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Treadmill training for triathletes

Triathlon training - running tips for treadmill training

If you’re a triathlete aiming to improve your running over the off-season, don’t fear the treadmill. For many, the “dreadmill” is a last resort when temperatures in the winter dip so low we feel we just can’t go outside for our run. But there are several benefits of treadmill training, many of which contribute to pros like Ironman Arizona winner Lionel Sanders doing the majority, if not all, of their training on it.

In an interview this past summer, Sanders told reporters he prefers to do the majority of his runs on a treadmill, citing absence of traffic and softer impact as main reasons. He warns that treadmill training prevents triathletes from practicing running the road curves they may find on a race course, but allows for easy brick workouts and controlled pace.

Controlled pace is indeed one of the best reasons to pick the treadmill for some of your workouts this off-season. Donna Foster-Larocque, a running and triathlon coach from Montreal, regularly programs treadmill workouts for her clients, especially those looking to improve their speed. “I like it because it’s hard to cheat — training on a treadmill helps you to maintain a consistent pace where as if you were to run outside, your body will automatically start to adjust or slow down when it starts to fatigue. On a treadmill, if your body starts to fatigue, you have to manually slow the treadmill down or jump off to the side,” she says. “You can also fit a great workout into a short amount of time on a treadmill. I’m working with a triathlete right now who wants to bring her 5 km time down. I have her running many of her interval workouts on the treadmill to ensure a consistent incline and pace. These workouts are between 25 and 35 minutes but provide great results.”

Top three tips for treadmill running

  • Warm up: It’s not a good idea to just jump on the treadmill and go. Don’t forget to perform a dynamic warm up before you get on. This should engage your whole body and even include some brisk walking.
  • Come prepared: Plan your workout ahead of time to make the most of your time on the treadmill. To truly reap the benefits of treadmill running, look at the settings on the machine ahead of time to know what speed and incline would translate to for a regular run. Design your plan around that.
  • Cadence and foot strike: Since you don’t have to worry about traffic, stoplights, or any other distractions while on a treadmill, use the time to focus on your cadence. An increased cadence equals increased speed. Many coaches will recommend 180 steps per minute as a guideline. If you’re aware of any problems with your foot striking, this is also a great time to fix it because all you have to focus on is your running.

Here is a great treadmill interval workout from Foster-Larocque to help you build speed.

With a 0.5 or 1 % incline:

0-3:00 minutes                 6.0

3-5:00 minutes                 7.0

5-6:00 minutes                 6.5

6-8:00 minutes                 7.5

8-9:00 minutes                 6.5

9-11:00 minutes              8.0

11-12:00 minutes            6.5

12-14:00 minutes            8.5

14-15:00 minutes:          6.5

15-17:00 minutes:          7.0

17-18:00 minutes:          6.5

18-20:00 minutes:          7.5

20-21:00 minutes:           6.5

21-23:00 minutes:          8.0

23-24:00 minutes:          6.5

24-26:00 minutes:          8.5

26-27:00 minutes:          6.5

27-27:30 minutes:          9.0

27-30:00 minutes:          5.5-6.0