Don’t Dread the Treadmill

You’re probably reading this title thinking “pfff… treadmill… more like DREADmill!” My wife even looked at me as if I’d just eaten a slug when I told her that the weekly ULDT post would be about treadmills. But the treadmill can be a beneficial and useful tool for your training, especially in extremely adverse weather conditions, less than ideal training locations, and at times when you want to specifically control every aspect of your workout. So let’s talk about when the treadmill comes in handy, how to make the best use of it, and some of our favorite workouts.


Traveling – I always choose exploration over a gym when it’s possible, but that’s not always the best idea. If you find yourself in an area that offers no safe place to run, then the treadmill can be your friend. I would much rather spend an hour on a treadmill at the gym than risk running on a high traffic road with no shoulder or running through South Park after the sun sets.

Constraints – If you’ve got a total of 1.5 hours to get up, get a run in, make breakfast, make the kids lunch, shower and look presentable for work, then the treadmill can be a great option, especially if it’s in your home; it eliminates a commute and gives you the ability to stop the workout when you need to without being far from home.

Flatland – Is your goal race a hilly half, but you have no hills in your town? No problem! You can get some great hill work in on the treadmill with up to 12% grade at whatever length and speed you want.

Pacing – If you have trouble pacing yourself for interval workouts, then the treadmill is a great option. You can control the pace with the push of button and keep an eye on the distance simultaneously. One word of caution is to be careful not to overreach; it can be difficult to focus on pushing the button to slow the pace down when you’ve exhausted yourself.

Heat Training – The ambient room temperature in most US homes range from 68 to 74 degrees, which is pretty warm when you’re running. The higher temperature coupled with the lack of headwind are the perfect cocktail to raise your core temperature and studies have shown it only takes about 10 days for your body to acclimate to exercise in warmer climates. Some of those positive adaptations include more efficient sweating (cooling), better cardiovascular function and increased endurance in both warm and cool conditions. So next time you’re training for a warm race in a cool climate, give the treadmill some thought.


The 1% Rule – When you run outside you create headwind, but when you’re on the treadmill you’re not moving forward, so this doesn’t happen. In order to make up for the lack of wind resistance, you need to always set your treadmill to an incline of 1%

Get headphones – Music or a podcast are key to me when using the treadmill. If I’m not doing a specific workout, I find it mind numbing and I really need something to keep me engaged. You can find free podcasts all over the web and free music through services like Pandora or Spotify and you can get a pair of earbuds for as little as $5. 

Cover the screen – My wife loves this trick. After you’ve set the speed to a comfortable pace, cover the screen with a jacket or towel so that you can’t see the distance you’ve travelled or the time you’ve been there. Put on some tunes, space out, and before you know you’ll have knocked out that 6 mile run.

Practice the bail – Whether you’re doing speed intervals or hill reps on the treadmill, you need to know how to dismount safely in the event that you can’t sustain your pace. Practice this by gradually increasing the speed until you’re at your Tempo or Steady State pace and work on dismounting. The last thing you need is a face plant at the end of 12 800’s.


Hills – A fartlek style hill workout is one of my favorites on the treadmill. You can play around with the speed and incline and make it is challenging and as long as you want. Warm up 15 to 20 minutes and then start playing with the speed and incline. Do hard bouts of 1 to 10 minutes (depending on the intensity, goal of the workout, your fitness level and training volume) with rests in between followed by a 10 to 15 minute cool down.

Intervals – Warm up 15 to 20 minutes at an easy pace. Then do 6 to 12 X 800M repeats at your 5K race pace (depending on your current fitness and training volume) with 2 minute jogs in between followed by a 10 to 15 minute cool down.

Tempo Intervals –  Warm up 15 to 20 minutes and then do 3 to 6 X  5 to 10 minutes (depending on your current fitness and training volume) at your tempo pace with 1 to 2 minute jogs in between followed by a 10 to 15 minute cool down.

You don’t have to dread the treadmill! It’s a useful tool that can be an integral part of your training. The next time you’re traveling, training for a warm race or caught in adverse weather conditions when you need to nail a specific workout; keep your friend, the treadmill, in mind.

If you have any questions about training or if you’re looking for a qualified coach, shoot me a message. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram @upperleftDT Thanks for reading!