The Treadmill: reunited with an old friend

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

In the early years of my triathlon and road racing “career” I used to spend a lot of time on the treadmill. It was a quick, easy, and most importantly, efficient, way to get my speed and tempo sessions done. Over the years though I became more and more enamored with everything that’s beautiful about running (and riding outdoors); the way sunrise smells, the murky humidity of a summer’s dusk, the birds waking up, the silence of neighborhood streets, fog hanging in Civil War battlefields. I eventually stopped tracking all of my runs – running “naked” as its sometimes called; meaning, no watch, GPS, or care for time, distance, and splits. I went back to communing with running for the sake of seeing beautiful things and hearing my own breath against the stillness of the sleeping world around me. 

This week I got back on the treadmill though. I’m battling through some severe fall allergies and haven’t slept much of late. My chest is congested, my sinuses are blocked, and my head is like a huge bubble. Unless I stay indoors.

So rather than skipping my midweek runs I decided to do them on the “dreadmill”. And you know what? I liked it. I really did. It was a little like hanging out with an old friend, who you thought had changed, but is really still the same old friend you used to enjoy being around. 

What I enjoyed about my treadmill workout was the structure – the exact thing I thought I didn’t like about it. The reality is that what I don’t like about the treadmill is a workout without a plan. I went into this week’s sessions with the plan to run old favorite workouts. A progressive tempo run to race pace with easy breaks, and the 30/30/60 (5k pace, super easy, next race’s pace followed by 2 min easy) workout I used to do often back in the day.

So I put on the Metallica playlist on my iphone and went back to my training roots.  I controlled my pace better, focused more on the structured workout itself, and was even able to hone in on positive images of myself running light and fast at my upcoming marathon. Outdoors I often get caught up in deeper thoughts and enjoy running for running’s sake. But focus on my actual running performance has been missing in my training for years. I used to be fast. Maybe a touch of treadmill will help me get that back. 

The treadmill helped in a few ways:

  • A softer surface – my joints have been taking a pounding out on the road. The treadmill provided a more forgiving surface.
  • Course simulation – I set the treadmill at .5 grade for the short workout yesterday. Huntsville is flat. Where we live is constantly rolling hills. I suppose this benefit could go the other way for runners in flat areas training for hilly races.
  • Controlled pace – I knew I wanted my final pace to be somewhere in the 8:30 per mile range. During the workout I ran as fast as 8:00 per mile and as slow as 10:00 per mile at different intervals – but when I finished, the average was 8:30. Not by luck. By design.
  • Mental and Form Focus – again, I was able to get in a zone on the treadmill where I could picture myself running light and strong at my next race. I have trouble finding those positive images during outdoor running. I was also more focused on my form during the run; standing tall, long neck, driving with my arms, etc. 


So I think I’ll add a little treadmill running back into my prep for the Huntsville Rocket City Marathon. It made me feel strong (even when I wasn’t feeling my best). Variety, and a little dose of treadmill, is the spice of life/training. 

Your Halloween costumes came in the mail this week! Here’s a sneak peek at the unfinished looks:



I love you,

– Daddy


Sunday: Ran 13.2 miles

Monday: REST

Tues: Ran 4 miles (progressive tempo)

Wed: Rest

Thurs: Ran 4 miles (30/30/60)


17 mile run on the agenda for this weekend