There are a few locations across the continental USA that boast perfect training weather year-round. I can tell you from first-hand experience that Chicago, Texas, and Washington state are NOT those places. Whether you have six months of frigid winter (Chicago), six months of sweltering summer (Texas), or intermittent gale-force windstorms taking down trees and power lines (Washington), it can be hugely beneficial to have some indoor training hacks to keep you motivated and engaged no matter the weather.
While the growing sophistication of indoor cycling platforms such as Zwift and TrainerRoad have revolutionized bike training for all, the development of parallel running technology has been lagging simply due to the nature of the activity. However, there ARE some simple and effective ways to mix things up when you’re stuck inside on the hamster wheel.
STAIRMASTER — Stairs are one of my favorite things to write into runners’ and triathletes’ training plans. The key to getting the MOST out of your stairs is in the technique, not the overall speed. Ideally, you will not hold on to the railings and instead support yourself by engaging your core. Similarly, pay attention to your knee tracking so that it’s over your fourth toe as you plant your foot and extend through the step. This movement will benefit your run form by activating your hip and gluteal muscles, and you’ll also feel a turbo-boost when you hit the hills on your next outdoor run! Want to work stairs into your indoor run routine? Try using stairs as a 10-minute warm-up before your run. If you want the stairs to be the main show, alternate single steps and double steps at set intervals.
STEP-UPS — Following the same form as you would on the stair-master, simply use a 20”-24” box instead. You can do this as continuous effort for a set time, such as 30-minutes. Another approach is to integrate high-intensity intervals, such as 20x 25 steps on 90sec. The correct movement pattern is right up, left up, right down, left down (that’s one!), left up, right up, left down, right down (that’s two!), repeat, repeat, repeat!
TREAD-HILLS — Nothing makes a treadmill run fly by quite like some good, old-fashioned tread-hills. I was skeptical at first, but after trying a couple of workouts written by a colleague, I was a believer!! As the name suggests, the focus is on increasing the incline rather than the pace. And full disclosure, you will likely need to run at a slower pace than you’re used to, depending on how steep the incline is that you are climbing. For example, try 5mins at 1% into 5mins at 3% incline. Then roll into 3x 6mins as 2min @ 1/3/5% incline. Boom! 30 minutes is done before you know it!
STRENGTH INTERVALS — There are a number of bodyweight strength exercises that can greatly benefit your running and also serve to reduce pain resulting from muscle imbalances and/or muscle weakness. These include standing lunges, air squats, single-leg hop, double-leg hop, skater jumps, heel raises, and more! As always, be sure to consult a reliable resource or local coach if you are unsure of correct form. You can easily break up a run workout into 5-minute run intervals broken up by 1-minute strength intervals and your treadmill minutes will be a breeze!
I dare you to try to work these in to your typical training routine! Not only will those indoor run workouts FLY by, but you’ll also see some huge benefits from the sport-specific strength integrated into these exercises.