Monthly Archives: December 2011

Winter Running: Treadmill versus Road

It’s that time of year, at least for those of us in Central Ohio, where we go to work before the sun is up and come home after it is down.  It’s cold (usually), grey, and rainy/snowy at best.  Not the most motivating weather for runners, or is it?  It is this time of year that we look to “New Year/New You” articles in all of our favorite magazines.  We make our resolutions and gyms are busy.  Sounds like we ARE in fact motivated to get fit.  By choosing to run or walk the Cap City Half or Quarter Marathon, you’ve already made the commitment to your fitness but the question is how to do that safely and hopefully enjoyably?

Treadmill Running

First, running inside is a really good option.  Many people hate the idea of running inside, but it offers some really nice benefits for runners and walkers.  Primarily, you control all of the environmental conditions – no sleet, rain, darkness, cold temperatures, wind, or potholes.  That’s really nice when darkness falls at 5pm.  You also control the pace and pitch of the hills.  Speaking of the pitch (or grade or incline) on the treadmill, make sure you are not running or walking at a pitch of zero all the time.  In order to really mimic the conditions of road running, you will need to set the incline to 1 or 2%.  You can start at 0-0.5% and adjust it upward from there.  Also, if you are running in a gym with multiple brands of treadmills try a few of them out.  You will notice that the decks (the part that you actually run on) differ in how much “spring” they have and you will probably prefer one over the other.

Ease into a new surface

If you have never run on a treadmill before or haven’t in a while and always run on the road, I suggest starting slowly.  This actually goes for anytime you change the surface that you run or walk on.  Early on in the winter, preferably before you have to run inside, take one easy run each week and do it on the treadmill.  Alternatively, start outside and do your last mile or two on the treadmill.  This gives your body and specifically your legs and feet time to get used to the new surface.  Your legs will thank you on that Saturday that you wake up to 10inches of snow and you decide to try your first 5 miler on the treadmill!

As with, outdoor running, don’t obsess about pace on your easy runs.  Run at the speed that feels easy on your easy days and don’t worry about what the number on the console says.  If you are doing speed work, it is a nice opportunity to give instant feedback but remember that the machine has to be perfectly calibrated to be accurate!

Run or Walk Some on the Race Surface

Similar to easing into treadmill running, you should do at least some of your training on the same type of surface on which the race will be run or walked.  The nice thing about Cap City is that the surface is asphalt, as are most of the roads in the northern states.  This is an odd statement, but coming from someone who trained for her first half and full marathons in the Dallas, Texas heat on concrete roads believe me asphalt is a bonus!  That being said, our bodies still need time to adjust to running and walking on the road.  We cannot expect our legs to spend all of their training time running on nice cushy treadmill decks and then easily handle the pounding of the road during the race.  Happily, we can do most of our runs on the treadmills if necessary and still get the benefits of road running with a few runs a week.  Ideally, we should run 2-3 of the weekly runs outside but that isn’t always possible.  If you can only get one run out on the road, try to make it your long run.  We build from 2 miles so your body will have plenty of time to get used to road running.

Gear Up for Winter Running – Make sure you are easy to see

I will do an entire blog on proper training and racing attire, but I want to make sure that we talk about my favorite subject: safety.  The bottom line is that it is dark more hours than it is light right now and you need to see and be seen.  Headlamps are terrific for lighting your way and making it easier for cars and others to see you.  There are really cool jackets, vests, tights, and shoes with reflective gear built in or as part of the apparel itself.  You can buy reflective tape for your jacket or your wrist, or little LED bands to go around your ankles or wrists.  If you don’t have reflective or lighted gear, get some or don’t run in the dark.  Seriously, you want to come home from each and every run.  Unfortunately, drivers are not looking for you, sometimes not even looking at the road.  Always, run against traffic so that you can see them coming and you can get out of the way if necessary.   My dad made a poignant comment to me the other day about a cyclist in his suburb of Philadelphia wearing “really cool expensive technical cycling gear, but it was all black and I could hardly see him!”  This guy was riding in the day but with the shadows and traffic he was really hard to see.  Help drivers help you and make yourself easy to see!  In addition to keeping yourself safe, you get some really cool stuff!


What is run/walk?

It’s the third week in January and Cap City Quarter and Half Marathon training are officially under way.  I get questions all the time about how to transition from walking to running and how to start increasing your mileage.  We have programs for both the half and quarter marathons on the Cap City Training page, for both beginners and intermediate runners.  Even with those, I really like the run/walk approach when you are training for a new distance.  Our schedules are set up so that you can run, walk, OR run/walk them to get ready for the races in May.  The big question is What is Run/Walk?  I am re-posting this discussion from last year, because I think it helps answer some of those questions.  Enjoy!

