95 miles on the treadmill? But how?

I’ve noticed a common thread in the reactions to my recent blog postings and tweets about how much running I’m doing on the treadmill, including all of last week’s 95 miles: “WTF?! I could never do that!”

Well, guess what? You could. And many of you should.

I experience an equal measure of horror and amazement when I see the training logs of people who are out there running what are supposed to be easy long runs, but because of heat indices in the 90s and above are slogging away at tempo effort instead.

Sure, the treadmill is tedious. But I emerge from my treadmill runs unscathed by the weather outside and having expended the appropriate amount of effort for the workout at hand. Good training means training smart as much as it does training hard. If you’re training too hard, you’re not training smart.

So there’s my little lecture.

I realize that not everyone has access to a treadmill. In those cases, you do what I had to do in the summer, before I acquired one: run everything by HR and forget about paces. Forget about a social life, too, because most runs will now take forever to complete.

Have I managed to convince you of the benefits of running on a treadmill during the worst of the weather outside? If so, here are some strategies for making it easier, mentally and otherwise:

Make sure you’re distracted. I make sure I have multiple forms of entertainment available. I have a television three feet away from the treadmill and I sprung for a mini home theatre system so I can hear it. If I have movies, I watch those. If I don’t, I watch television. If there’s nothing on television, I listen to music. If I’m sick of music, I listen to the radio.

Bonus tip: For faster runs (like tempo or interval efforts), the din of the treadmill can drown out even the most powerful sub-woofer. For those runs, I get subtitled movies (or turn on closed captioning). I’ve discovered a lot of really good foreign flicks this way.

Make sure you’re comfortable. I’ve got an AC running. I’ve also got three fans: a ceiling fan, and one trained on my front and another on my back. This is essential for keeping cool and keeping effort in the appropriate range.

Introduce some variation. The treadmill is unrelenting. I think that’s what bugs a lot of people about it. Just as we naturally slow down or speed up thousands of times during a run over ground, we should have the same variation when running on the treadmill. So I frequently change pace by 10 seconds or so to give my legs and brain some variation and rest.

Have a goal for the important workouts. I’ve found that I can deal with the prospect of a long, difficult workout on the treadmill much better if I go in with clear goals. Examples might be: Run 20 miles under 2:45. Or, run the last three miles of this 10 mile general aerobic run 10-20 seconds faster.

Induce temporary blindness. Do you think I want to run 20 miles on a treadmill? Of course I don’t. So I do my best to forget about the distance I have to cover. One good way to do this is to cover up the display on the treadmill. I hang an old pillowcase over the mileage indicator. Based on the pace(s) I plan to run, I know when I’ll be done. Five minutes or so before that time, I look at the display to confirm where I am mileagewise (and celebrate).

Remember that it’s for the greater good. And it’s not forever. Winters and summers in NY State suck. That’s just how it is. I’ve accepted it. But the spring and fall provide fabulous running weather. I keep those wonderful, crisp morning runs (and races) in mind as I climb on the treadmill. I also keep my training and racing goals in mind too. I’ll be in much better shape when the good weather arrives than I would have been had I done all my runs in the heat outside (or skipped them during the winter).