Good Content from: Saucony Athlete, Jared Ward

I’ve never minded training on a treadmill. I guess maybe that sentiment is a bit unique. In general, I do running volume on my own, and I rarely listen to music (or anything) when running. Maybe I’m just a boring dude … but I like the peace of empty running; I feel free. I liked racing the 10K on the track in college (25 laps). It felt almost therapeutic crossing off one lap at a time. And I loved the experience I had running London this year (elite-only field). The course was 20 loops past Buckingham Palace. I hope to have more experiences like that. 

I think maybe this is why treadmill running works for me — I like the rhythm. The sound of the treadmill complements the sound of my breathing and the sound of my shoes contacting the ground. It’s not always fun, but I’ll offer three tips (that work for me!) to keep treadmill running more enjoyable. Maybe even for those of us that just despise the treadmill, these will spark an idea that will help make it more bearable. 

Glass Half Full

Too often treadmill running is painfully gutting out the miles until we can check the daily workout box. Consequently, we sit and contemplate how much running we have left — the empty pit of miles still to fill. Sometimes we rationalize some of them away. When I run on the treadmill, I try to treat each mile as a win, just like each lap on the track was a win. 

I think in that 25-lap 10K race I saw less how many laps remained and more that the number that remained was one less than it was last lap. I have a similar experience on the treadmill. I watch the miles accumulate, and each mile completed is a win that fuels my adrenaline to continue. Often my treadmill runs end up being longer than my runs outside because I get caught in the slipstream and joy of one more mile, so I keep going. 

I encourage you to change the clock from a countdown timer to counting up. Win the minutes. 

But if the pain of the treadmill screen is just too much, cover it with a towel and focus on something else. 

And always remember, when you’re on the treadmill, at least you are healthy enough to be running.

Make It Fun

Sometimes I involve my kids. They get to play while dad gets to run on the treadmill. This might only be an option if you have a treadmill at home, but then everyone loves treadmill time and I find the energy is contagious for me too. When I was training for the 2019 Boston 26.2, my wife gave birth to our fourth child just three months prior to the race. So, mom and baby needed sleep and I needed a run. I’d take the other three kids downstairs and they’d play while I ran. I probably logged 50 miles/week on the treadmill during those months. But my four-year-old (two at the time of this training) will still often ask if I need to “run on the tready today.” It was a fun time for those kids. And my finishing time of 2:09:25 that year in Boston is my lifetime best, so the treadmill training didn’t seem to hurt. 

Often, I make games of the numbers. This is probably more of a confession of “I’m a nerd” than anything else, but I think in terms of percentages and balances. Mid-run, I often calculate how much longer my run is going to take, and then I speed the treadmill up two-tenths of a mile-per-hour and recalculate it. When I’m doing a full workout on a treadmill, I love how fast it feels the belt is moving. I imagine how far I’d get shot off the back if I tripped … (knock on wood, it hasn’t happened yet). But these “games” make it fun for me. I beat myself, and often end up rationalizing doing more miles instead of less. 

If you want to really get entertaining, download some free software like Zwift on your tablet or phone and run virtually. In a world where living virtually is less taboo than a year ago (and you are more technologically savvy!), you may enjoy the company and the sites. I have a lot of fun Zwifting. 

Is the Treadmill Actually Better for You?

Is running on the treadmill actually better for you during those winter months? Let’s consider some potential reasons: 1) it’s softer than the pavement, 2) there’s no ice (so no slipping a little every step and straining your hamstring), and 3) unless your treadmill is outside, it’s probably not -10 degrees — so your risk of pulling a muscle is probably less. 

OK, I’m probably kinda digging here. In the end, if we are training for performance, then we need some time on the surface on which we will be racing. If you’re racing on the trails, better put in some time on the trails. Same goes for the road. But I did feel that my legs felt healthier when I was getting ready for Boston winter 2019 when I was on the treadmill so much. Those treadmill miles replaced icy, cold asphalt miles, and my body felt it. 

Lastly, whenever you run remember that you are choosing this, and you’ll be better for it. ‘Think in the Moment’ (Men Keflezighi) and ’Run (and win!) the mile you are in’ (Ryan Hall). 

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