Ultimate Treadmill Workout

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Hopping on the treadmill for a quick warm up usually is the first thing people do when they come to the gym. However, treadmill practice could be used as a single training session and could bring many training benefits. By changing treadmill’s speed, incline and adding structure to your training session a treadmill workout could be a tool to boost your cardiovascular endurance, increase power and loose some weight.

A common thinking is that that running on a treadmill and running outdoors is a very different activity, however, recent research knowledge shows that physical demands for treadmill and overground running are quite similar. Even running technique and muscle activation during both forms of running is the same. For this reason, treadmill workouts could be an important part of normal training program to prepare for road/trail running events or triathlons. However, scientists agree that running on a treadmill could subjectively feel a bit harder. It is a normal thing and is related to a distortion of normal visual input – one would expect the see the motion of the surrounding environment while we run.

Fixed environment while running on the treadmill plays a game with our visual senses and this could make the physical effort to feel harder. Such perception will eventually be reduced by repeated training, and my recommendation would be to start running on the treadmill at the same speed as you’d be running outdoors.

It is also important to understand that you don’t have to be an expert if you want to use the treadmill for higher intensity sessions. There are only a few things that you have to control – the belt speed and the gradient (% incline). Check out the workout suggestions below for your first treadmill high-intensity (and hilly) training session.

SPEED-ENDURANCE Workout

Overall duration: 45 minutes

This workout is great to boost your physical capacity and endurance, and is perfect to break your usual treadmill routine. Keep in mind that a few first 1-min repetitions might not feel too hard, but fatigue will build up quickly, therefore learn to pace yourself and try to find relaxed running stride, even while running fast.

Warm up: 10 minutes at your easy running pace

Main set: 1 minute at fast pace (aim for 80% of your capacity) and 1 minute recovery at easy pace. Repeat this drill for 30 minutes.

Cool down: 5 minutes of slow running or walking

*for beginners, there are a few ways to make this workout a little bit easier: increase recovery time from 1 to 2 minutes or shorten slightly overall duration of the main set.

PYRAMID workout (1-2-3-4-3-2-1)

Overall duration: 43 minutes

Pyramid workout is a great way to challenge different energetic systems, however, the best thing about this workout that it teaches you to correctly pace yourself. It is extremely valuable lesson for a real life racing conditions.

Warm up: 10 minutes at your easy running pace

Main set

1 minute at 1% incline and very fast pace (aim for 95% of your speed capacity)

1 minute recovery at easy pace

2 minutes at 1% incline and fast pace (90% of your speed capacity) – some pacing is necessary here already

2 minutes of recovery at easy pace

3 minutes at 6% incline and faster pace (85% of your speed capacity) – uphill running

3 minutes of recovery at easy pace

4 minutes at 80% of your capacity – choose running pace that you can sustain for all four minutes

3 minutes of recovery at easy pace

3 minutes at 6% incline and faster pace (85% of your speed capacity) – uphill running

2 minutes of recovery at easy pace

2 minutes at 1% incline and fast pace (90% of your speed capacity) – some pacing is necessary here already

1 minute recovery at easy pace

1 minute at 1% incline and very fast pace (aim for 95% of your speed capacity)

Cool down: 5 minutes of slow running or walking. You are done!

RUN with HILLS workout

Overall duration: 46 minutes

Treadmills have a wonderful function of running incline control, which allows to simulate physical demands of uphill running. Alternating incline value on your treadmill it is possible to experience trail running in a gym space, and use this workout as a tool to prepare for a real trail running / tramping missions.

Warm up: 5 minutes at your easy running pace 

Conditioning muscles:

1 min at 6% incline (keep the same speed) +

1 min recovery at 1% incline.

1 min at 8% incline (keep the same speed) +

1 min recovery at 1% incline.

1 min at 10% incline (keep the same speed) +

1 min recovery at 1% incline.

Main set:

5 minutes at 12% incline (should feel hard)

2 minutes at 1% fast (increase treadmill speed)

3 minutes recovery at easy pace

Repeat main set 3 times.

Cool down: 5 minutes of slow running or walking

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