Originally created 09/26/00

Treadmills can be used better



It's an awkward title, and some parts are too promotional, but a new book about exercising on a treadmill is likely to find its way into the homes of many treadmill users.

Officially it's called Precor Presents: Alberto Salazar, the Treadmill Training and Workout Guide. The 125-page paperback was co-written by Len Sherman and Mr. Salazar, the world's top-ranked marathoner in 1981 and '82 and former world-record holder in the 26-mile event. It also includes contributions by running coach Jeff Galloway and others on training and nutrition.

The treadmill is often called the most-utilized piece of exercise equipment. In other words, it's the one least likely to become a clothes rack.

Many people use a treadmill in the same way, though, day after day: same speed, same incline, same duration, same intensity. Their consistency is commendable, but with a little variation they could get even more out of their treadmill time.

Treadmill Training outlines a series of programs that add variety.

The walking programs are fairly basic: Mountain Climber (one-minute intervals at alternating inclines), Climb/Descend (increasing inclines for 12 minutes, then decreasing), and Plateau (a short, slight climb, followed by 15 to 20 minutes at a higher level, then back down). They're followed by a primer on race-walking techniques. One nice tip to help beginners progress slowly and safely: Walk five minutes for every minute jogged.

Mr. Salazar's general running workout consists of 10 phases, to be done four to six times a week for three weeks. Phase 1 begins at a pace of 15 minutes per mile and alternates every quarter-mile with a 14-minute pace. Phase 10 maintains a 10-minute pace for 30 to 40 minutes. Mr. Salazar calls this "jogging"; for me it would be in-my-dreams running.

He also outlines three advanced training sessions and five 29-week marathon-training programs: beginner; "to finish," where that's the only goal; and for 4:40, 3:30 and 2:39 marathons. (Mr. Salazar's world record was 2 hours, 8 minutes, 13 seconds.)

My favorite chapter by far - perhaps because I'm not much of a runner - is the one on cross training, in which personal trainer Paul Frediani explains and demonstrates some unusual treadmill exercises: lunges, sideways and karaoke stepping, backward walking.

Mr. Frediani begins by acknowledging that treadmills aren't made for these exercises. He recommends that they be tried with a friend or trainer nearby and be incorporated into a regular treadmill routine of walking or running. But while he emphasizes that lunges, for example, should be done while holding onto the handrail and only as long as one can keep proper technique, he also says the usual emphasis on keeping the knee directly over the foot isn't as critical on a treadmill because even a slow-moving belt (.5 to 1.5 mph) pushes the leg quickly back toward the body, reducing the risk of over-reaching and straining the knee. He suggests alternating 30 seconds of lunges with 1 minute of walking; I'm working on stringing together more than one lunge on each leg.

I'd tried sideways stepping before, when training for basketball. Karaoke (crossover) stepping is even more challenging, partly because of the narrow width of the treadmill's belt.

The book also includes chapters on motivation, stretching, running principles, nutrition and buying a treadmill. Mr. Salazar's Precor preference is obvious and understandable (given the book's title), but I'm not so keen for such blending of consumer information and advertisement unless, for example, it's free with the purchase of a treadmill, instead of being sold like any other book.

By the bookPrecor Presents: Alberto Salazar, the Treadmill Training and Workout Guide is $14.95 and published by Hatherleigh Press.