How to Improve Your Outdoor Distance Running Indoors + My Running Shavasana

It’s true. You can avoid running in the icy freezing cold for 3 months then go outside on a random sunny 50 (F) degree day and CRUSH 4 hilly miles in 38 minutes. I did it and you can, too.

During the winter, I always run on the treadmill — aka the dreadmill. The dreadmill and I have a love/hate relationship. I’ve had amazing months of training on the treadmill and have also found myself getting injured on the dreadmill. However, I have found a way to utilize the dreadmill so that I stay out of the frigid cold, do not get injured, and remain well trained enough to go outside and crush 4 hilly miles in 38 minutes. How do I know that it works? Because I did it today. (I will now go back to writing ‘treadmill’)


The secret is inclined intervals. Since November, I have ONLY been running intervals on an incline on the treadmill two, three, and sometimes zero days a week. It has totally varied. I’ve followed no schedule at all. Sometimes I’ll do intervals on an incline of 5, sometimes 7, and sometimes 4. I’ll run my intervals in minutes — from 2 mins to 5 to 1. I’ll run my intervals in distance — 1/2 mile to 1 full mile. I NEVER run more than 1 mile at a time nor do I ever run more than 10 minutes at a time. It’s either 1 mile, 1/2 mile, 1/4 mile; or it’s 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. I decide what I’m going to do the day of my run while I am standing on the treadmill. If it’s been a few days, I’ll go for an incline of 4 and run 5 and 10 minute intervals which sometimes equals 1/2 and full mile intervals (at a speed of 6 mph). If it’s been 1-3 days since my last run, I’ll go for an incline of 5 or 7 and run 1-2 minute intervals. I mix it up to challenge myself, my body, my mind and my endurance.

Here’s an example of a walk/run interval that I did one day:


My two favorite ways to specifically do this are…

Option 1: when speed and incline vary

  • WARM UP: Walk for 2 minutes at a speed of 3.4 mph on a 3.5 incline
  • WARM UP cont: Walk for 3 minutes at a speed of 3.4 mph on a 5.0 incline
  • Run for 2 minutes at a speed of 5.5 mph on a 5.0 incline
  • Walk for 1 minute at a speed of 3.5 mph on a 7.0 incline
  • Run for 2 minutes at a speed of 6.0 mph on a 7.0 incline
  • Walk for 1 minute at a speed of 3.5 mph on a 5.0 incline
  • Run for 2 minutes at a speed of 5.5 mph on a 5.0 incline
  • Walk for 1 minute at a speed of 3.5 mph on a 7.0 incline
  • Run for 2 minutes at a speed of 6.0 mph on a 7.0 incline
  • COOL DOWN: Walk for as long as you like at a speed of 3.5 on any incline you want, 4.0 or above

Option 2: when speed varies while incline remains at 4.0

  • immediately set incline to 4.0
  • WARM UP: Walk for 5 minutes at a speed of 3.4 mph
  • Run for 5 minutes at a speed of 5.5 mph
  • Walk for 1-2 minutes at 3.5 mph
  • Run for 10 minutes at 5.5 mph or 6.0 mph (whatever you feel comfortable doing; can switch between the two speeds: 5 mins at 5.5 mph and 5 mins at 6.0 mph)
  • Walk 1-2 mins at 3.5
  • Run 5 minutes at 6.0
  • COOL DOWN: Walk for as long as you like at a speed of 3.5 mph

Option 1 is less time and more demand, while option 2 is more time and more endurance. These are the inclines and speeds that work for me. I no longer go above 6.0 or 6.2 mph on the treadmill. I have gone up to 7 mph in my time, but not recently. I injured myself twice between August and October on the treadmill, so I am no longer taking any chances. I’d rather play it safe and still be able to run than push it and end up injured. Use this kind of inclined interval training to keep yourself well trained while you step back from frigid outdoor running or use it to improve your outdoor running. Mixing in intervals and inclines to your outdoor distance running will vastly improve your strength and speed — enabling you to go longer,  faster. While I’ve currently been utilizing inclined intervals as a form of upkeep, I use them as a training tool during the warmer months when I race. Either way, inclined intervals are your friend.

