Becoming Bonkproof
Run Hard, Train Smart, Anybody Can be a Bonkproof Athlete


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I was a self-proclaimed “treadmill hater” for some time.  I agreed with the general sentiment: the “dreadmill” was more of a punishment for not getting outside in a timely manner, or a substitution for a real run when stuck at a hotel on business trips. And so I would slog through, like everyone else…bored, just getting the miles in, not putting much into it.

Something changed: I decided to treat the treadmill as it is – a training aid.  The ‘mill actually has a number of benefits, so treadmill workouts can be a real value-add for training. Maybe some of the following areas are weak spots for you? Try visiting a treadmill near you to give them a boost.

  1. Pacing: If you are trying to get used to running a certain pace (goal pace, tempo pace, speed pace), you’ll be happy to find that every single treadmill out there will tell you exactly how fast and at what pace you are running.  There’s the physical training benefit of getting acclimated to a certain pace, and remembering exactly how it feels.  There’s also the mental benefit of being able maintain a tough pace for mile after mile – that belt is going to keep on rolling, and as long as you keep your focus up, you’ll break through the feeling to give up.
  2. Leg Impact: The treadmill offers some much needed respite from the blacktop for many.  If you don’t get a chance to run trails, or if you’ve just been looking for a change of surface, the treadmill will give you a little more shock absorption for your run. The treadmill also gives some feedback to the runner – if you are landing harder than you should, the noise will naturally help you adjust to a more light-footed stride.
  3. Eats and Drinks:If you are struggling with how to handle a cup, or bottle, or gel pack, or anything during a race, stuff the treadmills receptacle space with some samples and practice.  Once you work out a routine that works for you, take it out on the road.
  4. Amenities: OK, this isn’t something to struggle with, unless you’re in extreme weather conditions.  But, the treadmill generally sits in a place with air conditioning, access to water and/or snacks, TVs, and other goodies.  Let’s face it, sometimes just getting out of the elements helps improve our outlook.
  5. Form: Generally, treadmills are situated near a mirror or plate glass.  If you’re working on form drills, go ahead and use the treadmill as a place to do them.  There is a reason dancers dance in front of a mirror – when you can actually see what you are doing form-wise, you can improve upon it.
  6. Strength: Another thing generally in close proximity to treadmills is strength apparatus.  This gives you the perfect opportunity for an extra boost in your workout.

My befriending of the treadmill has been a success.  This week, I hammered out 8 tempo miles at a pace that I was running in 10k races. The workout built confidence, muscle memory, and allowed me to concentrate on finding the most efficient stride while I ran in front of reflective glass.  I’ll be revisiting the ‘mill again, but without the “dread.”


Here are a few more of my own quick tips for treadmill runs, in case you’re still struggling with the idea:

  • Set the incline to 0.5-1.0%.  This will counteract the fact that the treadmill is doing some work for you and make the run simulate real life much better.
  • Try different treadmills until you find one that works for you. Not all types of treadmills are alike.  I love a sturdy, simple treadmill with a thick belt and very few bells and whistles.
  • Don’t worry about how much you are sweating – revel in it. Get over the embarrassment, and then clean up very well afterwards.
  • Wrap your towel (if you have one) around the bar or stuff it in one of the drink holders.  A dropped item could lead to a fall (which I have experienced in my day).

You’ve finished your run for the day – time to get hydrated, have a snack, and relax, right?  Actually, just completing the run and then shifting back to non-exercise mode isn’t the best way to keep yourself injury-free.  Also, adding some additional components to your post-workout routine will provide tremendous benefits on race day.  These are essential complimentary activities to build a bonkproof runner.  Below is a sample post-run workout that should accomplish a few things:

  1. Add strength in complimentary muscles that will give legs a “rest” on race day and prevent joint impact injuries
  2. Provide an active cool down to allow lactic acid to buffer and be removed from cells
  3. Improve flexibility without straining already taxed muscles
  4. Continue honing the mind to push through fatigue and “finish the drill”

First a bit of a disclaimer: I have not been practicing what I am about to preach (not as often as I should, at least).  Writing this post serves notice to myself that I need to do a better job of completing this work.

Sample Post-Run Workout:

  • First, get some liquids and calories.  Not a ton, but enough to make up for what you lost during the run.  Think of it like a normal mid-race refueling.
  • Throw in a couple of upper body strength exercises.  I like classics that cover several muscle groups at once:
    • Pushups – A few sets of 10-12 (but while you’re at it, why not just do the 100 Pushups Program, right?)
    • Chin-ups – A few sets of however many I can muster (these are great for training arms to be strong at the “runner’s motion”)
  • Work on your core.  This will help you maintain form and stay efficient late in races.  These are a few options – you can Google any of them to see how they’re done.
    • Planks (with or without leg lifts)
    • Side Planks (with or without arm raises)
    • Bicycles
    • Supermans
    • Bridges
  • Finish it up with some yoga poses.  These are a few of my favorites (which always make me feel better on my next run):
    • Pigeon Pose
    • Fan Pose
    • Down Dog
    • Warrior Pose

You don’t need to do these every day you run, but it helps to do this a few times a week.  Try these exercises or some similar work that you like, and you’ll probably find that you’ll be running faster and farther soon while feeling better.