The treadmill isn't just for wintry days when the window for safe, solo outdoor running is small. This piece of equipment that runners love to hate can actually work for you.
Here are the top six reasons how running on the treadmill can turn your training around and help you get faster this offseason:
1. A forgiving surface. "A lot of runners train on dirt if their body is aching," says Jonathan Cane, president and head coach of City Coach Multisport in New York City. "That's usually a good idea, but an uneven surface can exacerbate problems if you don't have great foot mechanics."
With a treadmill you get a flat and forgiving surface, so it's great when you're experiencing aches and pains.
2. You can do fantasy workouts. "If you want a 3-mile hill in New York City, good luck," Cane says. "But you can run one on a treadmill. You can simulate anything you want to, so it's a great way to train for an out-of-town race with challenging terrain, or just to change things up."
Cane has been known to do long, steady treadmill training on a slight (2- to 3-percent grade) incline the whole way. "I can slow things down and still get the same metabolic challenge while reducing the impact," he says.
3. The chance to check your form. What you can't do on the road, you can do in front of a mirror: watch yourself. "Many runners have no idea what they look like, and watching yourself increases your awareness and gives you a greater kinesthetic sense," Cane says.
If you're plodding or not lifting your knees, this is a great time to notice that and experiment with ways to change it.
4. Safety. Cars, inattentive people, the wrong side of town—the treadmill leaves you blissfully free of all of those hazards. "I usually like my athletes to 'tune in' to their workouts as opposed to distracting themselves, but once in a while it's nice to set the treadmill and just run," Cane says. If you tend to slow down as your run goes on, treadmill training can help you correct that. "Slow down too much and you'll be like George Jetson flying off the back."