Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Optimizing the Treadmill Workout

I know, I know, why, WHY, why would anyone run on a treadmill when it's summertime and everyone knows running on a treadmill is BORING?

In the last ten years since I started running, I've had my share of running on treadmills and I've had my share of running outside.  When I lived in San Diego for six years there was NEVER a reason to run inside.  Even on "hot" days, you could run in the mornings or try and run as close to the beach as possible and that would keep the day cool.  On rainy days, it was never enough rain to keep me indoors.

But now that I live in Colorado, I'm still adjusting.  I see other runners out there running in 80+ degree heat and I don't know how they do it.  I'm also adjusting to running alone.  It's been three years since I ran with the San Diego Track Club and as I'm going it alone right now, finding the motivation to enjoy my runs while running solo has been pretty challenging.  When you've got company, it's easy to keep going.  Now that I'm running alone, it's just too easy to stop and take a walking break.  And then another.  And hey, why not one more?

I've only been running solidly for two weeks now (it was off and on before that, despite running outside in scenic places, and I wasn't averaging more than two runs in a week).  So I decided something had to change.  I realized my biggest obstacle was convenience.  I don't have time anymore to jump in my car and drive somewhere to run where it's pretty.  And I'm not ready to commit to a running club with my mom-wife-work schedule (again, the need for convenience), so I decided I needed to figure out how to get my runs in nearby and I needed a run that would push me, no matter what.

Enter the treadmill.

I got my first idea for making the treadmill work for me from Kelly at No Thanks to Cake in her latest blog about "tricking" herself to going to the gym: she likes to listen to audiobooks and decided to limit listening to her latest book: she's only allowed to read the book while working out at the gym.  I listen to tons of audiobooks, primarily at the end of my day, after my son is in bed, and I am winding down. It helps me go to sleep.  So, I gave it a try: I listened to my book while on the treadmill and that wasn't bad.  But I realized that it wasn't enough.  So through the course of the last few weeks, I've been trying different motivational methods here and there, and here's the list of what seems to be working.  I'll keep you updated as I continue my quest to make the treadmill a reasonable place to run.

Heart rate monitor.  I think the heart rate monitor is awesome.  I've had one for almost seven years, but I found I didn't need it when I was running with the San Diego Track Club.  Now that I'm running solo, I wear it, and make sure that my heart rate is in the right range for the type of running I'm working on right now (building endurance).  I can also use it while resting to see if I'm overtraining.

Treadmill options.  To recreate the challenges of outdoor terrain, I am constantly fiddling with the incline and the speed.  I found a great source for a variety of treadmill workouts from beginner to advanced, including one workout that supposedly simulates what it would feel like to go for a run in San Francisco.  Having lived in SF, I'll have to try it out and see how true it might be.

Playlists!  Music has been by far, the best motivator for my running.  I downloaded Kara Goucher's Playlist for National Running Day.  Kara chose some great music with BPMs that made sure I didn't start out too fast.   I was so inspired by how that playlist helped my run that I went trolling for more good running music so that I could build my own library of playlists.  I found a fairly recent article with music of all genres with 180 BPM -- the rate at which most runners find their most efficient stride.

Any one else have any good tips for making the treadmill drudgery seem less fatiguing?

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