Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Surviving the Treadmill and Avoiding Injuries

My running week was fairly boring. There's not much to say when all your miles were on the treadmill, you didn't run any workouts, and don't have any planned races in the near future. I did get in another 47 miles though, which is good.

I've received a number of comments and read a number of runners' blogs that have a lot of trouble with the treadmill. I'm not in love with running on it, but I don't mind it either. Obviously being outside with the wind on your face is the preferred running method, but I guess I'll take what I can get. So far, my longest run has been 11 miles, which I've done a few times. Most of the time I'm running 8 or 9 miles. My general methodology is to start slow and slowly increase the speed throughout the run. I'll start somewhere between 9:00 - 9:30 pace and slowly increase the speed until I'm running my last mile somewhere between 7:30 - 8:00 pace. The average pace is usually between 8:30 - 9:00 minutes. This is generally how I run typical training runs outside too. I start slower (although probably not as slow as 9:30 pace) and get faster throughout the run. My racing strategy is completely opposite, however, I go out fast and usually slowly drop off. I enjoy leaving nothing in the tank. ;)

There are a few advantages to treadmill running. Given that I often have injury issues, I've been doing a lot thinking about injury prevention. I've also been thinking about how I managed to run so many miles in high school and college without suffering from constant injuries. It suddenly dawned on me that nearly all of my running during those years was done on trails. Even all our races were on trails. Trails are softer. There are roots and rocks to avoid, which means you have to have a smaller stride to avoid ankle sprains and such. It wast my senior year in college that I started to run mostly on the roads. I had an odd class load that forced me to run mostly by myself, and by the end of that year I was totally hobbled. Running on the roads must have been the main contributor to my injuries. Apparently running 55-60 miles a week on the roads didn't agree with me.

The treadmill is similar to a trail in that it's soft and it seems to force me to have a smaller stride. Trails would still be preferable, but that means having to drive somewhere to run. When time is limited that can be hard. Not that I think exclusive treadmill running is the key to injury prevention. For one, if you run too much too fast overuse injuries will still occur. And obviously running on a treadmill simply isn't like running outside, which is where all races occur (not to mention being more enjoyable in general). I'm simply suggesting that if you have issues with injuries, running on trails may help. If trails aren't available for you to run on, you might want to consider supplementing your outdoor running with a couple days of treadmill running. Just a thought...

So how does one survive a treadmill run? You can listen to music, which I might do if Kaylee is in bed. We also have a TV and DVD player near the treadmill. I'll pop in a movie and watch it muted with the subtitles on. Yeah, sounds odd, but the treadmill motor can be a bit loud. Also, if Kaylee is running around she likes her music on, and she likes to talk to me while I run. I also think varying the speed helps. As nice as it sounds to run a constant pace, I'm just not sure that people were realistically meant to run that way. We inevitably vary our speed throughout a run. I imagine trying to run a constant speed on the treadmill for 11 miles is even more monotonous than changing it up a bit.

Actually, I find running on the treadmill easier than doing the row machine. Sometimes I do 10K's on the row machine and it takes an enormous amount of concentration and discipline for me to finish. I can't watch a movie while I row. I have to focus the whole time. It's exhausting, which is probably why I haven't done the row machine in a while. A shame really, because rowing is an incredible workout that I really believe helps with running performance.

Training Journal Summary (1/18-1/24)
Total Miles Run: 47
Total Time Running: 6:56
Average Pace: 8:51
Total Time on Stationary Bike: 1:03
Push ups: 7 sets of 15


Running and living said...

I completely agree about both trail running and treadmill, helping prevent injuries. I love trail running more than road running, but it's an effort to go find trails, and it takes much longer to cover the same distance. I can do the treadmill for short distances - I used it on Monday bc my legs were v sore from the race. I use the strategy you describe. For some reason, though, I can't run on the mill as fast as I can on the road. My stride gets quicker and longer during sprints on the road, but not on the mill. Awesome mileage for you! So really, no future races, not even a 1/2? You don't need any additional training....no pressure, though, I know you have other priorities!

heather said...

When I started running I did it exclusively on trails because of a history of shin splints. Now I have a sore hip flexor that is screaming painful immediately on a treadmill, sore the next day after road running, but feels fine on trails. Trails are definitely best for me.

Julie said...

Hi Katie,
Another great post with such helpful treadmill information! Thank you for your treadmill smarts and good job on your high miles:)

Emily said...
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lindsay said...

i run on the TM a lot in the winter mostly because of the darkness. i can handle the cold (for the most part) although i'll admit some days i do not really want to subject myself to that :) i'm a big scaredy cat with the dark and cars though, so treadmill it often is.

i never thought about turning on subtitles! before i always cranked up the volume on the tv - treadmills are VERY loud. good call!

Jill said...

I actually don't mind the treadmill, especially for hill repeats and intervals. I've done 19 on a treadmill once and actually had a good time making a game out of it. But I still prefer the outdoors and fresh air! And there's nothing as fun as a trail run; summer's in the mountains are amazing!

Have a great weekend!!