Treadmill Workouts to Beat the Boredom

As the weather cools in the northern hemisphere, it is common to check the weather before heading out on a run. It might be bitterly cold, conditions may be icy or snowy, or maybe it is just too dark to safely run outdoors. So it is time to turn to the treadmill. 

*Insert Groan here*

Not everyone’s favorite way to get in a workout, the treadmill goes by many other derogatory monikers. You know them. However adding some variety into a running routine may turn the “Dreadmill” into the “Insteadmill”. 

The treadmill does not completely mimic running outdoors, and you can get a great workout on the machine. Incorporating intervals can boost metabolism and improve strength and running speed. A runner motivated by numbers might find improvement over time when pace and speed improve at the same perceived effort. It is also a good time to practice running at a specific heart rate zone or effort level without having to deal with terrain and elevation changes.  

Adding a variety of workouts on the treadmill will not only keep boredom at bay, but also “confuse” the body by recruiting muscles in different ways across a short period of time. High Quality Treadmill workouts do not require a lot of time. Short, programmed sessions two to three days a week will keep things interesting when you have to run inside. Many treadmills have some sort of pre-programmed set of runs, which are a good place to start. Some Fitness apps have guided runs specifically for the treadmill, as well.

Coach HJ’s favorite workouts:

Please note, workouts are listed in time and effort rather than miles and pace. This is because not all treadmills are calibrated accurately. The distance per hour on the console may not be an indication of your actual speed and strength. Use your perceived effort to determine your speed. RPE is Rate of Perceived Exertion, meaning that on a scale of 1 to 10, your easy effort should be about a 5 (carry on a conversation easily), 10 being the hardest and only sustainable for 30-60 seconds. For tips on how to safely run on the treadmill, check out this video right here.

The Pyramid Workout; <40 minutes:

  • 10:00 Warm-up Easy
  • 1:00 RPE 8-9, 2:00 recovery walk or jog
  • 2:00 RPE 8, 2:00 recovery walk or jog
  • 3:00 RPE 7-8, 2:00 recovery walk or jog
  • 2:00 RPE 8, 2:00 recovery walk or jog
  • 1:00 RPE 8-9, 2:00 recovery walk or jog
  • 10:00 Cool Down

Variation for Intermediate to Advanced runners — at the end of the main set, do an additional 3:00 recovery, then repeat the Pyramid set again before cooling down.

The Ladder Workout (or Reverse Ladder); 45 minutes:

  • 10:00 Warm-Up Easy
  • 1:00 RPE 9, 2:00 recovery walk or jog
  • 2:00 RPE 8-9, 2:00 recovery walk or jog
  • 3:00 RPE 8, 2:00 recovery walk or jog
  • 4:00 RPE 7-8, 2:00 recovery
  • 5:00 RPE 7, 2:00 recovery
  • 10:00 Cool Down 

Variation: Reverse ladder is starting with the 5:00 set, then decreasing interval time while increasing effort. 

Intermediate to Advanced runners: repeat main set. 

The Hills Progression Workout; 36 Minutes: 

As Incline increases, try to keep pace the same throughout (hint, start easier than you think you need to). 

  • 10:00 Warm-up Easy on “flat road” (1% incline)
  • 1:00 at 2% incline
  • 1:00 at 4% incline
  • 1:00 at 6% incline
  • 1:00 at 8% incline
  • 2:00 Recovery, back to “flat road”
  • Repeat Incline set, starting at 4% working up to 10%
  • 2:00 Recovery
  • Repeat Incline set a third time, starting at 6% working up to 12%.
  • 10:00 Cool Down 

Long Intervals Version 1:

10:00 Warm-up

4 to 6 sets of:

4:00 RPE 7-8, 3:00 recovery jog

10:00 Cool Down

Long Intervals Version 2:

Same as version 1, but start the first 4:00 set at 4% incline, then increase incline for each 4 minute interval. Effort should be sustainable throughout. 

Running on the treadmill doesn’t have to be tedious, and in fact, targeted workouts like these may help improve running while keeping the boredom at bay. 

Do you have a favorite Treadmill Workout? I’d love to hear about it.