I’ve been looking down on treadmill running for as long as I can remember. I never really understood why one would run inside, staring at a wall. All “advantages” like “you can run in any weather” and “you can watch TV while running” fell on deaf ears. After all, I could run in any weather too if I dressed appropriatly. And I could watch the world while running which beats any TV show in my opinion.
Ironically, around the time I started to really fall in love with trail & mountain running, all of that changed.
Hills. I needed to train more hills. I started with the closest climb: The notorious “poelberg“. With a positive altitude difference of 22m, hardly a mountain. Still, if you run up & down a few times, it starts to get heavy sooner or later. Not much later, I’d move to the “skiberg” in Ghent. A bit longer maybe, but more or less the same thing: endless up-and-down running in order to achieve some kind of positive altitude gain worth mentioning.
Still, mountains are different. On these hills, every effort would be followed by a short period of recovery. By the time I’d ran down, my heartbeat had lowered and I was ready for another sprint up, kind of an interval workout really. Mountains don’t work that way. Mountains are slow killers. They go on and on forever. Behind every turn, there’s another stretch of road that goes nowhere but up. And after the first 22m of positive altitude gain, there’s no decent but instead another 22m. And another 22… And as far as I know, there’s not one place in Flanders where you can do more than a 100m of subsequent climbing. Not one. So that’s where the treadmill comes in.
I started doing altitude workouts on the treadmill about a year ago, in full preparation for the “Loop van Vlaanderen”. I’d do a short warmup and then switch to 5% incline at 10k/h, followed by an interval of 10%, back to 5%, 10% again and so on for about an hour or more. Every now and then I’d lower the speed some more and go to 15% incline, just to get used to the feeling. I became 20th in the “Loop van Vlaanderen” and decided to continue my treadmill workouts.
Since, I’ve found myself some ways to keep things fun. The interval training is one way. Changing between soft inclines and really steep ones keeps you focussed, eye on the timer and pushing yourself to finish that 12% interval… one minute more… and done! Of course, you can watch some tv show and listen to some music too, but I find it rather hard to focus on those while pushing myself to the limit.
Either way, dear treadmill, I’ll never judge you again!
To finish off, a really cool promo video from BOIC about Belgium & mountains. Somewhat related 😉