Treadmill workouts can be a year round companion. While most people would rather get outside and put in the miles on the road, sometimes it is not practical nor safe. With access to a treadmill, you can exercise in any weather condition helping to eliminate excuses.
One of the biggest advantages to a treadmill workout is that it is easier to control the amount of time or distance spent on each part of the run. You can vary your pace based on the distance traveled or based on a certain number of minutes. Even if your treadmill does not allow you to pre-program a workout, most will have a clock that is prominent as well as a distance display. Even without a clock on the machine you can set up a time keeper in front of you and not have to constantly check your running watch for intervals.
All workouts should be performed after having at least 10 minutes of fast walking, or slow running to warm up the body.
Treadmill Workout: Hill Training
Hill workouts on the treadmill simulate running real hills while giving you control of the length and grade percentage of the hill. The advantage to running hills is to build strength. Contrary to what your friends may tell you, running hills is not going to make your calves grow drastically in size. Running hills will work on long, lean muscle fibers. This type of workout cannot bulk up your legs like anaerobic (weight-lifting) exercises can.
The only downside of running hills on most treadmills is that there is no downside to the hill. Some treadmills will have a negative grade, but most will only go flat. If a treadmill does have a negative pitch, it is usually just a couple of percent. By placing a block of wood under the back of the treadmill, you can achieve a greater decline in your downhill. But that is not something that is easy to do in the middle of a workout. Some have suggested that raising the treadmill to simulate downhill running delivers greater forces to the running surface of the treadmill.
An easy treadmill workout for hills is to start with a slight incline of 1%. Progressing in the following manner.
You may need to decrease your speed as your incline increases. This should be run at a steady effort throughout the run.
A variation on this workout is to keep your speed the same through the whole workout. Workout intensity will spike as you get to the top of the hill and then you can cruise down the other side at less effort. Make sure you start this workout easy enough to make it over the top of the hill.
Treadmill Workout: Tempo Runs
Tempo workouts are fairly easy to do on the treadmill. A tempo run outside and on the treadmill are very similar, so you can easily adapt any outside tempo plan to use on the treadmill.
There are different types of tempo runs. There are also different target distances and paces depending on which distance you are training for. Let's consider you are training for a 10K race.
An easy treadmill workout for tempo running is a progressive tempo run. Don't forget to warm up before starting. This is a 6 mile run and is called a "3-2-1" run. You run 3 miles at goal pace minus 30 seconds per mile. Then run the next 2 miles 15 seconds per mile faster. The final 1 mile of the run is at your 10K goal pace.
Treadmill Workout: Fartlek
A third easy tempo treadmill workout is a fartlek run. fartleks are runs that usually have a set distance, but at varying pace. An easy fartlek workout is to plan a 10K run (or it can be thrown into any run) in which you vary your pace both up and down at different intervals. You may run 30 seconds per mile slower than 10K pace for 2 minutes and then the next 3 jump right up to your goal pace. Back off for 15 seconds slower than goal pace for 1 minute and move back to goal pace again.
The whole idea of a fartlek run is that it be flexible. Never allow your body to fall into a pace and rhythm for too long at a time. Have fun with the amount of time and speed at which you run the fartlek intervals.
Treadmill Workout: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
If your treadmill is capable of setting intervals, then doing an interval workout is much easier on the treadmill than on a track. It is certainly possible to do without a complicated machine too.
An interval workout has you running for either certain distances, or times, at harder and easier intervals. If you are running for distance, a typical interval workout will have you run hard for 400 meters (1 lap around a track) and then jog very easily for either 200 or 400 meters. You repeat these intervals of hard and easy running several times. To start with try to do 6 sets and work your way up to 8 sets.
This easy treadmill workout will focus on running for time instead of distance.
You first need to determine what is an appropriate pace for you. If you are just starting out with interval training, then you want to shoot for a level 15 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale. This is a personal perception of how hard you are working. A rate of 6 is little effort and a rate of 20 is the absolute most effort you can maintain for a minute. At a level 15, which we want for this workout, you will not be able to maintain a conversation. This is intended to be a hard workout, but the idea is to recover enough to do several sets. Remember that this is "perceived effort." The next time you do this workout you may be able to go faster, or not as fast, depending on your perceived effort that day.
Start by warming up for 10 minutes. Run for 1 minute at a level 15. This should not be easy, but you should be able to mostly recover within the next 2 minutes. For the next 2 minutes you should be jogging slowly, or walking briskly to recover. Continue this 1 minute hard, 2 minutes easy routine for 6 to 8 sets. Cool down properly afterwards.
Some treadmills have the ability to set a time/speed interval. If your's has that ability you will save a good deal of time and effort manually adjusting the machine.
Bonus Treadmill Workout: Commercial Workout
This is designed to be a fun workout while watching TV. Any time a commercial comes on, bump the speed of the treadmill up about 30 seconds per mile until the show comes on again. There are many variations of this workout. Have fun in speed increases and decreases during commercials.
Often people talk about the treadmill as if it were their worst enemy. However, you can confidently buy a treadmill knowing that there are many different workouts you can do that will help you improve as a runner.