Due to cold weather and lack of daylight hours, I've been training for my first race (the Toronto Sporting Life 10K) exclusively on a treadmill. Will I be prepared to run outdoors, and will it be harder?
Although running on a treadmill can be easier than running outside due to the elements, terrain and the fact you're not propelling yourself forward but keeping up with the tread, it is still a very effective way to train for the race.
It's convenient and safe during the dark, icy days of winter, and consistency plays a vital role in reaching the starting line healthy and ready to tackle the distance.
That said, there are some strategies you can implement for a safe transition to the roads when the weather breaks this season. Let's hope for an early spring.
Include a full-body strength training routine two to three times a week, including single-leg squats, lunges, hip extension off a stability ball, push ups and planks. Overall muscular strength helps you maintain good running form, which translates into faster performances. Also, stronger muscles will act like shock absorbers and help offset the more demanding impact forces from the harder surface of the road.
A month before the race, aim to run outside at least once a week. Focus on running by effort (how you feel) rather than setting a specific pace. If you fall in love with outdoor running, transition the rest of your runs at a rate of no more than one per week (shorter runs first) to avoid muscle soreness and allow your body to adapt.
Incorporate one hilly treadmill workout each week in your regimen. Running at a random incline (hill program or repeats) of 1 to 4 per cent will develop valuable leg strength, improve your stamina and prepare you for the race's rolling terrain.
The secret to running hills is to make friends with them. Keep your breathing at the same rate (or close to it) as on the flat terrain, which means slowing down, and shorten your stride. When you reach the top, you'll be happy rather than miserable, and ready and able to make good use of gravity on the way down. Open your stride, gently lean into the hill from your ankles, not hips (think of a ski jumper) and let go! Hills are a runner's best friend. Happy Trails.
Jenny Hadfield is the author of Running for Mortals, a certified personal trainer and official coach for the Sporting Life 10K.
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