Training on the skating treadmill has many obvious benefits-learning better and more efficient skating technique, increased awareness of what you’re doing because of the mirror, and of course, increased leg strength due to the friction and inclines that the treadmill allows. But there is something really powerful going on which is not so obvious-ANAEROBIC CONDITIONING.

WHAT IS ANAEROBIC FITNESS ANYWAY??? I will try to give an easy to understand description without going into great detail on the cellular physiology of cardiovascular fitness. Most of you have heard of cardiovascular fitness, and maybe have always thought it was just one thing-having a healthy heart capable of efficiently pumping blood to all the muscles and organs in our bodies. But cardiovascular fitness actually has 2 components-aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic fitness is the one we are most familiar with, you know, aerobics!!!! Aerobic fitness training usually involves exercises sessions with longer durations; say 30 or 45 minutes, maybe even an hour or more. So the 5 or 10 mile run, long bike rides, step aerobics, etc., you get the idea.

But Anaerobic fitness training is just the opposite, very short high intensity bursts of exercise, followed by a short rest period, then repeated several times. This type of training is called INTERVAL TRAINING. Most people never do anaerobic interval training, partly because it’s very hard, but partly because people do not understand how beneficial it is!

One of the early reasons I fell in love with the skating treadmill as a training tool for hockey players was because the curriculum was interval training based. As a coach with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology, I knew right away that the interval training based curriculum was going to produce incredible results. But I wasn’t sure how good or how long it would take to see the results. The title of this article is “SURPRISE” benefits, and I don’t mean to say that the results surprised me; I knew that they were going to be one of the results of the training. What did SURPRISE me was a recent adult client who had a remarkable exercise accomplishment occur seemingly out of nowhere. This particular client is an adult female near the age of 30. She started training on the skating treadmill as a beginning player/skater. She had lots of form and technique issues to correct, and was lacking some of the leg strength necessary to “master” the treadmill. But she stuck with her training, and 9 months later is on Junior Level 4 and going strong!!! The remarkable thing is that she recently competed in her very first ever 5K run in the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run, and turned in a 20-minute time!!!!! This turned out to be 8th place overall for all female runners that day, and 3rd in her age division. Now, if you know anything about distance running and average times, your jaw should be on the floor! A 5K run is 3.1 miles, so to complete the 5K in 20 minutes means she was running a 6:45 mile for 3 consecutive miles, which is CRAZY FAST for someone who is a trained runner. But for a complete novice runner who had never run a 5K before, this was nothing short of astounding. Then it hit me, it was all the interval training she had been doing! Up until this point I had no way to measure the effectiveness of the skating treadmill interval style of training. Sure, parents told me that their kids were looking faster, and weren’t getting so tired during their games, but I never had a circumstance that could be directly correlated to what I know about anaerobic interval training.

“So what?” you say? Well, this got me to thinking a little more about what the skating treadmill can provide for athletes. I also have some other adults who are enjoying getting their weekly cardio workouts in on the treadmill. And they all say the same thing, that the skating treadmill is such a nice “break” from the repetitive pounding of running and the overuse injuries that can come with long distance running. Plus it adds variety to their workout regimen, and it’s FUN! As an aging athlete in my 50’s, I myself am just now starting to understand the importance of varying one’s workouts. Not only to avoid overuse injuries/soreness, but for providing a positive mental attribute to my exercise routines. It’s undeniable that the brain needs to be constantly challenged, and the skating treadmill provides a new workout stimulus that is both mentally and physically challenging. So what are you waiting for??? Get those skates out and jump on the treadmill with the kids, it’s a blast!!!!!

– Carrie Keil