Monday, November 23, 2015

Treadmill Time (and I'm excited)

Most runners will agree, treadmills suck*. Most runners will also agree that there is a time or place for treadmills, such as during inclement weather or to work on pace. 

As a SoCal resident, the weather that occasionally sends me inside is usually triple-digit heat in the summer. Once, while in New Orleans for work,  I had the genius idea to use a treadmill at the hotel during an unexpected very icy cold front the day AFTER freezing my tail off outside (and ripping my leggings/ scraping my knee after tripping on the uneven sidewalks in the Garden District). 

I've also used the treadmill for speedwork and to work on pacing. It's a great tool to dial in pace and hit targets. The softer surface of the treadmill is also good for recovery days. 

Now that I'm on the injured list and have not been able to run, I've discovered another great reason to use the treadmill. Last week my physical therapist cleared me to speedwalk on steep incline. Yay! Or not, I thought after it took me a very boring 33:14 to walk 2 miles with the incline set to progress to 15%. The second time I climbed on the treadmill, a fuzzy thought crossed my mind. Didn't I read once (or twice) that walking a very steep incline is equivalent to running? 

As soon as I got home, I pulled out the printed version of this CHART from my journal. The chart converts treadmill MPH pace into miles per minute equivalent by incline. Going 5 mph on the treadmill at 10% incline is equivalent to running 8:07 min/mile. Great! Okay, I can't walk that fast but I do walk my hills at an average 4 mph. Unfortunately the chart does not go below 5 mph so I used my fancy math skills (or just swagged it) and guestimated that 4 mph at 10% incline is equivalent to a 9-10 min/mile pace. 

From the and Matt Fitzgerald (love him) Workout of the Week article I distantly remember reading in February:

Research has shown that when individuals walk up a steep incline at a brisk pace, their brains use the same motor pattern that they use to run at the same speed on the same grade. In other words, at a given speed, there’s a certain gradient at which the difference between walking and running disappears. That’s significant, because it’s primarily the motor pattern that the brain uses to produce a given type of aerobic activity that determines how much the cardiovascular benefits carry over to running. Therefore, walking briskly on a steep incline stands to improve your running almost as much as running itself. 
Read more at: Workout of the Week: Steep Uphill Treadmill Walking

Reframing steep treadmill walking as a running equivalent has excited me. I'm at the point in my recovery where I am itching to run, but know I shouldn't (getting better, almost there!). 

Have you discovered steep incline treadmill walking? Am I last to the party?

*I once met an Alaskan marathoner who does ALL his training runs on the treadmill. He probably doesn't think they suck.

Friday, November 13, 2015


The hardest part of my injury is that it hit me when I was in my training groove. I was feeling strong. I was hitting my targets. I even felt my mental game was ON and that I could conquer my nemesis distance--the marathon--and fly. 

Every day I don't run I feel my fitness slowly leave my body. 

I'm struggling with doubt. Doubt that I'll ever heal. Doubt that I'll be able to run strong and fit again. And with doubt comes depression.

Last weekend I captain'd a team for Ragnar Las Vegas. Prior to the race, I was running a little bit--low mileage and only every few days. I shouldn't have been running at all. I was still feeling pain and my running mechanics were off. I was scheduled for 4 legs (we were down a runner) and I didn't want to go into the race unprepared. 

My leg started bothering me during my 2nd leg and I ended up having to walk/run my 3rd leg. I was crying on an isolated trail in the middle of night with an occasional speedy (they're all speedy when you're walking) runner passing me. They would cheer me on saying things like You've got this and You're almost there, only 2 more miles! which only made me feel worse. My 3rd leg was *just* 8 miles. A distance I used to be able to do in my sleep. :( I ended up not running my 4th leg and one of my teammates ended up running a total of 6 legs (!) to cover that one for me. 

Now that Ragnar is over and I've deferred my registration for CIM, I'm finally doing the smart thing and not running again until I feel no pain doing a single-leg squat. I'm continuing with physical therapy...I've added glute strengthening exercises to the glute activation exercises. I'm scheduled for an OMT session with my DO. I'm cross-training like crazy, cycle classes mostly, to keep my cardio fitness.

I feel I'm doing everything right. I feel my glutes getting stronger. I feel less pain in my leg and haven't had to take pain pills in almost a week. 

In spite of all that, I'm doubting. I'm unsure. I'm scared. One thing I've learned through years of running, is that the sport isn't a check box. It's feeling and passion. It's the joy of finishing a tough long run, of lacing up my shoes to explore new places, of conquering barriers.

I need to believe.