The Rat Race: Treadmills

I've really come to enjoy running on the StarTrac Pro Elite treadmills at LA Fitness. Their "Impact Absorption System" does seem to reduce shock to my knees and back (compared to running on the concrete golf cart paths in my neighborhood). Having a predictable climate (it doesn't get too hot, cold, wet, windy, etc) and extended hours of operation (5am until midnight) helps remove possible excuses. The treadmills even have built-in fans to keep me cool, and there are plenty of distractions to pass the time (TVs tuned to FM frequencies, a view of the racquetball courts, etc).

Over time I've settled on three different running programs to increase the variety and keep running challenging and interesting. As a side-effect, more serious runners tell me that these three types of running compliment each other in terms of achieving peak performance...

Heart Rate is a decent indicator of health and intensity. I've found three different HR metrics are useful to track. I wear a Polar HR Monitor chest strap while running - which the treadmill detects and displays.

  1. Resting HR - just as you wake up in the morning [I'm about 47 bpm]
  2. Peak HR - at the end of your run (or during the last intense interval) [I'm about 160 bpm]
  3. Recovery HR - during the 2 minutes immediately following intense exercise (while walking @ 2.5 mph) [I'm about -50 bpm]

Here are my three treadmill programs:

1. 5K Road Race
This one is easy to setup... Just set the speed (eg: 6.8mph) and incline (I keep it level) and go. Run for 3.12 miles, followed by a 2.5 mph recovery walk.

2. Dynamic HR Intervals
This program automatically adapts to real-time bio-feedback... I tell the treadmill I'm 20 years old so that it'll let me use more aggressive settings. I cycle between 142 and 160 bpm (HR), with a maximum speed of 7 mph, for 30 minutes. I'll increase the intensity and duration over time. The treadmill detects my HR from the chest strap and slowly ramps up to max seepd (currently 7 mph) and then increases the incline (to about 5% for me, at this speed) to get my HR up to 160 bpm. Then it slowly ramps down to 0% incline and a slower speed until I recover to 142 bpm. This repeats several times. The time seems to go by more quickly than running at a set pace.

3. Sprint Intervals
By using the CUSTOM interval program, I can do moderate wind sprints. Not flat out like you might do on a track, but fast enough to get anaerobic . I'm just starting these, so I'm starting easy. This is my current sprint routine, which I'll increase over time. I'll probably alternate adjusting sprint duration and speed, and/or incline. Or I might tweak the recovery phase.

Total Distance: 4.0 miles

  • Segment #1: 0.2 miles @ 3.5 mph  (warm up)
  • Segment #2: 0.4 miles @ 5.5 mph (warm up)
  • 8 Repeats (for i=1 to 8)
    • Segment #2i+1: 0.2 miles @ 4.5 mph (interval recovery)
    • Segment #2i+2: 0.2 miles @ 8.5 mph (sprint)
  • Segment #19: 0.2 miles @ 2.5 mph (cooldown)
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