A treadmill easter egg

Since my local environment is still Hoth, I’m running on the treadmill for the foreseeable future. My last run outside was my snowshoe experiment on Wednesday. That run took a lot out of me and by Friday morning I was still feeling the effort in my legs. So I did my shorter recovery run in the morning and moved the speedwork to the afternoon.

A few more hours of recovery helped, but I climbed onto the treadmill feeling that I wasn’t really ready for mile repeats at 6:45. But rather than bailing on the workout altogether, I figured I’d just do it a little slower than originally planned. I ended up with three repeats in the 6:55 range, so my compromise was not that great. I got that number be adjusting the speed from 6:50 to 7:00 during the repeats (it breaks things up a bit).

Anyway. Long preamble to my point, which is: I probably could have run 6:45 had I had a better understanding of how our treadmill works. The machine has a toggled display for Pace and MPH. In both cases, you get three digits:

MPH: ##.# (example: 10.5 MPH — ha ha, as if!)

Pace: ##:# (example 06:4 — or what would appear to be 6:40 pace)

When is “06:4″ not 6:40 pace? When you’ve only hit the “increase the pace” button (or “+”) once. Apparently, at high speeds, our treadmill offers five second pace variations. You just can’t see it. So if you’re running at “06:5″ and you hit “+” then you’ll go down to 6:45 pace (with an “06:4″ readout). Hit “+” again and you’re at 6:40. Who knew? (Jonathan did.)

All this time I just thought I was being wimpy when I pressed “+” and the treadmill display wasn’t responding. Since I knew I wasn’t in any shape to run 6:40 repeats yesterday, I shied away from plugging in that pace. Had I realized that the treadmill will give me 6:45, I would have at least made an attempt to run the original workout. The difference between 6:40 and 6:45 (or 6:45 and 6:55, if you like) was probably minimal enough that I wouldn’t experience enough physical distress for it to have mattered. The issue was a mental one (“I can’t run 6:40 today.”).

Since I don’t like doing faster workouts indoors if I can avoid it, I rarely run below 8:00 on the treadmill. The fastest I’ve ever managed is 6:00 pace. Once you’re getting close to your maximum effort, 10 seconds per mile is a huge difference. Plus I don’t like being forced by a moving belt to move my legs that fast; it always feels a little scary.

I had no idea that I had less than a 10 second spread available to me for some paces. Knowing this, I’ll be a little more enthusiastic about (and willing to try) doing my speed workouts indoors. Hooray!

6 Responses

  1. Oh, that tricky technology. How nice to find this helpful surprise available to you. I guess Jonathan is the manual reader in the family? ;-)

  2. “Manual”? What is this thing you speak of?

  3. Knocked out 1200s on the treadmill last week, which was somewhat fun. Don’t like going much faster than 6:15 pace on the treadmill for fear I will misstep and going flying off the back.

  4. Sounds more complicated than setting the timer on my VCR.

    I’d be scared trying to run fast on a treaddy… a former training partner broke his arm when he went off the back of one. Gradual adjustments of speed would seem to be safer.

    And thanks for the snowshoe warning. I’ll avoid that the day before my next 27C 10,000.

  5. So what’s your take on the whole argument that you can’t effectively do speedwork on a mill because “you’re not moving across the ground – the belt is moving for you”?

    I have a few friends who have admittedly raced more than I that always head to the track for the speed workouts that “matter”.

    Like the Yassos I’m doing on Monday or Tuesday.

  6. I think it’s a silly argument. You still need to move forward to keep from being thrown off the back. In fact, I think speed workouts are harder on the treadmill because you can’t naturally slow down or speed up as you would running over ground.

    I would always prefer to do speed sessions on the track, primarily because that’s how I learn to pace myself properly (which the treadmill does for you). Plus I can play with speeds and effort during a single interval more easily.

    But if I have a choice of speed session on the treadmill vs. no speed session at all, I’ll take the former.

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