Dreadmill No More: 3 Different Treadmill Workouts You Will Want To Do

The treadmill gets a bad rep. Our goal is to make you a more confident treadmill runner––maybe even enjoy the run. Dreadmill no more.

Meredith McKee Photography

The treadmill gets a bad rep.  
Our goal is to make you a more confident treadmill runner––maybe even enjoy the run.  
Dreadmill no more.  

Presently, all studios are shut down in the Seattle area.  We are living in unclear times and there is a lot that is unknown due to COVID-19.  However, one thing I do know is that movement of any kind is still critical to physical and more importantly mental health.  This post shares 3 different treadmill work outs you can do on your own.  Just picture your favorite trainer encouraging you to pump your arms on a hill, lengthen your stride as you pick up speed, or keep your chin up and heart forward as you conquer your run.  

Why Run on a Treadmill?
Believe us, we much prefer to run outside --trails, road, or track BUT the treadmill is a useful tool to build strength, speed, and endurance.  As group fitness trainers that coach treadmill work outs, both Christy and I LOVE this piece of equipment.  

A treadmill can teach you how to maintain pace.  This can be difficult outdoors due to the elements (rain, wind, heat, snow), unexpected hills, or needing to abide by traffic laws.  Definitely hard to maintain pace when you are constantly starting and stopping.  Enter the treadmill, which allows you to pick a speed and aim for a duration to maintain that pace.  I also recommend incorporating the "Talk Test" to learn your pace.  

Easy Pace = Can comfortably hold a conversation or say a sentence without gasping.
Fast Pace = Can say a couple of words.
Sprint Pace = Difficult to talk at all.

Another benefit of a treadmill run, is that you can record your stride.  You can look at form and note if you are scrunching your shoulders, clenching your fists, holding your breath, or have a choppy stride.  

A Few Rules for Treadmill Runs

First and foremost, always warm up.
This is key to ANY workout.  You wouldn't leave your house full out sprinting.  You would work your way up.  The treadmill is no different.  Depending on what your goal is for the workout, we recommend anywhere between a 4-5 minute warm up or a full 1 mile one.  It is good to take the first 1-2 minutes to play with stride.  You can jog or hit some dynamic work.  

  • For a jog, start at a comfortable easy pace.  After the first minute, let your body fall back on the the treadmill and then pick up pace so as not to fall off.  This will allow you to start to play with your stride.  Alternatively, you can pick up speed every 30-60 seconds.  Start slow and add 0.5 to 1 full point increments until you hit your fast run.  Maintain the fast run for the last 30-60 seconds of your warm up before recovering at a comfortable pace.  
  • For a dynamic warm up, you can do this on the treadmill or next to it before hopping on.  We love a good dynamic warm up before track speed work outs too.  Try a lateral shuffle in one direction for a set time interval before switching your lead leg.  If you perform the shuffle on the treadmill, we recommend your speed between 2.0-3.0 mph and stay low in a squatted position, facing one direction for 30-60 sec before switching sides.  (**Note: start with the dynamic shuffles then still complete the jog to warm up or vice versa**)

Never hop off or straddle a moving treadmill.
This should seem like common sense, but I see it all the time.  Individuals sprint too fast, can't control their recovery and then jump off the moving belt onto the sides of the treadmill.  Umm hello you could biff it majorly or slip and ruin that pretty face.  Not worth it.  Also, this does not emulate real life.  You wouldn't suddenly jolt to a stop mid run --unless there was a car or something unexpected...but even then it takes a few steps to slow down.  Can we also take a moment to recognize, the impact of jumping off the tread also is not good for your poor joints.  So control your pace, both the pick up and the cool down.  

Do NOT skip the cool down.  
Similar to a warm up, it's important to cool down after a hard work out.  This allows your heart rate to lower gradually and your muscles to relax after HIIT training. You may cool down without realizing it on a road run because you walk it out.  But it's just as important when you finish your treadmill interval.  Don't you dare forget to stretch either.  Often times shin splints are from tight calves.  So the warm up, cool down, and stretch can prevent you from discomfort.  

SeaWheeze lululemon Half Marathon 2019 with my fast friends

The Work Outs:
Below are three different workouts you can perform on the treadmill.  Hill intervals build strength.  Quarter mile repeats and speed intervals, well those build speed obviously.  The pyramid run is one of our favorites for training the body how to control and maintain speed.  Together: strength and speed can help build your endurance.  

