Treadmill Sessions For Rapid Fitness Gains

  • By Paul Moore
  • Published January 5, 2012

When the weather turns nasty sometimes we are forced indoors. But being inside doesn’t have to put an end to your run fitness. In fact, there can be massive benefits to some solid treadmill sessions.

Written by: Sabrina Grotewold
The USATF Level 2 distance and sprint coach of elite running group Team USA Minnesota since its 2001 inception, Dennis Barker, oversees the training of Olympic, national and world championship runners, as well as collegiate cross-country and track and field athletes as the head coach at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. One might think that surviving frigid Midwestern winters would require countless treadmill runs; however, Barker’s athletes are a hardy bunch.

“The snow removal here is usually exceptional so the running paths are clear enough to get in some quality road work in the winter,” Barker says. “If not, we have a large indoor turf field with a 300-meter oval, a 200-meter indoor track and the Metrodome concourse.”

However, Barker does prescribe purposeful, if not temperature-relieving, treadmill workouts, detailed in the following pages.

Marathon Simulation
This is a long run with a duration of 2 1/2 to three hours. Have the drinks that you plan to have during the marathon and drink every 15 minutes to mimic drinking frequency during a marathon. Simulate the marathon course you plan to run by increasing or decreasing the treadmill grade to match the placement and distance of hills on the course.

What pace should the athlete maintain during the simulation run?
According to Barker: “The pace doesn’t simulate the pace the athlete would run in the marathon, but I want them to run 20 to 30 minutes longer than their projected marathon time. The pace is steady but the effort gets harder when we put in a hill because the pace stays the same on the hill as it was on the flat. It’s a good time for athletes to practice drinking what they will drink in the marathon and make sure it’s something that is going to be OK in his or her stomach.”

Lactate Threshold
There are three variations of this workout; all three are performed at the athlete’s lactate threshold pace.

• VERSION 1: Warm up for 2-3 miles; run 6-10 miles at LT pace.

• VERSION 2: Warm up for 2-3 miles; run 4-6 x 1 mile at LT pace with a one-minute recovery jog in between; jog for 2-3 miles to cool down.

• VERSION 3: Warm up for 2-3 miles; run longer intervals based on time—for example, 2×15:00 with a three-minute recovery jog in between, or 3×10:00 with a three-minute recovery jog in between.

What is lactate threshold?
Lactate is a by-product of anaerobic metabolism produced during exercise performed at all intensities; achieving a balance between the rate of lactate production and absorption is key. During light to moderate efforts, lactate levels in the blood remain low. Conversely, as intensity increases, there comes a point where the body is unable to remove lactate faster than it’s generated, leading to improper muscle contraction and, ultimately, slowing down. Lactate threshold is the highest steady-state intensity that an exercising person can maintain for a specific period of time—increasing the threshold in training will allow runners to run faster, longer.

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Paul Moore

Paul Moore

Paul Moore is the Online Editor for Triathlete Europe. When not glued to a computer he can be found writing books - most recently Ultra Performance: The Psychology of Endurance Sports and The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges. Both are available on Amazon. Paul has also written Ultimate Triathlon: A complete training guide for long-distance triathletes which is also available on Amazon.