When winter blankets the ground with its frosty embrace, runners often face a dilemma: do they brave the biting cold, slipping on icy roads and bundling up in layers, or do they temporarily hang up their running shoes?
While the allure of a cosy fireplace and a warm drink can be extremely tempting, dedicated runners know that winter doesn’t have to be a roadblock in their training goals.
In this Fitness First guide, we’ll explore how you can stay on track with your running regime with treadmill training, even when the weather outside seems less than inviting. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or someone just starting on their journey, the treadmill can be your trusty ally during the colder months!
What is treadmill training?
Treadmill training is a fantastic way to get in shape and improve your cardiovascular health. It involves using a treadmill to either walk, jog or run in place for a set amount of time at a steep incline.
The term ‘treadmill training’ can also be used interchangeably to describe the form of physical therapy. This uses a treadmill as a tool to help people who are suffering from injuries as a form of their therapy goals.
What are the benefits of treadmill training?
Treadmill training offers a wide range of benefits for your physical and mental well-being. Some of these include:
Set your own pace
The treadmill allows you to dictate the exact speed you want to run at, giving you a great advantage when it comes to preparing for a longer road race.
You can practise at the precise speed you are going to run at for a certain distance, or you can make sure the speed you run at is the right tempo for a recovery run. Those, in particular, are difficult to gauge outdoors and often result in a faster pace than needed.
Gives you variety
By the same reckoning, a treadmill is a great tool when it comes to interval training. Not only can you set the exact speed, but you can also set the distance you want to run. It’s easy to do, making a run in what some might regard as a confined space as something that actually offers plenty of variety.
In addition, visual cues create a variety of stimuli for a runner outdoors — for instance, running in the dark feels much faster as you can’t see anything. Indoors on the treadmill, the fact you’re not actually passing anything creates a higher perceived effort for your usual pace.
Can help with injury management
If you’ve been injured, the predictable, level surface and that ability to control the pace is a great way to return to running.
Injury management is all about creating an inviting environment to build from slowly. In addition, something like a hill session outdoors can create an injury risk, as jogging down the slope after your effort results in more impact. On the treadmill, ramp up the incline for the hill run, then set the jog recovery to flat and reduce that impact as you get ready for the next effort.
Why is it important to keep up your training routine in the winter?
As the temperature drops and winter sets in, it’s not uncommon for our fitness routines to take a backseat. Cosy blankets and warm food often becomes more enticing than hitting the gym or heading for that outdoor run.
But maintaining your training routine during the winter is extremely important because:
- It keeps you consistent — Consistency is key to making progress in your fitness journey. When you skip workouts during the winter months, it can disrupt your routine and make it harder to get back on track in the spring.
- It improves your mental health — Exercise has a positive impact on your mental health. It releases endorphins and dopamine, reduces stress, and helps combat conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is common for people to suffer from during the winter months.
- It helps your energy and productivity levels — Exercise increases your energy levels and can improve productivity. Staying active in the winter can help combat feelings of sluggishness and lethargy that can accompany colder, darker days — plus, staying active can keep you prepared for working out during spring and summer! Learn more about how to stay motivated with our guide.
- It helps achieve your personal goals — If you have specific fitness goals, such as running a marathon or participating in a different type of sports event in the spring, consistent training through the winter is essential for achieving those goals.
Why is it important to do a warm-up on the treadmill?
Warming up on the treadmill is an important step in your workout routine, and it's like giving your body a gentle wake-up call before you dive into more intense exercise. This warm-up gradually gets your blood flowing, making your muscles more flexible and less likely to get strained.
Plus, it helps your muscles work more efficiently and even gives you a mental boost to focus on your fitness goals. It's like a gentle nudge to your body, reducing stiffness, increasing flexibility, and preventing any surprises when you start your workout. So, remember, a good treadmill warm-up isn't just about safety – it's about setting the stage for a successful and enjoyable workout session.
