My journey into running began in much the same way as many people start out. Back then I wanted to be fitter and thinner, and knew enough about exercise to know that cardio was the way to do it. I often saw svelte and toned ‘real’ runners effortlessly gliding along the streets, and quite fancied it; particularly the svelte and toned part! But I was plagued with those doubts you have to overcome as a beginner; was I fit enough to run continuously? Would people laugh at me for running slowly or for having a silly style? Where would I run? Who would I run with? What if I got lost and ran out of energy to carry on? These barriers were overcome all at once by one miraculous machine…the treadmill! And so, as it goes with so many new runners, the treadmill was my running coach/buddy/time-keeper for sometime, and I was content running in place facing a wall, with only music for motivation. That was until I took part in my first road race, and caught the bug for actually moving as I ran. The constantly changing scenery and varied terrain felt awesome, and the treadmill lost it’s charm, becoming the last resort; used only when staying in airport hotels or as a brief warm-up for a gym workout.
Well now the time has come to re-visit my old friend the treadmill. I’m living in Whistler for the remainder of the winter, where you cannot escape the snow and ice until April (or May if last year is anything to go by!). Although this doesn’t bother me and I have a great time trudging through the snow on my runs. I’ve made a promise to myself this year to work at my speed and that means interval-running several times a week – something that just can’t be safely performed in the snow. To quote December’s Running Times, ‘Real runners run on treadmills’. So with that mantra in my head, this week I began substituting two of my outdoor runs for short but intense treadmill intervals, focusing on running at those uncomfortable speeds that I can only seem to muster up at starts and finishes of races. It was hard work, but until now I’d forgotten the advantages the treadmill offers, particularly for speedwork. When I run intervals outdoors I often drift off pace because my mind wanders and my legs return to default ‘comfy’ pace. The treadmill does not allow this without a conscious effort to lower the speed, so for me it seems like a more honest speed session, in which I’m also forced to stick at a true recovery pace between intervals; something I’m also terrible at outdoors.
So in the battle of treadmill Vs trudging, both have their place in my training this winter, which not only prepares me for the summer of races, but also lightens the load on my washing machine without quite as many layers of running gear to wash!