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How to trail run on the treadmill

Eight tips to make your basement feel like the great outdoors

Trail runners are having a hard time finding spots to run these days. With many conservation areas and parks closed, it’s an uphill battle to find a spot to get your daily dose of nature and exercise. If you’ve taken to your basement to get your running done, here are some suggestions to make the treadmill feel a little bit more like the great outdoors.

RELATED: Gary Robbins runs 100 miles on treadmill in virtual race

Step One: rub some dirt on your legs

Trail running is a messy business and we want to keep this authentic, folks.

Step Two: grab your hydration pack (because cup holders are for weaklings)

You’re a trail runner—you don’t use cups holders, you carry your necessary fluids on your back. Just because you can’t run outside doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten who you are.


Step Three: put on Planet Earth

One of the best parts of trail running is the scenery. While your basement likely doesn’t exactly offer the same view, a nature program will serve as an appropriate alternative for now. Cracking a window is also a good idea so you can feel the fresh air.

(Pro tip: if you can’t crack a window, run a fan.)

Step Four: grab your trucker hat

Just because you’re running in your basement doesn’t mean you should give up on looking the part. Looking good is a big part of running well, so get your favourite gear on before you hit the basement conveyor belt.

Step Five: crank your treadmill up to its highest incline

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100 miles on a treadmill with 17,360ft of climbing. Glad that’s done & dusted! Total time = 25h53m42s Moving time = 21h58m34s Money raised for BC Search & Rescue = $15,000 Donations are still open via TrailSeries.ca/supportSAR Draw prizes given away = 62 Draw prizing value = ~ $2500 Sponsors = Salomon, Suunto, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, Princeton Tec Headlamps, Endurance Tap, Trail Butter, Drymax Socks, Coast Mountain Trail Running, Ridgeline Athletics Number of times I had to retape my third & fourth toes on my left foot back together = 4 This run really beat me up way more than I was prepared for. Prior to Saturday morning, the longest I’ve ever been on a treadmill for was two hours & that had happened just once, back in January of this year. The repetition of the movement, combined with the unique stress on my hamstrings while trying to climb 20+ degree grades, took its toll early & definitively. I believed that my Barkley specific mountain training this winter would translate directly to the pursuit of 30,000ft of climbing on a treadmill. I was dead wrong & I reworked my initial goal to just completing 100 miles on the treadmill, with a respectable amount of climbing involved. I ended up walking way more than I thought I’d have to, and I took one “time out” for an hour around 3:30am while I took my shoes off and lay on the couch for a bit, questioning my life’s choices 😊 Other than that, I kept myself locked in the garage but for the occasional bathroom break that involved going up and down the super, duper evil staircase just outside the garage door. All in all, this kinda crushed me, & I will likely never set foot on a treadmill for longer than about 60 minutes ever again. Thanks to Jamil & Aravaipa Running for their added motivation via the virtual run, & super cool 100 mile belt buckle! My wife & family are quite simply amazing! I don’t know how I would have stayed half sane throughout this endeavour, without their constant support &entertainment. Thanks to everyone who tuned into the live feed & donated to SAR! Give a listen to Dylan Bowman podcast “The Well” for further details on why I have to tape two toes together to be able to run.

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Over the weekend, Gary Robbins went for a run on his treadmill, and he didn’t stop for almost 26 hours. Running for 26 hours is hard enough, but Robbins made it even tougher on himself by climbing around 17,500 feet in addition to running 100 miles. So put your incline as high as it’ll go and start climbing, because trail running is all about the hills.

Step Six: regret your (possibly) ambitious incline and lower it

We don’t all have to be Gary Robbins–and just like on a real trail, what goes up must come down.

Step Seven: leave something heavy on your path from the treadmill to the washroom

This way you can (if you’re lucky) trip on something just like you would outside.

Step Eight: have a nap outside

Usually, you’d go for a really long run outside and come home to nap indoors. But when trail running on a treadmill, we recommend (if possible) taking a snooze on your porch or balcony for your daily dose of fresh air. Because even though the treadmill can accomplish altitude, it misses the mark on the sunshine.

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