How to do a warm-up on the treadmill
Here’s how to do a warm-up on the treadmill so you’re prepared for your workout:
- Step 1 — Begin by standing on the sides of the treadmill with the machine turned off. This ensures you’re safely positioned by starting the treadmill. Make sure that the treadmill is set to a flat or zero incline position for the warm-up so you have a stable surface for your initial exercise.
- Step 2 — Power on the treadmill and wait for it to reach its idle state. Most treadmills have a safety feature that prevents the belt from moving until you step on it.
- Step 3 — Once the treadmill is ready to use, set the pace to a slow walking speed. A comfortable pace for warming up is typically between 2.0 and 3.0 miles per hour. If you're a more advanced runner, you can choose a slightly faster pace to suit you.
- Step 4 — Carefully step onto the moving belt and start walking at the set pace. Ensure that your feet are centred on the belt and that you have a firm grip on the handlebars if necessary for balance. Make sure your strides are short and controlled.
- Step 5 — Aim for a warm-up duration of 5 to 10 minutes. This allows your body to gradually adjust to the increased physical activity and helps prevent injury.
- Step 6 — During the warm-up, pay attention to your walking or jogging form. Maintain an upright posture with your shoulders relaxed, engage your core muscles, and keep your movements smooth and controlled. Avoid slouching or leaning on the handrails.
- Step 7 — A few minutes into your warm-up, consider incorporating light arm movements. Swing your arms naturally as you walk, helping to engage your upper body muscles and further increase your heart rate.
- Step 8 — As you near the end of the warm-up period, you can increase the pace slightly if you feel comfortable doing so. However, don't push yourself too hard during this phase. The goal is to be prepared for the more intense workout that follows.
- Step 9 — Once you've completed the warm-up, you can transition into your main treadmill workout, whether it's running, interval training, or a steady-paced walk or run. Your body should now be adequately prepared for the increased intensity of your workout.
Top tip: Pay attention to your breathing. It should become slightly deeper but still comfortable during your warm-up. Deep breathing helps oxygenate your muscles and prepares your body for more intense exercise.
Treadmill running workouts you can do in the winter
If you’re looking to up your treadmill workouts, there’s a wide range of exercises you can do, from light movements to fast paces.
1. Steady-state cardio
Steady-state cardio is about maintaining a consistent pace throughout your workout. It's excellent for improving your cardiovascular endurance.
You can choose a pace that allows you to sustain your workout for a longer duration, whether it's a brisk walk, a comfortable jog, or a steady run. This type of workout helps burn calories and can be a great option for building a solid aerobic base!
2. Interval training
Interval training involves alternating between short bursts of high-intensity effort and shorter periods of lower-intensity recovery. For instance, you can sprint for 1-2 minutes at a challenging pace, then walk or jog at a slower pace for 1-2 minutes to recover. Repeat this cycle for a set number of rounds.
Interval training is highly effective for improving cardiovascular fitness, burning calories, and boosting metabolism.
3. Hill workouts
Hill workouts on a treadmill involve increasing the incline to simulate running or walking uphill. This engages your leg muscles and provides a vigorous cardiovascular challenge. Adjust the incline level to vary the intensity and mimic different hill gradients, focusing on both the uphill climb and downhill recovery.
4. Fartlek training
Swedish for speed play, Fartlek is a less structured form of interval training. It involves changing your pace as you go, adding spontaneous sprints or slower recovery phases as you feel like it. Fartlek workouts can be a fun way to keep your treadmill routine engaging and dynamic and work at a pace that feels natural to you.
5. HIIT training
HIIT workouts involve short, intense bursts of activity followed by brief recovery periods. For example, sprint at your maximum speed for 20-30 seconds, then rest for 10-20 seconds and then repeat for as many rounds as you like. HIIT is excellent for calorie burning, improving fitness, and maximising your workout in a short amount of time.
6. Race simulation
If you’re going to be taking on a race in the future, the best thing you can do is prepare.
Use the treadmill to simulate the race conditions and adjust the speed and incline to match the race course. This can help you prepare properly for the race and will give you a good insight into how you need to conserve your energy.
Get into treadmill training at Fitness First
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