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.


  1. Wow! This is fascinating, Wendy! I guess I shouldn't complain, then, about the steep hill that I have to climb every morning to get from my car to my office - ha! I can never figure out why I'm out of breath in the summer, after I've made it up the hill; after reading this, I can tell myself that it's just extra training. :) I'm so glad to hear that you are making such great progress!

  2. Very interesting and I think a great way to stay motivated while you recover! I've never set my treadmill to that steep of an incline so can only imagine how difficult it must be, even to walk. No doubt doing these incline workouts will help you maintain fitness until you're ready to run again :)