Treadmill Workouts


Treadmills get a bad rap.  I, for one, am grateful for my treadmill.  With little babies, my treadmill saved my bacon more than once.  My kids are older now, but I’ve had one too many falls on icy roads to challenge the great outdoors in the winter, so for a few chilly months, my treadmill becomes my saving grace again.  Embrace the treadmill.  Any run is better than no run, but hopefully these workouts will make them even better.

These workouts can be done on any cardio machine or outside on the road.  I often incorporate them into my cycle classes.  They’re a great way to break up a long ride and get the heart rate up.

*Side note- I use general terms like “hard”, “harder”, and “hardest” to describe effort.  It’s up to the individual to decide what that means.  It will be different for everyone.  For me, a hard effort is one I can sustain for roughly 15-20 minutes.  Harder, 5-10 minutes.  Hardest is all out, wind-sucking effort.  I can only sustain this for a few seconds up to roughly 1-2 minutes max.



Descending Sprints

Again, I use the terms “Hard” “Harder” or “Hardest”.  You decided what those terms mean to you.  For me, on a treadmill, I know what speeds and settings are hard, harder or hardest.  Outside is a little different and I gauge my efforts on perceived exertion more than a typical pace.  This is the speed work I’ve been using lately.

Run a comfortably hard pace for 2 miles.

Hard effort for 1 mile

Recover 1 mile

Harder effort .75 miles

Recover .75 miles

Hardest effort .5 miles

Recover .5 miles

Harder effort .75 miles

Recover .75 miles

Hard effort 1 mile

Recover 1 mile

It’s a good 8-mile run.  Remember, you define a hard effort and you can achieve that effort through increased speed and/or incline.


Speed Pyramid

Run hard for 9 minutes

Run harder for 6 minutes

Run harder for 3 minutes

One mile recovery

I like to repeat this 4X if I’m 12+ miles.  For shorter runs, even one set is challenging.


Dirty 30’s

Run hard for 30 seconds

Run harder for 30 seconds

Run hardest for 30 seconds

Recover for 30 seconds

Repeat 4X for one set.  I like to do 4-5 sets with 5 minute recoveries in between sets.  If you don’t want to increase your speed, you could also play around with the incline to increase your effort level.  Don’t skip the recovery.  If you’re effort levels are truly where they should be, you won’t want to skip the recovery.


Progressive Run

Simply put, progressive runs get progressively harder in intensity.  Effort is a combination of speed and resistance (incline) so you can increase your effort by increasing either of these factors.  I like to increase my speed on Progressive Runs.  I use this workout for runs 8-9 miles long, but you could use these for any distance or duration.

Begin the first mile at a comfortable warm-up pace.  For me, that’s a 7.2 speed setting on the treadmill.  Start at a pace you can hold for a good hour or so.

With each mile, increase the speed one level.  So after my first mile, I bump up my speed to 7.3.  After my second mile I bump up my speed to 7.4 and so on.  By the time I’m running my final mile, my pace is up to 8.1 or 8.2, which for me is a very difficult pace to hold on a treadmill.

(Side note- Most of my friends find treadmill running easier than road running.  For me, the opposite is true.  I tend to run MUCH slower on a treadmill.  Not sure why, but a 7:30 min. pace isn’t hard for me to hold outside, but almost impossible for me to hold on a treadmill.  Things that make you go hmmmm….)


Run the first mile at a comfortable warm-up pace.

After the first mile, punch up the speed a full mph faster for 30 seconds.  (For example, if you begin your run with the speed setting on 7.0, you would punch up the speed setting to 8.0 for 30 seconds.)

After those 30 seconds, punch up your speed another .5 and hold that pace for 20 seconds.  (Back to our example- you would go from 8.0 to 8.5)

After those 20 seconds, punch up your speed another .5 and hold that pace for 10 seconds. (Example- go from 8.5 to 9.0)

Come back down to warm up pace for 2 minutes.  Repeat 5X for one set.  I like to do 3-4 sets during a run.  This is serious speed work so the intensity should be high.  Short duration, high intensity is the goal, so adjust your settings accordingly.  If done right, a 2 minute recovery is just barely enough time to catch your breath and go again.

Mt. Everest

You can probably tell from the name this is a hill workout.  I like to do this run when I have a 7-8 mile run ahead.  As always, adjust to your needs.  If you’re doing a shorter run, you may want to increase your incline quicker.

Run the first mile at a comfortable warm-up pace with 0% incline.

After each mile, increase your incline 1%.  It won’t feel like much in the beginning, but if you do that each mile for 7-8 miles, those last few miles are tough.  Don’t increase your speed.  Stay consistent and hold the same speed regardless of the incline.  It’s a simple workout, but don’t mistake simple for easy.