Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nike: Winter Treadmill Running

originally posted December 7, 2009 by Coach Jay

Coach Jay,
Let me start by saying that I love your Q&A section, and that you have some great advice for beginning and seasoned runners alike. My question has to do with treadmill training. I live in Interior Alaska and outdoor running is not ideal from mid-October to mid-April. This is mostly due to due to extreme cold (-30F by Halloween, and as cold as -40 to -50F in January) and the poor air quality that results from said temperatures, so I end up doing the majority of my training on a treadmill during the winter months. I am wondering if there are any negative effects from long term training on a treadmill that I should be cautious of, and how to avoid them. I am in my mid 30's, and I currently run between 50-60 miles a week as well as do yoga and light weight training. Thanks for all your help, Travis


Interesting question and a timely one given that the low tonight at my house is 9—not as cold as -40 or -50, but still a factor for a runner.

Alright, I don't love the idea that you run 50-60 miles a week on a treadmill, yet if you do it right and are honest with yourself about how you feel, both on a daily basis and on a weekly basis, you can lay a great base for the spring and summer.

First thing you need to be honest about is that the chance of stress fracture in one of the common places is a little higher on a treadmill, so you need to be honest about any "hot spots," areas about the size of a penny on your tiba or fibula that are sore to the touch. Also, you need to set the treadmill at a 1% uphill grade to make up for the fact the mechanical advantage the treadmill gives you because of the surface moving for you (rather than you "pulling the ground" under your when you run on the road or track) to prevent any of IT-band or abductor/adductor injuries. Then, you need to willing to more General Strength and ancillary work during these months for both injury prevention, but also as a way to gain fitness and burn calories without having as many foot contacts on the treadmill. Finally, be willing to do your warm-up and cool-down by spinning on the bike or hopping in the pool and saving the meat of your workout—the fartlek, the tempo run or even repeat 800's—for the treadmill. Too many runners think that they have to run for their warm-up and cool-down when in reality they simply need to run their quality portion of the workout on the treadmill; hopping in the pool for some aquajogging or some easy lap swimming is arguably a better cool-down for someone who ran hard on a treadmill than any other aerobic activity.

The bottom line is that you're a serious runner and you should continue to run on a treadmill in the coming months, but just be creative with tweaking the workouts and be honest each day and each week regarding your structural wellness.

Good luck Travis and stay warm!


*Coach Jay’s advice is provided as general training information. Use at your own risk. Always consult with your own heath care provider for questions relating to your specific training and nutrition.

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