An Olympic champion's guide to treadmill training during winter

Learn how to optimise running training using a treadmill, as recommended by Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen

An Olympic champion's guide to winter running training on a treadmill
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most people will put on weight this winter, gorging on snacks and binging on Netflix, but not you: you know full well that to be ready for next year's running race season, you will need to put the effort in now, during winter. If you happen to have a treadmill at your disposal, these winter treadmill running tips from Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen will come in handy in achieving peak running performance for 2021.

Zwift ambassador Gwen Jorgensen, former triathlete turned long distance runner was kind enough to share her best winter running tips using a treadmill. Gwen retired from professional triathlon in 2017 to concentrate on running marathon distances. Needless to say, her endurance is on point and she is a competent runner in general.

New Bowflex treadmill races Peloton Tread in the smart workout steeplechase

Just because we'll focus on indoor running training in this article, it doesn't mean we are actively trying to discourage anyone from running outdoors when the weather is a bit chilly. On the contrary, running outside is a fun activity, as long as you are wearing the best winter running gear. And, of course, the best running shoes.

winter running tips

Gwen Jorgensen's setup is a bit hardcore, you should be okay with a regular treadmill

(Image credit: @talbotcox)

1. Routine change

Conditions might change outside and it's always a good idea to adjust your training accordingly. You might be able to run in shorts and a west in July at 5 am, but in the December, when it's pitch black and -1º, the story is a bit different.

"When I run inside I am able to focus on my form more and adjust as needed along the run in order to maintain proper form," says Gwen, "I can also run at any time indoors, as opposed to outdoors when I have to plan my runs around the daylight and safety conditions."

winter running tips

Running on treadmills is a safer option when it's dark outside

(Image credit: Adidas)

2. Safety first!

Gwen likes to play it safe: "I like to run on Zwift inside in the winter for safety. In the winter it is too dark and slippery. I prefer to train on the treadmill knowing I’ll be able to have good footing and will be safe."

Treadmills, elliptical trainers, indoor bikes and rowing machines are great tools to keep your cardio levels high, regardless of the weather. They are also a great tool to better your performance due to their ability to set up programs that can progressively increase the training load, making you stronger and more agile by the time you can hit the road outside.

Winter running tips

Drink plenty of water

(Image credit: Sundried)

3. Get ready to sweat

For a pro athlete like Gwen, it's all about having everything ready for the perfect run, every time. "I set the treadmill to 0.5-2% incline on the treadmill for a flat run. I use Zwift, a fan, and Skratch Labs nutrition. I find I sweat a lot more indoors so I need to stay hydrated", she explains.

Sweating more indoors is a common occurrence and something you should take into account. Get a good sports towel – a travel towel is a good alternative – or if you are working out on a turbo trainer or exercise bike, get a sweat cover so the excess moisture won't drip onto your bike. It can literally corrode the frame on the long run.

Garmin Forerunner 745

Running watches can help you keep track of your training efforts

(Image credit: Garmin)

4. Have a plan in mind

Gwen's daily routine most usually gravitates around running. "Usually I run 1-1:30 around 9am followed by stretching and core. I usually have treatment and a nap and then a second run before dinner." – she explains – "In the winter I usually run on the treadmill for my second run to maximise recovery time between runs as it usually gets dark by 4pm in the winter."

Your average winter day will probably look slightly different – a non-professional runner has to work, after all – but working out a weekly plan in advance is a good idea nevertheless. By crafting a plan, you are more likely to stick with it, as opposed to just 'exercising as often as possible'.

Getting a triathlon watch is a good idea to keep track of your heart rate and progress over time. Even less sporty fitness wearables such as the best Fitbits can help you better understand how training affects your life and by recording the activities. The accompanying apps sometimes give you virtual badges, too, to further incentivise you to keep pushing yourself.

winter running tips

This is probably not how your living room looks like but you can still recreate outdoor runs indoor with apps like Zwift

(Image credit: Nordictrack)

5. Is running indoors the same as running outdoors?

Gwen's thoughts: "The process is the exact same. Do not start too fast, you want to build and maintain speed through the entire race." – even if it's a virtual one! Depending whether you are trying to get ready for your first 5K race or training up to run a half marathon, the key is working up the stamina and endurance to be able to do whatever distance you would like to run comfortably at the end.

Doing cardio exercises often has too many benefits to list here but it can most definitely help you lose weight faster, improve your cardiovascular health and can help you sleep better, too.

Gwen's favourite Zwift routes, to help you start: "My favorite routes on Zwift are the running path in NYC and the 5k loop in Watopia."