Treadmill Intervals: Fit Check

Running hills on the treadmill keeps your body guessing. Here’s a 40-minute interval workout to get you started.

Treadmills get a bad rap. The list of complaints is endless: They’re boring, they’re monotonous, they’re too easy, they’re unrealistic.

Margie Shapiro, a triathlete and a coach for Potomac River Running, says the treadmill is a great tool for both novice and advanced runners. “Some people enjoy the softer surfaces a treadmill provides, while others enjoy the ability to set a pace of incline, tune out distractions, and run rhythmically,” she says.

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Perhaps the most convenient perk of a treadmill is that you don’t have to worry about weather conditions. When bad weather makes running outdoors impossible, a run on the treadmill is an easy fix. But, says Shapiro, if you choose a treadmill workout, place a fan nearby and run on at least 1 percent incline to mimic outdoor running.

Shapiro recommends limiting treadmill workouts to less than 50 percent of your total running per week, especially if you’re considering racing. “Running on harder surfaces is important in preparation for a road race,” she says. And softer surfaces, such as trails or gravel, can develop motor skills in your feet and lower legs, increasing balance and stability while decreasing risk of injury.

If this workout seems too easy, shoot for a slightly faster speed, extend the duration of the intervals, or simply add additional intervals. Shapiro recommends adding a four-minute interval at the top of the pyramid.

Treadmill Intervals
Duration: 40 minutes

Warm up with an easy walk or jog at 1-percent incline for ten minutes to increase your heart rate. You can increase your pace over this time, or keep the same speed throughout.

Then, for five minutes, increase the incline by 0.5 percent every minute, maintaining the speed you hit in the last five minutes of your warmup. By the end, you should be at a 3.5-percent incline.

For two minutes, run at an easy pace at a 1-percent incline.

Then perform the following interval pyramid—you’ll work your way up to three minutes, then back down to one. The speed you choose for the intervals at 4 percent should be challenging, but don’t overdo it if this is your first time. Total interval period: 14 minutes.

One minute at 4 percent
One minute at 1 percent
Two minutes at 4 percent
One minute at 1 percent
Three minutes at 4 percent
One minute at 1 percent
Two minutes at 4 percent
One minute at 1 percent
One minute at 4 percent
One minute at 1 percent

Cool down with nine minutes of very easy jogging or walking.

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