I live in Boston, and I’m training for a marathon this spring. I’ve been doing all my long runs on a treadmill due to #snowmageddon, and I’m up to 16 miles. Do you have any tips to help get me through the boredom? Also, how do I transition back to the roads if the weather ever improves? —Stephanie
Kudos to you for taking your training to the treadmill this season. The key to marathon preparation is to train with quality and consistency, which you can accomplish on a treadmill. That said, running longer than an hour on a treadmill can be—yawn!—boring, because of the lack of stimulation and scenery change that outdoor long runs provide.
However, it is possible to simulate an outdoor long run indoors without going crazy. Here are my three favorite strategies.
Eat the elephant one bite at a time. One of the worst parts of an indoor long run is imagining the hours you’ll spend running in place. Instead, change something (the incline, the speed, your focus) every quarter mile. You’ll be more engaged, and it’ll be more similar to an outdoor long run. Try this:
- At 0.25 of every mile Increase the pace by 0.2 to 0.3 mph for 30 to 60 seconds to change up your stride. When you return to your slower long run pace, it will feel easier.
- At 0.50 of every mile Perform a head-to-toe form inventory to shift your focus from the run to your body. Relax your shoulders, swing your arms parallel to one another, and center your shoulders over your hips. Count how many times your right foot hits the belt for 60 seconds. The ideal cadence is around 85 to 92 right strides per minute.
- At 0.75 of every mile Increase the incline slightly to two to three percent, or just enough to make it feel a little more challenging. You’ll use different muscles and build strength. If your goal race is hilly, use the treadmill to exactly simulate the inclines and declines of your course.
- At the mile marker Before you begin, write out a numbered list that corresponds to the number of miles you’re planning to run. Dedicate each mile to a person or charity that’s important to you, or spend a mile focusing on a mantra or visualizing part of your goal race’s course. This gives your mind a positive distraction for each mile.
Entertain yourself. Binge-watching television shows or inspiring running movies while on the treadmill helps pass the time and keep you engaged. If a screen isn’t available, listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or a custom running playlist. It’s an obvious strategy, but it works to fight boredom.
Break it into two separate runs. If nothing can help you fathom the idea of completing your full distance in one shot, you can break up the run into two shorter runs that total your target distance. For example, if you need to run 16 miles, you could run 10 miles in the morning and another six in the afternoon. To learn more about splitting up long runs,click here.
For those who are training full-time on a treadmill due to bad weather, be cautious when transitioning back to roads or trails. Move shorter runs outside before you tackle an outdoor long run. It’s also wise to train by effort instead of pace at all times, since your pace will vary from inside to outside.
In the end, it’s all about getting in the time on your feet and simulating the changes in speed and terrain a runner experiences during an outdoor long run. Have faith in your preparation this season. Although treadmill running differs from road running, it is a very effective way to prepare for a marathon.
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