadmill per week (one short one and usually one of the “medium” distance one, 10 miles or so). Last night I knew I needed to get in a double digit run for two reasons: 1) keep up with my reverse taper from the Shamrock Marathon, 2) maintain my endurance as I train for the White Lake Half Ironman. I ended up going 13.1 miles (I like to think of it as my UVa North Grounds Rec Center Half Marathon). Unfortunately the treadmill stops keeping track of time around 90 min, but it continues to track distance and laps. My longest treadmill run to date is 17 miles (crazy right?)

53 Laps, 13.1 miles, and 1597 calories later...

Still smiling after 2 hours on the treadmill

Admittedly I like to play some mind games to pass the time on the treadmill. First off, I love the people watching at the gym (I hate watching tv while running!). But what I really like to do is count the people who get on and off while I’m running…and if you can imagine the number gets pretty high! I get a sick and twisted kind of satisfaction when someone else gets off and I’m still trucking along.  Here are some other tips I’ve picked up during my long runs on the treadmill:

  • Start SLOW. You’re not trying to set any PRs here. The point is to run the distance you have set for yourself while remaining comfortable (well, comfortable enough). As a nice warm-up, I like to run my first 3 miles at around a 10 min pace.
  • Split up the distances in your head. I like to separate the run into 5k segments. The first 5k is the warmup. Then at mile 6.2 I take my Gu and kick it up a notch. Then at mile 9.3 I slow down a bit so I can have a kick through the finish (whatever distance that may be).
  • Make sure you have enough water, Gu, etc. I don’t know why, but it’s really hard to keep getting on and off the treadmill to refill your water bottle. Plus, you run the risk of the treadmill reseting or turning off, which would be a major mental letdown after you log all those miles. I also recommend using Gu for any run 10 miles or longer (as you would on any other training run that long). People might look at you strange for taking Gu on a treadmill, but remember that it will help you reach your distance goal AND that you are training your stomach as well as your legs!
  • Vary the incline. I like to vary the incline a bit at set points in the run (this also helps me mentally break up the run). For instance, I like to run a hill at miles 4, 7, and 10. The newest treadmills have a negative incline option. This would be great for training and strengthening your quads to handle races that are downhill (um, I definitely needed to do this when I ran the 2010 Boston Marathon!)
  • SMILE! I know it sounds kooky but if I smile I automatically feel better and it usually helps me achieve the ever sought after runner’s high. There’s something about smiling through some pain that forces your mind to be happy and positive.
  • Think about what you’ll do post-run. For me, it’s stretch, foam roll, get dinner and watch tv 🙂
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12 Responses to Insights on Treadmill Distance Running

  1. Great treadmill tips! I don’t know if I could stand 13.1 on the conveyor belt of death, but you make it seem like nuthin’!

  2. haha, I like that: “conveyor belt of death”. For me the time seems to go by quickly for some reason

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