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January 16, 2014

When you have to run inside

Written by Dena Evans

The first blast of the polar vortex may be “sooo last week,” but we can rest assured that more tricky weather is on the way.  For some of us, inside running is a regular strategy where you live or an occasional challenge when visiting difficult climates.  Others train on treadmills to accommodate the schedule demands of small children and their fickle nap habits.  Regardless, each of us will at some point be looking at an indoor run.  Here are a few thoughts on how to make the most of those times.

Treadmill Tips

Any first timer on a treadmill can attest that the ride is slightly different than the ground in a variety of ways.  To account for these variances, we generally recommend some slight adjustments.  Without the wind resistance encountered when moving forward outside, the pace might feel a bit easier on a treadmill than on your normal run.  To approximate an equivalent demand, adjust the grade of the treadmill up 1.5% if you are able to put that fine a point on it with your machine.

The second important consideration when running on a treadmill is attentiveness to your form.  With the ground traveling underneath and often a softer landing than most outdoor running surfaces, the body can easily tilt into various, slightly unfamiliar positions. If possible, run on a machine where you can gauge your posture in a mirror or reflecting window.  Try to keep yourself tall, with your weight over your feet.  The only thing worse than grumbling about running on a treadmill is grumbling about being injured because you were running strangely on a treadmill.  Attention to your form might even help you when you go outside again and have a clear, fresh picture of what your good form looks and feels like.

 Because of the weather and the limitations of running indoors, you may have to adjust your workout a bit.  Raising the level of the surface to a tougher grade can yield the raised heart rate you were looking for with your speed workout, even if the treadmill is not able to travel the speeds you would have been scheduled to attempt on a track or outside.  It also may be unsafe to run full tilt on a rickety treadmill, changing paces by pressing buttons up and down at 100% effort.  Running “uphill” on a treadmill can be a safer route for shorter intervals.

runcoach Elite team member and Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Heather Tanner reports that treadmill workouts have definitely made an impact for her in years past.  “One of the best, or at least hardest, workouts I've ever done was rep simulation work on the treadmill to work on economy.  20x30 seconds or 10x1 minute with equal rest @ 20% grade, 6.0 mph (or 15% grade, 6.5 mph), which I think equal a sub 70 sec 400 effort. This can be very hard if you pick the wrong pace/grade!”  To adjust your prescribed runcoach workout to a treadmill setting by manipulating the grade and pace, try using a treadmill pace conversion chart such as this one from  No two treadmills are exactly alike, so keep in mind you may have to make some slight adjustments with your machine.

Bad Weather and No Treadmill?

Occasionally, drastic situations may call for creative solutions.  If you are unable to run outside due to conditions and a treadmill isn’t available, all may not be lost.  If you are in an urban setting with a series of connected indoor walkways between office buildings, or within a long shopping mall, you may be able to just duck your head at curious onlookers and get at least a few easy miles in indoors.  Convention centers and long hotel hallways can even provide a last ditch opportunity on occasion.  Nike headquarters actually has a hallway where their athletes can run long strides and do so on a regular basis.  Tell that to anyone who questions you!  As long as in a safe setting, preferably with a partner, not during heavy traffic hours, and if lit so as to see the ground and watch for black ice, a covered parking lot could even provide a good hilly run – even if cold, it likely would be covered.  The long eaves of an outdoor school hallway can also provide shelter.  None of these options are ideal, but typically conditions which prevent the completion of a workout are temporary and a bridging solution might end up being better than nothing.

Next week, we will provide more tips for running outside in the cold.  Stay tuned!

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