Nicola Spirig at Bad Ragaz earlier in the year.
Some might have read my blog Training in the City where I described the benefits of bike training indoors using a turbo trainer. Not much has changed in my thinking about bike training since – I believe a trainer is the most effective (and safest) way to improve an athlete’s cycling power.
As much as I like bike trainers, I was never a great fan of treadmills in the past. I wasn’t particularly keen on running on the band and watching myself in the mirror. On the bike you can at least watch something on TV or laptop, or even read a book during the easier recovery sessions. On the treadmill once the effort exceeds a certain level even watching TV becomes pointless.
However, a number of my athletes live in big cities or lead a very busy lifestyle, only being able to devote a limited amount of time to training. Winter weather in most parts of the world is not very inviting to run outside and short days also make it hard – so why the resistance to running indoors?
For a number of people running is a form of escaping their daily routine, an opportunity to leave the office or home and go outside, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the outdoors. All these benefits are unfortunately lost when running indoors.
We at Trisutto.com understand this and would never force an athlete to run on the treadmill if they were strongly opposed to it. However, running on the treadmill (similarly to a turbo trainer for the bike) is one of the most effective, time efficient and safest ways to improve one’s running. Trisutto.com for years has promoted running on treadmill and the majority of our athletes both pros and age groupers train on them regularly with great results.
Why is this the case?
You can do pretty much every possible type of workout on the treadmill (assuming it can go fast enough for you!)
1) Speed work – no problem, for most of age groupers 60 second sprints will be done below 18 kmph and most of mid-range treadmills have a maximum speed of 18-20 kmph. Most of the commercial treadmills used in gyms have maximum speed of 20 or even 25 kmph so even our top pros will be sufficiently challenged by them.
2) Threshold workouts – again for 3-5 minutes very hard efforts we don’t need more speed that most treadmills offer.
3) Strength – pretty much all treadmills have an incline functionality now and we can do our ‘hill work’ on them.
4) Endurance – well, this is the type of workouts dreaded the most by athletes, anything longer than 60min turns into a suffer fest. However, if you break your session into a more manageable chunks it is actually not that bad. Instead of running 15km non stop try to do 15x800m at the pace you want and have 200m jog between or speed up for 30-60 sec from time to time. Similarly you can run a series of 3min intervals at your designated pace, 1 min slower between. These slower (or faster) sections are not necessarily meant to allow you for recovery or make your run extra hard but they break the monotony of running at one gear for a prolonged period o time. Another example of ‘not-so-boring’ session I give to my athletes is 60 min non stop run increasing the pace every 10min by 0.5 kmph. If you add 10min warm-up and 10min cool down you would have run of 80min without even realising it.
5) Brick sessions can be also easily done indoors by combining bike and run sections with a very quick transitions.
Running on the treadmill can take less time than running outside. If you are lucky enough to have a treadmill at work or at home or live close to a gym you can very quickly jump on the treadmill. Just putting on a singlet and shorts and press the start button takes very little time. No time wasted for deliberating about all the variables, how cold it is outside, is it going to rain, do I need a rain jacket, do I need a warmer top, where to run? We end up putting on few layers of clothing only to realise after few minutes that we over or under dressed for the conditions. All this takes precious moments and reduces time available for training and often the effectiveness of training.
Running on the treadmill is usually safer than running outside, especially when it is dark, the weather is bad, the surfaces are uneven and slippery. I know a number of people (including myself) who have been training for months for their ‘A’ Race only to have their dreams of a good performance destroyed by an ankle sprain or a similar injury sustained while running outside at dark, on snow, mud, or on wet cobble stones.
Another aspect often overlooked is the risk of respiratory-relates sicknesses, whether it is a common flu, cold, bronchitis or something more serious. A number of athletes experience an increased risk of such issues when running outside, especially if these are long sessions and they may get cold or more intensive intervals and they breathe hard. After such sessions the immune system is more exposed and does not fight infections as effectively as normal. From my experience running indoors greatly reduces risk of such infections (assuming the treadmill is in a well ventilated and clean environment).
Is running on a treadmill a must?
Obviously not, but there are plenty of examples of very successful athletes doing a significant part of their running training on treadmills. Not only Trisutto.com pros (most notably Nicola and Daniela) and our age group athletes run regularly on treadmills, but there are plenty of other well publicised examples like Simon Whitfield famous for his treadmill runs at home in Canada during winter months.
Not all of us are blessed with nice weather or enjoy getting cold or wet. Running on the treadmill provides a great alternative, giving all the benefits of running outside and getting fitter in a more controlled environment.
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.