There’s a predicted high of -15 and the sun will set at 4:56 this afternoon. That means I either run in the freezing dark or on the treadmill.
I choose treadmill.
As I shift into more treadmill running over the winter, my motivation isn’t quite the same as it is over the summer months. So, over the years, I’ve invented a few treadmill training programs that help keep winter running boredom at bay. As a result, I actually train myself better and harder over the coldest months of the year.
How it works: I switch through the following programs with no set rotation. I’m kind of random like that. My only guideline is to keep one long run and one high-intensity training run in the weekly program.
A note: I’m not a personal trainer or a physician, just a long-time runner. You know the drill about starting an exercise program — check with a physician and use your head. For heaven’s sakes, be careful with your speeds on the sprints.
1. The I-Have-No Motivation-Today Run
A friend in NYC, who runs a sub-2:45 marathon, recommended this one to me years ago for those sluggish days. Start at a pace slower than your usual starting rate and crank the speed up one level every minute or every 30 seconds. Go up ten levels, then down five, then up ten, down five. You get the picture. Keep driving it up until you can’t go any further. Then bring it down and start again. I usually do this run for 30-45 minutes. It’s a good way to fool yourself into running at speeds that don’t seem possible at the beginning.
2. The I-Have-No-Focus-Today Workout, 45 mins – 1 hour
This is a riff on a Tracy Anderson workout. The goal is to keep switching up the movements to work different muscles. Switch movements every three minutes or every time a new song comes on your ipod.
Rotate through the following movements: sprint drills (alternating between 6.0-6.5 mph and 8.0-9.5 at 30-seconds intervals); a steady slow-pace run at steep incline; speed walk at super-steep incline; skipping (the way a school girl skips to school, NOT jumping rope) at a medium pace and mid-level incline. For each rotation, I’ll ramp up the difficulty every 30 seconds so that by the end of the song, I’m going full-blast. I take 30-second walks at 4.5 mph in between each rotation.
3. Sprint or Interval Training
You know what I’m talking about. How long you go for, how fast you go depends on your fitness level. I’d suggest sprints in 30-second, 45-second or one-minute bursts, with 30-second to one-minute walks or jogs in between. This kind of training hurts (and draws unwanted gym attention because your shoes might bang loudly against the treadmill belt). But sprints significantly improved my 10-km and half-marathon times. My motivation for these runs is that I know it’s going to be over a lot quicker than any other workout.
4. The Long Run
Everyone’s long run is different. If you’re training for a race, check out training programs and work towards your target. I usually aim for at least one one-hour run per week when I’m not training for anything in particular.
5. The 30-minute Personal Best
Easy. How far can you go in half an hour? Aim to beat your last time every time. The key: really, truly push it on the last minute. Hello post-run endorphin rush.
6. The Long Interval Run
I hate, hate, hate long-interval training. Mid-run, I find myself wondering if I’d be more comfortable lying face-down on the treadmill with it going full-tilt than trying to get through the last intervals. Yet, I know this workout works. I don’t do it enough but I’m aiming to do it at least once a week until Christmas. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Alternate between four-minute bouts of working at 80-85% of your max and two minutes of recovery at about 65%. I try to do it five rounds but usually the fifth winds up being one long recovery round.
Then, I go home, eat an ice cream sandwich and go to bed.