This guest post is brought to you by Whitney Heins, founder of The Mother Runners, a place where moms who run or want to run can find information and inspiration to chase their dreams. Whitney is a former journalist who works from home with her two small children. She is currently training to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon! Can you think of a better resource for treadmill tips for moms, or anyone for that matter? Because I can’t, and I’m so excited to share some of her amazing recommendations.
Treadmill Tips For Moms
There are so many wonderful things that come with becoming a mom: Not being able to go for a run whenever you want is not one of them.
Enter treadmill running.
Not being able to run on a whim was one of the biggest adjustments for me as a new mom. I’m a person who has to get her run in, so that meant getting creative when it came to fitting in exercise—no more just lacing up my shoes and heading out the door. I had to adapt to pushing a stroller and keeping my baby happy while doing so. And, I also had to embrace treadmill running when the opportunity arose.
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These opportunities were usually during nap time or early morning when my husband was running, and I was home with a sleeping baby.
While treadmill running is much different than running outside, you can get the same results. I know plenty of mamas who have slayed distances from 5ks to ultra-marathons training almost solely on a treadmill.
I also know mamas who have gotten so used to treadmill running that they prefer it to outdoor running or love it as another option.
I’ve rounded up these mother runners’ treadmill running tips, along with those from running coaches and pro runners, so that moms, new and old, can use treadmill running to get in shape, stay in shape, and get faster.
Entertain the kids.
First thing’s first, you got to make sure your kids are happy, otherwise mama is not going to get her run in—and that means mama won’t be happy. There are two basic rules when it comes to treadmill running with kids—have a designated space and employ novelty.
Former pro-runner for New Balance, Sarah Brown, has a gate set-up (change to gated area set up) in her workout room that her daughters can play in, keeping little fingers safe from getting pinched in exercise equipment. To keep them entertained, she switches out toys so that there’s always something new. Mother runner Meredith set up a craft area for her girls and calls it their “special art room.” She also has a dress-up box and will have the girls look at books and tell her what they see. “It definitely takes more oxygen, but it’s worth it!”
Other mother runners employ tablets or movies “to have some peace.” There’s no judgment here, mama. You got to do what you got to do! And if that means screen time, so be it! New moms with infants usually wait for the baby to sleep, setting up a rocker or MamaRoo near the treadmill or having the baby monitor on hand.
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The biggest complaint about treadmill running is boredom. But YOU CAN beat the boredom. In fact, today, you have so many resources at your disposal to pass the miles. Watch Netflix and Hulu. Download movies and shows. Listen to audio books, podcasts, and music. Some mamas even read books and magazines, using clothes pins to keep the pages from flapping. Heck, you can even call a friend or family member.
Download these apps to help.
Don’t limit yourself to just running a certain number of miles at the same speed. Variety is the spice of life and your smart phone or watch is just what you need to get a taste:
- The Peloton app offers guided runs on demand or live.
- The Fit Radio and Rocky My Run apps have heart-pumping music to keep you moving.
- The Nike Run Club is great if you’re training for a specific distance with its personalized coaching, training plans, and guided runs.
- And, the Zwift app is an at-home virtual training app that allows you to run in the real world and explore scenic courses through your smart phone screen.
Mix it up.
Speaking of variety, running outside gives you a nice mix of inclines and declines—a.k.a. hills. To mimic running outside, always run at a minimum .1 incline and then vary the incline throughout your run. This will better prepare you for outdoor running, burn more calories, prevent overuse injuries, and improve your fitness. Some people also like to warm-up with a power walk at a super high incline of 10 or 15, making the .1 steady incline feel less difficult.
Use the tools.
Chances are your treadmill offers some great workouts in and of itself including speed, hill training, fat-burning, and power hiking, to name a few. Use these to work different muscles and up your cardio game. (And check-out this list of the 5 best budget-friendly treadmills. Most mother runners agree, you need to spend at least $500 to get a quality treadmill. Go under that, and you risk getting one with little cushion and a high-risk for injury.)
Run like you would outside.
There is a danger of head and neck strain running on a treadmill. “When you look up over the treadmill, your rib cage tips upwards. This limits mobility of the diaphragm—the muscle that allows you to breathe,” says run coach Janet Yiu. “This can increase neck and shoulder tightness and even limit your running workout because you can’t catch your breath.”
The best way to avoid this is to run like you would outside. Outside you vary your gaze by looking ahead and down at the ground. Do this by aiming your eyes towards the bottom of the screen. This helps you avoid straining your diaphragm and messing up your breathing,
GPS watches like Garmin aren’t always the most accurate when it comes to tracking your pace and distance because they focus on your stride length among other body mechanics which are likely altered running on a treadmill. If you want accuracy, get a footpod. Footpods are a small device that attach to your shoe and contain a calibrated accelerometer that calculates the movement of your foot across a range of strides and paces. Check out these popular brands of footpods here.
You know that saying, a watched pot never boils? The same goes for a watched treadmill. The numbers never seem to go up fast enough. Spare yourself through distraction. Mamas like to do speed intervals to pass the time or don’t allow themselves to look at the treadmill screen until a show ends, a commercial comes on, or a certain number of songs play. You can cover the treadmill screen with a towel or shirt to keep you from cheating.
Don’t call it a dreadmill.
Treadmills have a bad rep. But so many moms are reliant on it to get their workouts in, so focus on their attributes like nearby bathrooms, controlled temperature, and a place to put your stuff.
These mother runners see it as an opportunity. “The treadmill is a tool to help me achieve my goals,” says mother runner Kristen, who is aiming for a Boston marathon qualifying time. “Change in my perspective has done wonders for my workouts.”
For many of us, running outside is, well, a breath of fresh air (especially needed when you are a new mom and often feel isolated). Treadmill running is a way to keep taking care of yourself, get those endorphins flowing, and get ready to hit the roads should you have the chance.
Fly, mama, fly!
Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners, a place where moms who run or want to run can find information and inspiration to chase their dreams. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook at @themotherrunners.