When the Weather Outside is Frightful…The Treadmill Can be Delightful 3 Proven Treadmill Workouts

by CJ Hitz February 14, 2019 4 min read

When the Weather Outside is Frightful…The Treadmill Can be Delightful  3 Proven Treadmill Workouts

The treadmill has taken much criticism over the years as a training tool and many of those criticisms prove to be quite valid. Compared to running outdoors, the treadmill can be boring as you stare at the same wall or out the same window (or at the same TV). By running on a moving belt, you also fail to duplicate the undulating terrain of a road or trail. The treadmill also offers a softer surface which sets you up for a rude awakening come race day when you have to negotiate the asphalt of a road race or the rocks and roots of a trail race. Treadmill training also fails to factor in weather changes such as wind speed and temperature fluctuation. This is the reason I like to set the grade to 1% minimum anytime I use a treadmill. This 1% can help make up for some of those outdoor fluctuations.

A Few Positive Treadmill Workout Uses…

While I agree that doing all of our training on the treadmill would be detrimental, I still believe there is a place for solid treadmill workouts. Most of our training should simulate the course conditions of the race we’ve signed up for but let’s face it, there are times when that just isn’t possible. If you live in the flatlands of Kansas and you’ve signed up for the Pike’s Peak Marathon where you’ll have to climb 7,815 feet with an average 11% grade, you have a small dilemma on your hands. Though you can’t simulate the altitude of the race, you’re able to set your treadmill at an 11% grade which will be very helpful.

Here in Colorado, there are days when doing a hard tempo run outdoors is nearly impossible due to the difficulty of tromping through that white stuff. The treadmill is a handy tool to use in this circumstance as you set the speed to your tempo of preference.

And for those of you who’ve been experiencing what’s called the “Polar Vortex”, you certainly have a valid reason to utilize the treadmill. After all, who wants their eyeballs to freeze while running in -20 degree weather?

The following are three treadmill workouts I’ve found to be beneficial when outdoor conditions are less than ideal…

1.) Hills on the Mill Challenge (35 minutes)

Speeds in parentheses serve as examples. Adjust pace to your preference.

*First 15 minutes – Warm-up with your normal easy pace (7.0 at 1% grade)
*Minute 11 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 1.5% (7.1 at 1.5% grade)
*Minute 12 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 2% (7.2 at 2% grade)
*Minute 13 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 2.5% (7.3 at 2.5% grade)
*Minute 14 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 3% (7.4 at 3% grade)
*Minute 15 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 3.5% (7.5 at 3.5% grade)
*Minute 16 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 4% (7.6 at 4% grade)
*Minute 17 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 4.5% (7.7 at 4.5% grade)
*Minute 18 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 5% (7.8 at 5% grade)
*Minute 19 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 5.5% (7.9 at 5.5% grade)
*Minute 20 – Increase speed one notch and increase grade to 6% (8.0 at 6% grade)
*Last 10 minutes – Cool down with your normal easy pace & 1% grade (7.0 at 1%)

This is a challenging treadmill workout that should only be done 2-3 times each month. You should be able to gradually increase speed and grade as your legs & lungs adjust to the hills. You’ll know you’re overdoing it when you have lingering soreness in the Achilles area. Eventually, you can increase the grade to 10% or more.

2.) Speed Mill Challenge (43-55 minutes)

Speeds in parentheses serve as examples. Adjust to your preference. The grade will stay at 1% the whole workout.

*First 15 minutes – Warm-up with your normal easy pace (7.0)
*Next 3 minutes – Your tempo pace (8.5)
*Next 3 minutes – Your 5k race pace (10.0)
*Repeat (tempo & 5k) 3-5 times based on your fitness level
*Finish with 10 minutes of cool down at your easy pace (7.0)

This workout proves that running on the treadmill doesn’t have to be boring. One of the great aspects of the treadmill is the constant pace you’re forced to maintain, even when the mind tells you to slow down. On the track, it becomes easier to slow down your pace when fatigue begins to set in during those later repeats. This challenging speed session is excellent for leg turnover.

3.) Long Run Progression Challenge (90 minutes)

Speeds in parentheses serve as examples. Adjust to your preference. The grade will stay at 1% the whole workout.

First 20 minutes – Warm-up with your normal easy pace (7.0)
Next 10 minutes – 1 min/mile slower than your 5k pace (8.5)
Next 5 minutes – Recover with easy pace (7.0)
Next 10 minutes – 30 sec/mile slower than your 5k pace (9.2)
Next 5 minutes – Recover with easy pace (7.0)
Next 10 minutes – 20 sec/mile slower than your 5k pace (9.5)
Next 5 minutes – Recover with easy pace (7.0)
Next 5 minutes – 5k pace (10.0)
Last 20 minutes – Cool down with your easy pace (7.0)

This may seem like a long time on the treadmill and it certainly is, but you’ll yield tremendous benefits by completing this workout practiced by the Team USA Minnesota runners during their brutal winters. This treadmill workout will teach the body how to “feel” the various paces required in races from 5k to half-marathon.

Hopefully these workouts will help take the “dread” out of the treadmill.

CJ Hitz
CJ Hitz

After running in the 1988 State Cross Country meet in Eugene, Oregon as a high school sophomore, CJ gave up running for nearly 20 years before being drawn back into the sport. CJ caught the “running bug” in 2008 and has not looked back since. He’s dropped over 50 pounds in weight and continues to set new lifetime personal bests as a national class masters runner. CJ has competed in well over 150 races ranging from road 5Ks to trail 50Ks. He enjoys a fast road 5k or a grueling mountain race with lots of elevation gain & loss. Basically, he just plain loves running. CJ and his wife Shelley reside in Colorado Springs, CO where they are spoiled beyond measure with mountains, trails and sunshine. CJ's Train Well Race Well Coaching site - www.TrainWellRaceWell.com Check out CJ's latest book Smoothies For Runners 2.0 here - https://www.amazon.com/Smoothies-Runners-2-0-Performance-Injury-Free/dp/0692738452


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