Treadmills are a phenomenal training tool! Whether you’re new to running, a long time runner, avoiding some ice or just need an easy safe place to go this treadmill training guide will make the most of your time. Learn how to run on a treadmill, including what incline and speed are best.
Personally, I spend at least 1/3 of my year on the treadmill.
That has helped me train year round for over two decades. It’s also been part of any time I’ve had a PR on race day!
Benefits of Treadmill Workouts
Over the years, I’ve talk a lot about why I think runners need to let go of the “dreadmill” mindset and embrace the treadmill. But let’s give you some concrete reasons!
1# Race Pace
Race pace workouts are so much easier on the treadmill. Not physically like the pace is easier, but mentally you can let go of checking your watch and instead settle in to how the pace should feel.
You can also map out your race and then practice race pace with the same elevation gain.
#2 Great HIIT Workouts
For those who love things like Orange Theory or HIIT workouts the treadmill makes this a lot easier. You can get in a nice mile warm up then jump down and start with weights, go back for sprints. I’ve outlined some workout ideas below.
These are time efficient workouts for those running to lose weight.
#3 Mimic Race Course
When training in Florida, I had no real hills available for practicing a rolling hills course. Thus, I started using the treadmill a few days a week to change the incline throughout the run.
On most treadmills you can see on the console the total elevation gain. I often find that by using hills here I will have more elevation than the planned race, which makes me feel even stronger.
#4 Eliminate Life Excuses
The truth is we can find a lot of reasons not to run. It’s cold. It’s hot. It’s icy. The kids can’t be left alone.
Treadmill training gives you a chance to skip all of that and put in the work.
I’ve talked before about the differences between treadmill running vs running outdoors.
So today, let’s just dive right in to a treadmill training guide that can be adapted for any level.
How to Run on a Treadmill
Running on a treadmill is great for all fitness levels. You can so easily customize the intensity by increasing incline or slowing down your pace to a walk!
When you’re getting started with running there is no better plan to follow than Couch to 5K.
But if you’re already doing some running and just looking to mix things up or improve your fitness, we’re going to dive in to some great workouts. First let’s cover some key basics to treadmill training to help prevent injuries.
Know Where to Run On the Treadmill
The biggest treadmill mistake for beginners is running too far forward.
It’s a natural tendency to move towards the console. The result is that your stride becomes choppy, your arms aren’t moving in a full swing and you stop leaning forward.
Try to focus on staying near the middle of the treadmill and keep checking in on your running form. You want your feet landing under your body and arms swinging easily forward and back.
Get a full running form guide here >>
How often should you run on the treadmill?
The volume of workouts depends on your history as a runner and preference.
- It’s still great to mix in outdoor runs for fresh air, scenery and a different way to challenge yourself.
- Running everyday is too much for most people. And will backfire if weight loss is the goal.
- Remember that strength training is a key piece of getting faster, staying injury free and weight loss. So make time for both.
How fast should I run on the treadmill?
Treadmill running can feel different than running outside, so it’s really important to not just focus on pace, but instead to focus on effort.
A great workout is derived from putting in the right perceived effort or RPE, not hitting a specific pace.
Easy runs and recovery runs can be 2-3 minutes slower per mile than marathon race pace. Which is why experienced runners instead focus on RPE while running.
Checkout this running by perceived effort chart if you’ve always tried to force yourself to hit specific paces. Using effort means you can get a great run even on tough day.
Following is a good breakdown of what the mph pace equates to in a mile pace. Note that these are based on a 0% incline.
- 5.0 mph = 12:00 minutes per mile
- 5.5 mph = 10:55 minutes per mile
- 6.0 mph = 10:00 minutes per mile
- 6.5 mph = 9:14 minutes per mile
- 7.0 mph = 8:34 minutes per mile
- 7.5 mph = 8:00 minutes per mile
- 8.0 mph = 7:30 minutes per mile
- 8.5 mph = 7:00 minutes per mile
- 9.0 mph = 6:40 minutes per mile
- 9.5 mph = 6:19 minutes per mile
- 10 mph = 6:00 minutes per mile
What incline should I use on the treadmill?
An old rule of thumb was to set it to 1% to mimic the difficulty of running outside with hills, wind, etc.
And in fact that’s what I did for years and years. It made me feel super fast when I went outside!
But now, I have a little different approach for more benefits:
- Using only 1% means you’re always working those muscles that are moving slightly uphill
- Varying between 0 and 2% is probably more accurate to the rolling hills around you and forces you to work on running by effort. You’ll find that suddenly 0 feels ways easy and you need to adjust pace for 2%.
- Using 0 for speed workouts is going to be a better simulation of a track workout.
The following treadmill pace chart shows just how incline impacts effort level. The higher the incline the change in what your per mile pace is equivalent to outside.
How hard should treadmill workouts be?
Remember that roughly 80% of your weekly mileage should be EASY running if you are training for a long distance event and running 5-6 days per week.