I also included a pace calculator link so that you understand how mph on tread translates.  

Hill Interval

  • Warm up: 0.5 to 1 mile at easy pace
  • Set incline to 2.0%, run first 30 seconds at a fast pace, then pick up speed to a sprint pace for 30 seconds
  • Followed by: recovery at easy pace for 1 minute (you can walk the first 30 seconds, then jog the second 30 seconds)
  • Repeat the Run & Recovery building on the incline 4%, 6%, 8%, 10%, 12%
  • Optional, return back down 12%, 10%, 8%, 6%, 4%, 2%
  • As your incline increases by 2%, try to only drop your speed by 0.5 mph
  • Cool down: 0.5 at easy pace

You can do this on road by finding a hill or stair set in your neighborhood.  Hold a fast pace or run up the hill and jog back down.  Repeat the hill interval.  In Seattle, the Howe Street Stairs are a challenging set to build strength on.  I would say pick a hill that is not too daunting, like Queen Anne Hill.  This should be challenging but doable!

Speed Interval

  • Warm up: 0.5 to 1 mile at easy pace
  • Run: 3 Minutes at fast pace
  • Followed by: recovery at easy pace for half the time, 90 seconds
  • Run: 2 minutes at fast pace
  • Followed by: recovery at easy pace for half the time, 60 seconds
  • Run: 1 minute at fast pace or sprint pace
  • Followed by: recovery at easy pace for half the time, 30 seconds (if you hold sprint pace for the full minute, then give yourself the full minute to recover)
  • Repeat the 3-2-1 Run & Recovery 2-3x
  • Cool down: 0.5 to 1 mile at easy pace

You can do this on the road by holding a set fast pace for the 3 minute, 2 minute, and 1 minute runs and trying to maintain your jog pace for the recovery portions.  It's fun to even cue up your playlist and hit shuffle.  Make it a game and for female artists hold a fast run and then male artists it's your jog.  This can definitely be a game of Russian Roulette though ;).

Quarter Mile Repeats

  • ​Warm up: 0.5 to 1 mile at easy pace
  • Run: 0.25 miles at fast pace
  • Followed by: recovery at easy pace for the same amount of time the 0.25 mile fast pace took
  • Repeat the Run & Recovery 4-6 x (beginners) or 8-12 x (advanced)
  • Cool down: 1 mile at easy pace

To determine your "fast pace", you need to know your average pace for 1 mile in a short distance i.e. a 5k/8k/10k.  Example, if your average pace for a 5k is 8 min/mile.  Your goal for 0.25 miles is 2 minutes (7.5 mph on tread).  So you should try to run 0.25 miles and maintain that time and easy recover for 2 minutes before repeating.   If you want to make it more challenging, allow less time for the recovery i.e. 1 minute.  

You can do this on the road by wearing a watch like Garmin or using an app like Nike Run Club and programming the workout or just paying attention to the distance and time intervals. A track is great, because 1 loop is ~0.25 miles or 400 m.  

*Bonus* Pyramid Run

  • ​Warm up: 0.5 to 1 mile at easy pace
  • Run:
  • ​0:00-1:00 fast run (subtract 2 mph from sprint speed)
  • 1:00 - 1:30 add 0.5 mph
  • 1:30 -2:00 add 0.5 mph
  • 2:00-2:30 add 0.5 mph ( peak just shy of sprint)
  • 2:30 - 3:00 subtract 0.5 mph
  • 3:00 - 3:30  subtract 0.5 mph
  • 3:30 - 4:00 subtract 0.5 mph (back to fast run pace)
  • 4:00 - 4:30 jog easy pace
  • 4:30 - 5:00 sprint pace
  • Followed by: recovery at easy pace for 2 minutes
  • Repeat the Run & Recovery 2-3x or shorten the duration of the pyramids (3 min, 4 min, or 5 min options)
  • Cool down: 0.5 to 1 mile at easy pace

Remember to set yourself up for success.   Proper warm up and cool down is a MUST.  
Some days you may hit slower paces or need longer recoveries and that is OKAY.
Some days you may feel unstoppable.
Just keep showing up for yourself and each other in these uncertain times.