Posts Tagged by running tips

Mastering the ‘mill: How to Make the Treadmill Work for You (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1 of the series, click here to read my thoughts about how the treadmill can actually be used as a tool to help improve your running. Meaning you don’t have to dread running on it so much! :)

As I mentioned last week, I think the mental game is definitely the hardest part about running on the treadmill. Running for miles on a machine that goes nowhere can be so boring that you want to end your run as quickly as possible, just to get off the darn thing!

DSCN0119 The face of boredom

Over the years, I’ve been able to increase my treadmill stamina by playing mind games and engaging in little competitions with myself (like trying to run for a longer time than my neighbor – without him knowing, of course!).

But my absolute favorite way to run on the treadmill is a method that I’ve been using for years. The method that actually helped me get over my hatred of it. This workout is pretty simple – no messing with the incline or calculating heart rate etc. Just you, your music, and slowly increasing speed.

Master of the ‘Mill

treadmillrunner This workout is based on gradually increasing your pace so that you end up running negative splits. What are negative splits? Basically this means that the second half of your run is faster than the first half – something that is difficult to do, since as you get tired over the course of a run, your speed naturally slows down. This is a great way to work on your form (by slowly increasing your stride), improve your speed, and beat treadmill boredom.

You will need:

  • A treadmill (of course!)
  • A towel/shirt/magazine to cover the display
  • Music
  • And water, if you’re going to be running for a long time

The Workout:

The concept is pretty simple. You start by running slow, and then gradually increase your speed over the course of the run. By the end of the workout,  you’ll be running faster than what your average pace would be if you were running outside. This end-point should be challenging, and is what I am going to refer to as your “goal pace.”

Ready to begin? Start the treadmill and turn on your favorite playlist. Set the belt speed to an easy warm-up pace – one that is at least 0.5 mph slower than your goal pace (the slower you start out, the more you’ll be able to increase over time). This should be really comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that you should be itching to speed up.

Hold for one song. Once that song is over, increase the speed by 0.1 mph (or one push of the speed button). So, if you were running at 6.5 mph, increase to 6.6. Hold this new speed for another song. This should still feel pretty comfortable. If a friend were running next to you, you should be able to have a conversation without feeling too labored.

Once this song ends, increase again. Repeat the process of listening to a song and then bumping up your speed a notch until you’ve reached your goal pace. Depending on how long your run is going to be, you can choose to hold any in-between paces for a couple songs before increasing.

Regardless of how far you’re running, the key is to not look at the screen! Don’t agonize over how far you have (or haven’t run). Focus on your music until you’ve reached a certain number of songs (i.e. have a goal in mind). I usually try to plan it so that I have no more than a half mile left at this point (and I’ve gotten better at estimating over time). Only when I get within a half mile of my goal distance, do I start focusing on how far I’ve gone. At this point, I increase my speed more rapidly and try to finish every run with a sprint.

Easy as pie, right? I’ve found that increasing the speed in such small increments has helped me run faster than I would have had I started out at my goal pace. It makes long runs go by so much faster, since I put all my focus on the music I’m listening to. Not only that, but if I’m feeling exhausted and want to slow down, I tell myself that I can hold the pace for just one more song before I stop.

For the sake of clarity, I will use my average treadmill run as an example. You may want to start at a faster or slower speed, depending on your typical pace. This is just to illustrate the workout. And remember, running at a certain pace on a treadmill is actually a bit easier than it would be to hold that pace outside, since there is no wind resistance. You can set your incline to 0.5% or 1% to better replicate outdoor running conditions. But I must confess…I usually just leave the incline at 0%. And I always feel like I get a good workout in.

I like to keep my pace at a sub-8:00/mile on a typical run. Depending on how I’m feeling and how far I’m going, I generally average between 7:45 and 7:55 per mile. So on the treadmill, my typical starting speed is 7.3 mph (8:13 min/mile). My goal pace is 7.9/8.0.

For shorter runs (i.e. anything under 4 –5 miles), I start off at 7.3 and increase my speed with every song. This means I’m keeping a pretty quick pace by the end of the run (often over my goal pace), but the point is to do these runs fast. With a half mile left, I increase the speed more rapidly until I’m sprinting in to the finish.

For longer runs (my typical run on the treadmill is 7 – 8 miles), I usually start off around the same warm-up pace. Once I reach a comfortable pace that corresponds to how fast I’d be running if I were outside, I hold it for 2 or 3 songs before increasing. These days I tend to do this at 7.7 mph (or 7:48 minutes per mile). This gives me something to focus on besides how long I’m running, as well as a short-term goal to work toward. I’ll do the same thing at 7.8, and again at 7.9. By the time I reach 8.0 (7:30 miles), I only have to hold it for one or two songs before it’s time to look at the treadmill. Hopefully at this point I’m not too tired to finish strong.

And that’s it! A method that helps me run faster, practice doing negative splits, and easily pass the time on the treadmill. It’s a win-win (win)!

Shape Up Summer Challenge: Officially Unofficial Rules

It’s June and you know what that means: The Shape Up Summer Challenge has officially begun!!