If you’re only doing 3 workouts a week to maximize time then you can go harder on them and thus use any of these.
Personally, I love doing my speed workouts on the treadmill. It allows me to dial in to a goal pace and hold it.
But on easy days, you should continue to monitor heart rate and perceived effort. Just because you’re inside doesn’t mean you suddenly get to throw all of the rules out the window.
Will I get as fit on the treadmill as running outside?
- It will also give you easier access to weights, so you don’t skip that key piece of training
- You can do more hills and practice holding a consistent goal race pace
- Checkout my complete guide to optimizing your race performance with treadmill training
Never Skip the Pre Run Warm Up Routine
Prior to every single workout you must complete a dynamic warm up!
This will prevent injuries and make the workout feel better too. It’s also great to walk for even 5 minutes easy before starting any run portion.
When you think about how to run on a treadmill, remember that your body doesn’t know the difference. So much of the change in how you perceive the workout and potentially any change in your mechanics.
3 Beginner Treadmill Workout Routines
Each routine listed below is done by effort. This allows you to make it easier or harder based on your OWN paces.
Running faster is one of the most common goals we have. So let’s make progress on that goal in a smart way.
If you’re new to running then on the longer intervals work towards hitting a 15 minute per mile walking pace before you run or use intervals like run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds.
Time: 30 minutes
Benefits: Hitting muscles from all different angles, something we often miss with just running forward. Having fun using the treadmill.
- 5 minutes slow jog (this easy pace shouldn’t shoot your heart rate up)
- Slow the treadmill speed wayyyy down (probably 1.0 to 2.0), increase the incline to 3-5% and walk backwards 2 minutes
- Turn to the front and drop incline to 0% running 5 minutes
- Slow the treadmill speed way down, turn to face the left and side shuffle for 1 minute
- Turn to the front running 5 minutes
- Slow the treadmill speed way down, turn to the right and side shuffle 1 minute
- Turn to the front increase incline to 1% running 5 minutes
- Either slow treadmill down or step off to the side and do walking lunges 1 minute
- Keeping incline at 1% run easy 5 minutes or walk 5 minutes to cool down
One of the easiest ways to become a faster runner is to include more hill workouts. They are the preferred way to start speed work because you’ll also be force not to over stride and practice your knee drive.
Benefits: Glute workout, increasing leg strength, intensity without the potential risk of sprints
Workout: 34 to 46 minutes
We’re going to increase the incline and increase your speed throughout this workout. Your walking pace should feel like you are working, not taking a stroll with a friend.
- 5 minutes easy walking at 1%
- 3 minutes power walking at 5-8% incline (pick what’s hard, but doable)
- 1 minute running at 0% incline
- 1 minute running at 1% incline
- 1 minute running at 2% incline (try to maintain effort, which means you will probably drop the pace)
- Repeat 3, 1,1,1 – 4 to 6 times
- Walk easy 5 minutes at 1% incline (or do an easy jog as long as feels good)
Full Body Strength Treadmill Routine
When you want to ensure you get in both strength and cardio, this is the routine to make it happen. A good training plan needs both.
Time: 45-60 minutes — If you need to shorten, shorten the warm up run.
Benefits: Increasing muscle to burn more fat, plus we know these short intense cardio bursts increase calorie after burn
1 mile slow jog
Off the treadmill to a pair of heavy dumbbells, do all moves on right side to start
- 5-8 reps single arm row
- 5-8 reps single arm shoulder press
- 5 reps right back lunge holding one weight out in front of you
- 10 reps side bend with weight
Back on the treadmill!
- Set the treadmill to a pace that will be a HARD effort
- Grab the handrails and step on to the treadmill at a run
- 30 seconds HARD
- Grab the handrails and jump off taking up to 2 minutes to recover, you want to see your HR drop or your breathing calm down
- Repeat 3 times total
Round 2 with weights on the left side.
Round 2 on the treadmill going down to 20 second intervals and remember this is a level that is hard for YOU.
That’s not a specific pace, it’s a feeling that this the probably a pace you couldn’t hold for much longer. That could means it’s a super crazy fast walk, pump your arms!
Round 3 weights
- 10 push ups (place hands on a bench or counter top if you are starting out)
- 10 squats
- 5-8 tricep kickbacks on right side
- 5-8 bent over back fly (think of squeezing shoulder blades together)
Treadmill for a 5 minute walk.
Then repeat last round of weights moving to left side for triceps.
Especially when space is an issue and you are trying to increase weights, I’m a big fan of these Bowflex 552 adjustable dumbbells. Down to 5lbs and up to 52.5 per weight.
All right there you have it a treadmill training guide filled with ideas to make the most of one of my favorite tools. If you have more questions never hesitate to ask.
Looking for some additional treadmill tips?
- Why do I feel slower on the treadmill?
- Is my watch or my treadmill right?
- Best At Home Treadmills for Running
- 30 Day Core Training Program (10 minutes a day to do before your run!)
Other ways to connect with Coach Amanda
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