Long runs on treadmill

Long runs – ultra running on treadmill

Most runners running on treadmills do this for interval training and other relatively short running sessions, and then with quite high intensity and speed. However, running on treadmills is also a good alternative for ultra runners and for long runs. It may actually help you to become a better runner.

Music in your ears

Sometimes using a treadmill for a planned long run is a good alternative, simply due to weather conditions. It may also be as simple as just wanting to do something different from time to time. Do you think it will be boring to run for several hours on a treadmill? It may be boring, but if you arrange it with some assisting remedies, it can be more pleasant and entertaining. If you are running at a gym, treadmills are often placed in front of a TV, or have TV screens themselves. Most modern treadmills have the possibility to connect earphones or earplugs, so you can get sound from the TV, or you can connect your media player or smartphone. Then you can listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts etc. An option that is just as well for some, is not to have anything. Some like just to get into their own space by having sound in their ears, while others cannot stand it and want to have “peace”. We are all different and have our preferences for what to do when we are doing our long runs.

Drink enough

The temperature inside a gym may be rather high. Similarly to running outside if it is a hot and sunny day, it is important to drink enough. So, make sure you are equipped with sufficient fluid for regular intake during the run. If the run is long, e.g. longer than 30 km, you also need to bring some nutrition in addition to the fluid. As for long runs outside, it is important to start the  intake of fluid as soon as 20 minutes after the start. After this, minimum 2 dl every 20 minutes. Food intake should start around 1,5 hours after the start. My experience is that bananas, energy bars and soft potato bread works well. This is however very individual, and you need to experiement and find out yourself what is suitable for you.

Keep moderate speed

Do not set high targets for speed during such long runs. Reduce the speed, preferably to walking speed, during eating and drinking. You may even leave the mill to pick up food, go to toilet, etc. When leaving the mill, set the speed to the lowest possible. Be aware that many treadmills stop at a time limit, normally after 1 hour or after 100 minutes. Then you will need to restart. If you don’t know exactly if and when it stops, be alert when you are approaching one hour or 100 minutes. Then just push the start button, and you will be going again.

Every 20 minutes

Try to split the run into 20 minute sessions, where you drink something during every session. This is also useful to get some variation in what could be a monotonous long run without these mental and physical breaks. Walk slowly, or even leave the treadmill for a while, during the intake of nutrition.

The most common challenge you will meet when running for many hours inside, is heat and the feeling of bad air quality. Sometimes it feels like you are in bad shape, because you feel that the load is heavy in a speed you know that you easily can manage outdoors. Keep the speed low, run in a controlled manner and focus on drinking every 20 minutes, and get some nutrition every half an hour. After a few hours of running, you may also vary the inclination of the treadmill, to get some variation in the load from the surface.

Don’t put too much focus on speed, time and distance

Running on a treadmill is very measurable, and you may be disturbed by the display. The display will continuously present your speed, calory consumption, distance, how much time you have spent, etc. My experience is that it is better to hang a towel or something else in front of the display, to cover it. Pull it up from time to time to see your distance and time, but keep focus other things and not how far you have come or how fast you are running. Then you will have a better experience in the long run…




Read more about training for ultra running and nutrition during long runs here:

Author: Gjermund Sørstad

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