The easy answer is any combination of running and walking to cover a specific distance, for whatever reason.  Many use it as a transition between walking and running, by slowly increasing the amount of running time in a given workout.  It can also be used as a strategy to train and complete a 5k, half marathon, marathon, even Ironman distances!  I personally have trained for and completed my most recent marathon leg of an Ironman this way, starting with a 10 minute run/1 minute walk segment.  It is often called “The Galloway Method” after Jeff Galloway who promotes it as a primary training plan.  It works!  It works for experienced folks and those who are new to running and walking.  If you train this way, I guarantee you are in good company and believe me you ARE a runner!  Your medal is the same no matter how you get to the finish line!

How do I choose my run/walk segments?

We are going to use it as one option to train for and complete The Capital City Half Marathon and Quarter Marathon.  If you are new to running, this is a really good option.  If you are currently able to complete 2 miles 3 times per week or more, then this is a good plan for the you for the half.  If not, consider the quarter marathon or 5k and shoot for the half marathon next Spring!  We are going to have three options, but you can adjust the run/walk segments to your fitness needs.  My options are 1) 3 minute run/5 minute walk 2) 5 minute run/3 minute walk and 3) 10 minute run/1 minute walk.  Which one to choose?  I suggest that if you have not run more than 2 miles in the last 3 months, then start with #1.  If you have run more than 2 miles but not more than 5 in the last 3 months, then start with #2.  If you have run 5 miles or more in the last 3-6 months, then try #3.  You can always change the run/walk segment times as your fitness needs and goals change.

Easy running defined

The idea is that you are able to run and walk in what we call “easy” mode.  This means only that your effort is such that you can talk in complete sentences throughout your entire workout.  If you are only able to grunt a word or two, you should slow down in the running segment and/or increase your walk segment time (or both).  I will repeat this easy running discussion so many times over the course of your training that you may get sick and tired of hearing it!  It’s really important though as often runners want to train harder and harder every time, however that often does not lead to fitness gains and can lead to injury, fatigue, and disenchantment with the sport.  Run easy as you build miles and choose the run/walk segment that works for you!

Training for Cap City – Method to the Madness

Take home message – 2 components of the program: the long run and the weekday miles

I get a lot of questions about why we train the way we do or why the schedule is in minutes during the week and miles on the weekend/long run day.  The bottom line is that you need to spend time running or walking in order to get your body ready for a half or quarter marathon.  How you do that and how much time you spend depends A LOT on your prior running experience and your goals.  Our training plan is for athletes who may have run or walked a bit in their past or none at all but are currently able to complete 2 miles at least 3 times per week.  Then we go from there!

The long run – The heart and sole (or soul) of your training plan

The basic and most important part of your training schedule is your weekly long run.  We start at 2 miles and build to 11 miles.  The goal here is to get your body and mind used to being on your feet for as long or longer than you will be on race day.  You don’t need to run this fast, in fact you shouldn’t run the long run fast.  If you are pushing the pace on your long runs, you’ll be too tired and run down to complete the rest of the workouts.  Not good.  You want to be challenged by the distance but not the pace.  It is very important to be able to talk easily in sentences while running your long run.   If not, slow down.  It’s all about spending the time running or walking on these days, not trying to set a record each weekend.  I don’t mean to say that every minute will feel easy, but your pace should not be challenging you.  You should begin to enjoy your long run day.  It may sound crazy now, but it is time that you are giving to yourself to make yourself stronger, fitter, and healthier.  This is your time enjoy the gift you’ve given yourselfThe long run is the core!

Weekday runs – The set up for successful long runs and the meat of your training

The rest of the workouts are meant to set you up to have successful long runs.  Here’s the daily work of the training plan.  You need these to prepare for and recover from your long runs.  You spend a bit more time each week running during the week.  Little by little your body does its job and gets used to the stress of running and after sufficient recovery/rest it is ready for more.  Isn’t the human body amazing?

So why the weekday minutes instead of miles?

We all know that weekdays are busy and fitting in the workouts can be tough, even if you have made it a priority.  Often knowing the exact number of minutes that your workout will be can help with planning your day.  Most importantly though is that we want your weekly miles to be at whatever pace feels comfortable that day.  Again, it should feel easy and you should be able to talk in sentences.  Many times, we as runners become obsessed with our progress because it is pretty easy to track – “ran 2 miles in 21 minutes this week, maybe I can do 20 minutes next week.”  That’s great and can be very rewarding, but we want to remember that getting to the start line of the Cap City Half Marathon healthy and then crossing that finish line with a smile is our #1 goal!  The important thing is putting in the time and not necessarily how many miles you cover in that time.   More to come on how we train in the following weeks.