Now the point of this little challenge is just to give you (and myself) a little extra motivation to include some strength training into your weekly routine, specifically by trying The Core. Obviously this does not require that you love the workout or want to do it for the rest of your life. Instead, the challenge is meant to be fun and to encourage you to try something new!


Because it’s all for fun, the rules for this thing are going to be simple. Basically, the SUSC will run for 2 months, which will hopefully give you plenty of time to try the workout whenever it fits best into your training schedule. There are two ways to participate:

Basic Challenge

  1. Try the workout 2 times over the course of 1 week.
  2. Let me know you did so by leaving a comment on The Core page. Include any thoughts and feedback you might have. Whether you hated it, loved it, thought it was just okay – I want to know! Also tell me your favorite (or least favorite move).
  3. For an extra point, send me a picture of you doing your favorite move. I can feature the pictures on the new challenge page (soon to be created) of the blog.
  4. Everyone who does so will be entered into a drawing to win a $25 gift certificate to either Road Runner Sports (my favorite online web store) or your coffee shop of choice: Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. It’s up to you!

(Yes, I know…it’s not much, but this challenge is being funded by Yours Truly. Plus, you get the added prize of learning a new, amazing workout and getting a super-toned core. Honestly, what more could you want? 😉 )

Bonus Challenge

  • Those of you who do the workout regularly* for at least 1 month will be eligible to win a super special prize (TBD – but it’ll be something great, I promise). Two bonus entries for this if you participate for the entire 2-month challenge.
  • To enter this drawing, email me at Lauren {at] healthontherun [dot] net (or via the Contact Form on this site), letting me know how long you’ve been doing the workout regularly, and of course sharing any feedback you have. I will enter all your names into a spreadsheet and randomly choose a winner.
  • Individuals who choose to participate in this part of the challenge are also eligible for the Basic Prize (just leave a comment after 1 week to be entered).

*Regularly = 2 – 3 times, most weeks for one month (meaning, if you get busy and can only do it once during a certain week, don’t sweat it!)

You have until July 31, 2010 at midnight (EST) to participate. The drawings will be held on August 1st.

Like I said, this is meant to be FUN! Especially since there’s absolutely no way to validate whether or not you did the workout (though I really hope you do give it a shot). So hit the gym (or your basement) and get sweating!

And of course, if you like the workout or are excited about the challenge, I’d love it if you told your friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, etc (and if you hate it….please pass it along to your enemies ;)).

National Running Day

running_day_main_logoIn other news, today is National Running Day! According to the organizers, the aim for this day is to “promote running as a healthy, easy, and accessible form of exercise.”

I believe that [most] anybody can be a runner. Obviously there are certain physical impairments, injuries etc that can make it unsafe or unwise for some individuals to run. But for the rest of you — it really doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the motivation to put one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t matter how fast you run or how far you go. The point is to just get out there and get moving. Enjoy nature, explore your city or, if you’re too nervous to run outside, try the treadmill. Not only is running a great form of exercise, but it can also be a stress reliever – a time to think and an opportunity to really process anything that’s on your mind.

For anyone who is new to running, try not to let it overwhelm you. That first step is the hardest. But start off easy and slow. Aim for a mile, and mix up your running with walking. Don’t worry about your time or whether people are watching you. Just enjoy pushing your body and seeing what you can do!

Here are some great resources to get you started:

And of course, please feel free to ask me any questions you might have. I certainly can’t claim to know all the answers, but I have been running for over a decade now, both as a competitive and as a recreational runner. I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity to work as an Assistant Coach for my college XC team, so I’ve seen running from all sides. Hopefully there might be something in my experience that can help some of you.

Happy Running!

“What distinguishes those of us at the starting line from those of us on the couch is that we learn through running to take what the day gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will can tolerate.”
~John Bingham, running writer and speaker

Are you planning on running today (or have you already)?

Mastering the ‘mill: How to Make the Treadmill Work for You (Part 1)

The weather in New England is crazy. The beginning of May was cold and miserable, and now we’re having a sudden heat wave. Although I’m very happy that things are finally warming up, the sudden change in temperature has been a bit of a shock to my system on runs. Up until recently, my body has been used to running in cool cloudy weather. I haven’t had time to adjust to running in the heat.

So with today’s temperature smashing the old record high, I sought refuge in the air conditioned gym, spending a little quality time with many runners’ worst nightmare: the treadmill.

800px-Treadmills_at_gym (Source)

A recent Runner’s World poll asked readers what type of workout they find the hardest to complete: treadmill runs, core workouts, speedwork, long runs, or tempo runs. Can you guess what they said?

Running on the treadmill was the clear winner, with 41% of respondents ranking it as the hardest. This was significantly more than those who said core workouts (19%) or speedwork (17%).

I find this somewhat surprising. Yes, I know…the treadmill can be incredibly boring. You run for miles and miles on a crazy machine, yet don’t get anywhere. Personally, I would much rather run outside than be stuck in a gym. But I really think that us runners shouldn’t fear the “dreadmill” so much! When viewed properly, this machine can be an invaluable tool that can actually help improve your running.

