When temperatures hit the extremes, cold in the winter and hot in the summer, runners traditionally seek shelter by hitting their treadmills. But while you may be hitting new PR’s inside, you may be shocked to hit walls once back outside.
“Mentally, the transition is difficult because your mind expects the body to be able to run like it did on the treadmill,” says Denver Benton, running coach and creator of the Forge Trail Running Series. “However, because running is much more taxing on the road you can’t run as long and it’s more uncomfortable.”
Training for races scheduled in the cool fall months, runners can fool themselves into thinking they are ready to set new PR’s after running for several weeks or months inside on treadmills. Benton, who trains runners of all abilities in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, says he sees runners who are surprised that they were running longer and faster than they ever had before on treadmills during the steamy summer months only to fall flat once back on pavement.
“Getting back out of gym hibernation can be very frustrating at first if you’re not prepared for it,” says Benton. “On the treadmill, the machine maintains a set pace throughout the run but on the road, you constantly have to adjust the pace based on terrain, weather and how you feel.”
Setup for Success
While training on a treadmill during off-season months, runners need to keep in mind several techniques for avoiding muscle atrophy. Benton takes his runners through a series of steps to ensure a smooth transition.
Grounded in Reality
To avoid discouragement and worse yet, injury, runners should be educated on what to expect when transitioning from treadmill to road running. “Setting accurate expectations for yourself is one of the most important aspects of training,” says Benton. “Runners need to know that stepping from treadmill to the street does not equate.”
Benton advises his runners to start with an 8 to 10 week training schedule to ensure they don’t over-do it too early and cause an injury. A schedule can also help runners gain confidence from seeing improving results. In following the schedule, “we would incorporate a short road run into the weekly workouts. Each week we’ll increase the time on the road and decrease the time on the treadmill,” says Benton. “All of the remaining treadmill runs will be on an incline of 1-3. This will force the legs and joints to work harder, lessening the effects of the road.”
The easiest way to avoid the pitfalls of treadmill to road running is to never stop road running. Even if it’s only for 15 to 20 minutes a couple days a week, keep running outside during your extreme season. Also, to simulate road running on your treadmill, increase the incline gradually to work out muscles that would otherwise not get used.
Pace Yourself, Not Stress Yourself
Once back on the road, take 3 or 4 weeks and slow the pace. Benton stresses to his clients to set their pace based on how they feel rather than setting pace from a watch.
“Runners tend to rely too much on technology and not enough on the body,” says Benton. “Your body will tell you everything you need to know if you just listen to it.”
Get to the Core of It
Core work, consisting of a regular regimen of hip, abdomen and lower back exercises, can give your body a head start on recovering from weeks of treadmill running. The muscles used in road running will be stronger from the start and will better adapt when it’s time to hit the pavement again. “A quick 30 minute core workout can make all the difference in how your body responds to the road,” says Benton.
Take it Off Road
The best regimen for getting back to running on the road may be taking it off road. Benton prescribes a trail run every 2 weeks to his clients to add strength and stamina. “Running on trails provides a great change of pace, but also helps to strengthen your ankles, hips and knees,” says Benton. “I like to incorporate a trail run every couple weeks.”
- Don’t run exclusively on a treadmill. Make sure at least a third of your runs are outside on pavement even if they are short runs.
- While running on a treadmill, increase the incline gradually to work muscles that would otherwise tend to suffer atrophy.
- Take steps to increase core strength with exercises designed to workout muscles that may get weak from exclusive treadmill running.
- Educate yourself on what to expect for your transition from treadmill to road running. It may take a few weeks and runs to get your speed and stamina back on track.
- Set running pace for a few weeks based on stamina and feeling rather than a watch.
- Incorporate an off-road trail run every two weeks to help strengthen ankles, hips and knees.
About the authors
Craig Simmons Biography
Craig Simmons is an avid runner who has held numerous editing and writing posts throughout his journalism career. Craig’s work has appeared in such award winning publications as the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, the Ascension Citizen and the St. Tammany News-Banner. He was editor of the Ascension Citizen and copy editor of the Kinston Free Press in Kinston, NC. Craig resides in Baton Rouge, LA with his wife Brandy and four children. Craig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Ford Biography
Scott Ford’s passion for the nature and photography led him to start Scott Ford Photography which has blossomed into a stalwart of the Birmingham, AL community. Scott resides in Birmingham with his wife Tommie, dog Oliver and kitties Clair Kitty and Sunnie Moo. His work can be seen at http://scottfordphotography.blogspot.com. Scott can be reached at email@example.com