The Surprising Secret To Better, Stronger Outdoor Runs

The Surprising Secret To Better, Stronger Outdoor Runs Hero Image
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As the temperatures drop, a 7 a.m. jog around your neighborhood might not seem quite as appealing as it was back in May. But that doesn't mean you should give up running altogether—in fact, spending time on the treadmill can be a great way to become a stronger runner when you do feel like braving a winter run.

Even if that day never comes (we don't blame you), certain treadmill exercises can be a great way to build up strength and prepare for the runs ahead of you in the warmer months.

Here are five treadmill hacks that will make your outdoor runs stronger:

1. Use the screen.

"If you're new to running, inserting walk breaks into your run is a great way to build up your volume while reducing the injury risk," running coach Katya Meyers tells mbg. "For example, I'll often have athletes start with a 3:2 run/walk ratio, then progress to 4:1 and eventually 9:1 ratio before eliminating the walking entirely. This can obviously be done outdoors, as well, but the treadmill is great place to start because having that screen right in front of you can really help keep you accountable."

2. Use the incline feature.

"The incline option is probably the most underutilized feature on the treadmill," Katya notes. "Strong uphill walking is a serious calorie blaster and cardio-fitness enhancer. It also allows you to get all the benefits of uphill running without the downhill pounding that you would get in a normal hill repeat workout outside."

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3. Take advantage of the fact that everything is in your control.

"When you are on a treadmill, pretty much everything around you is controlled: the air temperature is constant," Mile High Run Club coach Karlyle Alvino tells mbg. "There are no potholes or curbs to look out for; there are no taxis, bikers, or other cars to worry about. There will not be a random rain shower; you don't have to concern yourself with a hat to block the sun or applying extra sunscreen...you get the point. So with all of these extraneous factors held constant, you will be able to truly focus on your form and, more importantly, your form efficiency. Take advantage of this! Eyes up, shoulders back, hips forward, head over shoulders over hips over feet! Don't forget to breathe."

4. Try the tempo run.

"We all know that interval training is supposed to be better for us than plain running at a constant speed. But have you ever wondered why? Let's talk muscle fibers, anaerobic threshold, and lactate threshold. The more you vary your speeds and challenge your body, the more muscle fibers you will fire," Karlyle explains. "You will be able to nail down your anaerobic threshold and your lactate threshold speeds and efforts to the point of understanding exactly how you feel when you hit those paces. The anaerobic threshold paces will be faster and last for shorter interval times while the lactate threshold speeds will be more manageable over a slightly longer amount of time.

The perk of doing these workouts on a treadmill versus outdoors in the winter? On the treadmill you can program specific speeds and very easily log workouts so that you can track progress and test your improvements each workout. You will be able to laser focus in on different factors and how they are affecting your performance since you won't be able to blame the weather, traffic, etc."

5. The hill drill.

"Finding adequate hills to train on is hard enough, not to mention hills/bridges covered in snow and ice," Karlyle notes. "For these reasons and more, hill training on the treadmill is an awesome tool. Training on hills is beneficial to your overall running success because it teaches your body to recruit your larger muscle groups and helps to activate the firing of more muscle fibers that are not being fired up on the flat road during your tempo intervals. The more muscle fibers that fire when you run, the better and more efficient your running economy will be."


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