So next time you find yourself stuck inside on the ‘mill, embrace it. Use the time to improve one (or all!) of the following things: your form, your speed, and your mental endurance.

Making the Treadmill Work for You

treadmillrunner (Source)

1.) Fix that form

The very first thing you should do when you get on a treadmill is to evaluate your running form. Having the  proper form is important not only because of how it looks, but also because of the improvements it can make in your  overall speed. Since you don’t have to pay close attention to your surroundings, treadmill runs are the perfect opportunity to work out any problems.

When I first started running, my form was awful – my elbows stuck out, my shoulders rode high, I had a very short stride, and duck-toes like you wouldn’t believe. Here are the tricks I used  on the treadmill to change how I was running:

  • Watch yourself in the mirror (or the TV/window for those of you who don’t have mirrors): At my gym, we have TVs attached to every machine. I often look into them to evaluate how I’m running. I focus on keeping my face relaxed, my shoulders down, and my arms low (your hands should be at about hip level). Periodically, I look back at myself to check my progress (especially when I’m getting tired).
  • Look at those feet! Getting my toes to point forward when I ran instead of out was hard work. It took a lot of concentration to get to a point where this happened naturally. The treadmill helped me make the change, since I could pay more attention to the ground.
  • Gradually increase your speed. To make my stride longer, I would start off running really slow and then gradually increase the speed by 0.1 mph. This subtle change helped me focus on keeping my leg turnover steady while lengthening my stride to keep up with the faster pace.

2.) Feel the need for speed

I will focus on this more in a future post, but the treadmill can help you become a faster runner because you can control your pace. Switch up your speed by:

  • Running intervals (like these examples from racecarRunner’s World)
  • Completing a run at a goal pace that’s faster than your normal average pace
  • Running negative splits (completing the second half of the run faster than the first half)
  • Or going all out to work on your sprint

When I was in high school and trying to improve my mile time, I would go down to the basement, warm up and then pump the treadmill up to my goal pace, trying to hold it there for an entire mile. Even when I didn’t quite make it, the workout wasn’t a waste. Every time I practiced running at that speed, my body gained valuable experience about what it felt like to run that fast.

And as an added bonus, mixing up a run with intervals can make the time go by faster and help beat treadmill boredom.

3.) Get inside your own head

The mental game is by far the hardest part about running on the treadmill. mindgameThe monotony of the run, the hot  smelly gym…these things make it harder not to focus on how tired you are. But if you can get inside your own head and learn to improve your focus, your runs will become a lot easier and you’ll be able to stay on the treadmill for longer than you thought possible. Plus, this improved mental strength will be an advantage when it comes to completing those tough runs or races outside.

Some tips to improve your mental strength and stay focused during a run:

  • Cover the screen. I always cover the screen of my treadmill with a towel so that I stop focusing on how slow my tiny virtual dot is moving around the track, and start focusing on enjoying my run.
  • Daydream. Look ahead of you at a spot on the wall (or the towel) and let your eyes glaze over while your mind takes you to another place. You don’t have to pay attention to where you’re going. Sometimes I even close my eyes for a few seconds to really help myself zone out (just be careful not to fall off!).
  • Watch yourself run. I know it sounds a bit vain, but staring at yourself running can really help you zone out. As I mentioned above, I often look into the TV screens to see how I’m doing. If I focus on looking strong, the girl I see looking back at me with a determined look on her face gives me motivation to keep going
  • Count songs, not seconds. With my screen covered, I don’t have the timer to tell me how long I’ve been running. Instead I focus on how many songs I’ve listened to and try to get excited about the song that is coming up next on my playlist.
  • (and then) Don’t let yourself look at the screen until a certain number of songs have passed. This is a big one for me. I always play little games with myself, especially when I’m feeling tired and want to stop. I usually have a set number of songs I want to run through that corresponds to how many miles I want to run (I estimate 1 song = 1/2 mile…usually an underestimate, but it’s close enough). This helps me zone out and focus on the music instead of how tired I’m feeling. And when the urge to look at how far I’ve gone (or stop) becomes almost overwhelming, I tell myself that I can look after just one more song.

When you focus on using the treadmill as a tool (and not viewing it as a punishment), your treadmill runs will become more enjoyable. And your running will improve as well!

I plan to continue this little mini-series next week, when I’ll share my favorite treadmill workout with you. This is how I run on one 90% of the time, and it’s a great approach to the ‘mill that improves both your speed and your mental focus…and helps the time go by faster. I know the suspense is probably killing you, but hopefully you can wait for that, along with a few more tips on how to be a master of the ‘mill.

And finally – an announcement: on Friday, I’m going to share the official rules and regs of the Shape Up Summer Challenge! Entry is going to be on a rolling basis, and there will be a couple of different ways to participate (along with a couple of different prizes!), so if you haven’t checked out The Core yet, now’s your chance!

Any tips you have on how to master the ‘mill? And what’s the longest you’ve ever run on one? While I typically don’t do more than 7 or 8 miles on the treadmill, my record is 15 — a run I did last winter when the weather was awful.


For another positive view on treadmill running, check out Kelly’s post here!

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