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An Ode to the Treadmill

In a state where the allure of outdoor adventures beckons, the treadmill often finds itself cast aside, perceived as a monotonous and uninspiring tool for fitness. However, beneath its unassuming appearance lies a powerhouse of potential, offering a plethora of benefits that can transform your fitness journey.

For those mornings where your winter legs and spirits aren’t rising early enough to suffer the steeps of the Nosedive Headwall on skins, or you’re tired of suiting up with 3 layers and 2 headlights for your morning run, we delve into the often-overlooked advantages of running on a treadmill and explore how this indoor running companion can be a game-changer for both beginners and seasoned athletes. Whether you’re a dedicated outdoor enthusiast or someone seeking a versatile and controlled environment for your workouts, here’s some workouts to mix things up and keep it interesting if you’re stuck indoors.


Instead of increasing the speed to a run as you get warmed up on the treadmill, continue walking but crank the incline up to 12-15%. Keep this up for anywhere to 30-75minutes and make sure to bring an extra towel. Focus hard on each stride and engaging the rear leg muscles while keeping your torso as upright as possible. It doesn’t seem like much by description, but you will undoubtedly access some core and posterior muscles (glutes, hamstrings, lower back/core) while getting a killer cardio workout. It is the perfect because it is the same muscle pattern or running without the impact or eccentric movement of going back down the hill.


If you have ever seen someone doubled over while pushing their knee down with their hands to take another step along a trail or incline, you know how miserable and tiresome it looks. To avoid being worn down and hunched over at the waist, hit  this series of exercises to get your body and lungs ready for the inclines that await.

Walk or hike at an incline on the treadmill (or even stairmaster) for 5-10minutes to get the heartrate up a bit but don’t go over the top – you shouldn’t be gasping for breath.

Set up a mat next to your machine. After the 5-10min interval get on the mat for 10-30 “Supermans” (laying prone, flex and engage your lower back, hamstrings, and scapula muscles, like you’re flying)

After that, grab a bar or just a PVC pipe and crank out 5-15 “Good mornings”

Repeat this 3-4 times. Not only will they 45-60min fly by but the workout will hit the essential muscle groups needed to get you up to the top of the mountain without bowing down to it.

If a day on the trails has ever left your calves screaming in soreness for the following few days, you are not alone. The descent from the peak back to the trailhead is a completely different animal than getting up to the top. Gravity is on your side when it comes to lungs/cardio work but it comes at the cost of the muscles in your lower leg (think ankle stabilizers and calf). Going back down the mountain leaves you more sore in these muscle groups because stepping downward is an “eccentric” movement. This means you have to work to keep the muscle from elongating. 

Get ready for the trek back down the mountain and prep your ankles to avoid injury with this routine:

10min on the treadmill either with no incline or a slight decline if the option is available. Set it to a speed that warms you up but doesn’t get you drastically out of breath. Instead of walking or running, exaggerate a tip-top stride. Try not to let your heels touch the treadmill and really push off your toes.

Get off the treadmill and do 10-20 single foot toe hops. Again, stay off the heels if you can. You can do this with a jump rope or just on your own.

After the hops, perform 10-20 calf raises. You can do these with your chest up against a wall or for an added bonus on a stability half-ball. This will help prevent rolled ankles by improving balance and stability, especially while you are tired from the tip-toes and hops.

Repeat this series 3-4 times. 


If you want to mix some faster paced stuff into your workout while also getting more hiking-focused try this one on for size. Guaranteed to give you a great workout while distracting you from the awfully slow treadmill timer.

Start off, as mentioned above, at a slower pace on 12-15% incline for 10-15min 

Then switch it to a bit faster pace while reducing the grade to 5-8% for another 10-15min.

Repeat as desired. Keep it a power walk or switch to a slower jog up the lower gradient. It will target all sorts of different leg muscles while also incorporating a great cardio workout.

Mixing things up helps to take your mind off the dreadfully slow timer on the treadmill. These routines also help to improve your muscle movement while you are cardiovascularly fatigued. It will also keep your mind on the exercises and focusing on what muscle groups to engage.

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Hitting the Hills (Better!)

Want to improve your efficiency and up your running confidence? Head for the hills.

Here’s a few tips to become a little more “vertically inclined.”

There’s obviously no shortage of hills here in the Green Mountain State but aside from just bragging about vert, you can actually use the hills to improve running on the flats too.


The pitch of the ground will naturally make you want to bend forward at the hips. Coaches often instruct runners to “stand tall” but a better thought might be to imagine you have a lasso around your waist and someone is tugging you up the hill from your waist. This will keep your glutes engaged and “un-hunch” your lower back. There is a lot of sneaky core work here that will prove beneficial on and off the hills!

Keep your neck straight. Look forward. Not at your feet.


You can use hills to naturally improve stride efficiency. It is (almost) impossible to over-stride while running up hills unless you’re really trying. If you’re a runner who’s prone to injury due to over striding, (like some knee joint pain or IT band syndrome that often sidelines you for a bit), you’ll be able to get used to what proper form feels like even on a one- to two-percent incline. As the road or trail gets even a little steeper, your stride naturally shortens, and if you’re taking shorter strides, you’ve got to take more of them to keep your pace where it was before the hill.

PACE = stride length x stride frequency (cadence)

Running hills will teach you naturally to keep your cadence nice and quick.


Running up an incline properly requires a hip drive, which means that you should use your hip flexors to drive your knee straight up and forward (instead of off to the side) and then power thru the bottom of the stride with your glute muscles. These are the biggest (relatively speaking) muscles you have, so accessing them is key.

Sometimes to start off, it is necessary to actually focus and think in your head, “Use your glutes.” A cue I often use is to think about trying to scrape off a wad of gum from the bottom of your shoe on each stride. You’ll be able to feel the difference when you are accessing the right muscles. It’s a really good kind of “pain in the butt!”


Staying upright will also keep your chest open and allow your lungs to expand fully as opposed to slouching into the vigorous huffing and puffing. Having a mantra or mental cue to use while running up hills. A deep breath, a big hand clap, or even a phrase to tell yourself, as you start up an incline can keep your mind in game and minimize the fear of a hill. Breathing deep and staying calm is key to conquering hills, as opposed to gasping for air and going up reckless abandon.


If you are training for a specific race, it is important to practice similar type hill lengths and grades as the race terrain. Doing this will have you mentally prepared for how to handle yourself and what to expect. Be prepared and know where the hills are; you should study the elevation chart and know the course you are about to race. If the hills are at the beginning or middle of the race it is probably best to run them by keeping your effort steady. Don’t go too crazy and leave your legs crushed for the rest of the race. It will help immensely if you practice consistently and know how your body will feel at each point before, during, and after the hill.

As you hit an incline your cadence naturally starts to quicken, your heart pumps faster, and your lungs beg for more oxygen. The bottom line? There’s nothing you can do that will make hills the easiest part of the run, but if you can keep good form and stay mentally focused, you’ll conquer them in no time!