Play around with it and find what works for YOU. Challenge yourself, endurance wise, but don’t push yourself into an injury. Only you know what will work for you. If you’ve been hiding indoors and missed running, give this a try. I live in New York, and you couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to drag myself outside every day in the freezing cold to run. I can’t stand walking from my front door to my car in this weather. I hate the bitter cold that much. It affects me a lot. It affects my body, but most of all, my mood. And running saves my mood. I LOVE my runs, so why would I put myself in a condition that I HATE? I don’t. I find a medium. I do what I love in a way that works for me until I can get myself back outside in the park and on the trails because I don’t want to resent something that brings me so much joy. I don’t want to turn running into a chore or something I feel like I have to do. I do it because of the way it makes me feel — for the strength, power, and elation that it gives me.

The last time I ran distance outside was November 14th at 11:00 am. Here were my stats:



And today, on February 22nd (MORE THAN 3 MONTHS INDOORS), I ran a hilly 4 miles in 38 minutes:


Today felt amazing. It reminded me WHY I love running outside so much. BTW, I do not listen to any music when I run. I listen to my surroundings, my breathing, my thoughts and sometimes I’ll plan/organize things in my head or completely zone out. It’s beautiful. It’s like a running shavasana (yes, I flirt with yoga).

I went out with no plan. I tend to decide on a goal during my first few minutes of running. I like to let myself warm up before setting my goal for the day. Less pressure. I settled on a goal of 2-3 miles. Anywhere in between and I’d be happy. Well… I found myself choosing the harder routes when I hit a fork in the road, going longer and opting for more hills. I run in a park and had no road map laid out. My usual route was a no-go because of the snow. My trails were covered in snow, ice, and poop. Yes, lots and lots of poop. Whether it was dog poop, deer poop, or poop from another animal… I didn’t know and didn’t want to know (some looked too big to come from a dog or maybe I’m just too used to my little dog). Basically, I did NOT want to 1. step in poop, 2. slip on ice, or 3. encounter the animal that was pooping all over the place (sorry for how many times I just said ‘poop’). Taking myself away from the ice and poop (final time, I swear), I let my feet guide me. Everything just came together as I was running.

I was really surprised with how well my run went, but at the same time not so surprised. I’ve kept myself active with a lot of high intensity interval training (HIIT), weight lifting, kettlebells, stair climbing, swimming, kickboxing, walking, spinning, yoga and inclined interval running. I MIX IT UP. Just keep yourself active, RUN INCLINES, and DO INTERVALS. If you do that, you’ll be golden. Promise. Since this winter doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon, despite today’s rays of sunshine, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’ll get outside as often as I can but won’t fuss over it. I hope this helps my fellow runners out there that simply cannot run outside in the winter. This doesn’t make you or me any less of a runner. If you run, you are a runner. End of story. As always though, please be careful and proceed with caution when beginning any new exercise or fitness regimen. Any and all forms of exercise include the risk of possible injury. Practice good form and do not force anything.

Get up. Move. Run. Lift. Play. Jump. Dance. Yoga. Take a class. Spin. Bike. Swim. DO ANYTHING. But do it safely and do it with passion. It is true that if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you; but if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. You can enjoy the challenge. It’s the kind of thing that sucks but you love it. It burns and you want to stop, but then you feel empowered and freakin’ awesome. Love the challenge. That’s my recipe for success. Oh, and finding your happy place. I’ve found mine and hope to help you find yours. When you’ve found your happy place, you’ve found your good. Now go run on it.


xox Kim

*Disclaimer: Consult your physician before changing your physical activity or beginning a new fitness program. You should be in good physical condition before performing the exercise. Participating in this or any other exercise affiliated with Running on Good includes risk of possible injury. By engaging in this or any other affiliated exercise routine, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, and assume all risk of injury to yourself.


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