Winter is here on the Western Slope of the Rockies; long dark nights, cold temperatures, trails buried under several feet of soft snow, roads under a treacherous mixture of softpack, hardpack, ice, and hidden-ice. It’s still possible to get out and run for endurance training, but pace? Fu-gedd-abou-dit!
One answer (short of expensive trips to warmer climes) is the treadmill, and one way to use those treadmill workouts – and make them less stultifying – is what I call Wintervals – an interval workout on the ‘mill.
Over five or six minutes of warm-up, (with at least 1% of incline, to take the place of air resistance) work yourself up to a resting pace; whatever that is for you. (I use a minute or two longer per mile than overall hemithon time.)
(This works best on a ‘mill that displays PACE, but if yours only gives MPH, you can do your conversions sometime on a calculator and memorize them, or just remember a few helpful landmarks along the scale and interpolate between them. 5 MPH = 12 min. pace, and 6 mph = 10 min. are nice round ones, then “7.5 MPH = 8 minute pace,” and “8 MPH = 7.5” are easy to remember ‘cause they’re sort of reciprocals. 10 MPH = an even 6 min pace if you’re at all into that league…).
Anyway, after the warm-up, accelerate to a moderately fast pace – maybe what you’d try to maintain on a shorter distance like a 5-k – and stay there for two minutes, or three or four, until your heart rate and breathing get up pretty high, then drop back to resting pace to recover to a moderate level of breathing.
After two minutes recovery, accelerate rapidly to a 30-seconds-faster pace for two minutes (if you can maintain that long, or one if not), then drop back, for two or three minutes. Repeat similar intervals, increasing the fast pace each time, shortening its duration if necessary, until you reach a pace you can only maintain for 30 seconds. Then cool-down and head for the shower.
(If you’re using a monitor, you can gauge the paces and durations by heart rate – the goal is to push to a peak rate for a minute or two, then rest until it drops down to a cruising rate, then push again. What I find interesting, is that my I hit pretty-much the same max heart rate, even as the interval paces get faster – one of the reasons I think this interval workout may help to increase overall cardio effectiveness and build speed for the future.) Another benefit of the format is that anticipating, implementing and keeping track of all those intervals, paces and times breaks up the workout and keeps the mind occupied, making it seem to go much faster than just maintaining a single pace on a moving rubber belt while Judge Judy rambles on.)
I find about five increasing-pace intervals gets me to where it’s just not safe to push the pace any faster (legs getting fatigued so’s I can barely keep up with the belt – falling on a treadmill would not only be harmful, but really, really embarrassing, in a public gym …). With warm-up and cool-down, that’s about a 30 minute workout. If you want more, instead of going directly to cool-down, try stepping the pace back down in similar increments, each interval a little less fast, but longer duration. Or/and, add hill-work intervals, each one at a steeper incline until you reach a combination of pace and incline you can only hold for thirty seconds. That can extend the workout into the forty- or fifty-minute range, and guaranteed jelly-legs territory…)
I try to do these workouts at least once a week thru the winter; to build/maintain maximum foot speed and sprinting pace, as well as overall oxygen-processing ability. Combined with longer and necessarily-slower outdoor runs, Wintervals help me maintain a good base-level of conditioning until the roads clear –
Which I know will happen…