Indoor Fitness

Since most key races take place in the spring, the majority of training for runners happens during the dark, cold winter months. But training inside doesn’t have to slow you down.

UPMC’s own Aaron Mares, MD, primary care sports medicine physician, is Associate Medical Director for the Pittsburgh Marathon. He has developed indoor workout tips for treadmill survival, cross-training, and transitioning back outside when the weather gets warmer.

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Treadmill Survival

Throughout a half or full marathon training plan, your mileage builds to long distances, which means more time spent on the treadmill for those training indoors. If you’re worried about boredom, try these tips to keep your runs interesting.

Survive on the treadmill by:

  • Using a virtual running app for tracking runs and motivation.
  • Watching shows on a portable device or tablet.
  • Listening to a pump-up playlist, book, or podcast.
  • Incorporating interval training to keep it interesting.
  • Running, at an appropriate distance, with a fellow runner.
  • Using other machines to break up your mileage for the day.


While you may think of running as an exercise for your legs, it is actually a full body sport. Running uses your calves, quads, glutes, abs, and arms. Cross-training is an important part of any training routine because it helps you work your full body to prepare for challenging runs.

When used in conjunction with running, cross-training gives your body time to recover from the demands of logging miles while still working important muscles groups and raising your heart rate. Elliptical training, strength training, swimming, and fitness classes are just a few choices.

Cross-training can help you:

  • Prevent injury.
  • Increase joint stability.
  • Recover from runs.
  • Increase motivation.
  • Enhance performance.

Indoor-Outdoor Transition

As temperatures rise, you should consider returning outdoors for a healthy and proactive indoor-outdoor training transition. But don’t try to do it all at once. Start by alternating between indoor and outdoor runs to gradually get back into the swing of things.

Studies show that running on a treadmill with a one percent incline accurately reflects the energy of running outside, but there are still many differences for your body. For example, running outside is harder on your hamstrings, quads, and ankles. Focus on these muscles as you stretch and strengthen.

If you are wearing headphones or earbuds when you transition outside, remember to pay attention to your surroundings and always stay safe.

A gradual indoor-outdoor transition can help you adapt to:

  • Different running surfaces.
  • Higher impact on muscles.
  • Temperature and weather.
  • Uneven terrain and traffic.

We wish you the best in your 2021 runs and cross-training!

Visit our website to read more about training for runners, or give us a call at 1-855-937-7678 to schedule an appointment with an expert in running medicine.

About Sports Medicine

Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.