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9 Treadmill Workouts For Runners When You Can’t Run Outside!

treadmill workouts for runners

It is an accepted fact that running on surfaces like concrete and asphalt can result in undue pressure on your bones and joints especially your knees. While running on a treadmill might be safer in many aspects of running, you still need to do a portion of your training on the specific race surface on which you will run. Since running on a treadmill creates more of a cushion, any long runs should be run on the same race surface to help your body acclimate and adjust to the variable conditions and hardness of the running surface. While running on a treadmill may not be for everyone, treadmills can definitely help out when the weather is not cooperating with your training schedule.

Running on a treadmill can also help improve your running form as well as reduce the continuous impact on your body. Treadmills can also serve as motivators in keeping you running even when you’re body wants to pull back just a little bit – the tread keeps spinning and spinning.

As a runner, to get faster, you need to add more high-end difficult speed training to your runs. For your speed workouts, the treadmill is a great ally in this arena. Treadmills can automatically adjust your interval speeds and inclinations based on a run and recovery interval setting.

Use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) to determine your running exertion level

Since all athletes are different you need to use an exertion scale that can be solely based on a runner’s individual fitness level. If you’ve never heard of RPE then you’re in for a treat. You can reuse this scale over and over again for your own gains and benefits when achieving your running goals. Just make sure that you revisit your scale at least once every 6 months to see if your exertion levels have changed due to lack of fitness or overall improved fitness (i.e. increased VO2 Max, endurance, cadence).

Below is a blank RPE chart that you can print out for yourself followed by an example RPE chart of a runner:

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) - EXAMPLE

This shows a possible example for a new runner's paces based on RPE. Once you know your RPE you can determine approximately what your interval pace should be. In this example, the runner's RPE of 7-8 comes at pace of 10:00 minutes/mile. Therfore the high interval training should be performed at 10:00 minutes/mile.
RPEDifficultyTalk TestPace
10All-out - Max EffortCan't talk, out of breath8:00
9Extremely hardone or two words at a time8:30
7-8Medium to Hard Effort (Interval)Can speak in small sentences10:00
4-6Moderate Effort (Endurance)can have a conversation12:00
2-3Light Effort (walking)No problem talking15:00
1No Effort (Sitting/Standing)No problem talking0:00
RPEDifficultyTalk TestPace
10All-out - Max Effort (Sprints/Strides)Can't talk, out of breath
9Extremely hard (Speedwork)one or two words at a time
7-8Medium to Hard Effort (Interval/Speedwork)Can speak in small sentences
4-6Moderate Effort (Endurance)can have a conversation
2-3Light Effort (walking)No problem talking
1No Effort (Sitting/Standing)No problem talking

How to determine your mph or kmph on a treadmill

Treadmill Pace/Speed Conversions

  • min/mile = minutes per miles pace       
  • mph = miles per hour     
  • min/km = minutes per kilometer pace
  • kmph = kilometers per hour
Treadmill Pace/Speed Conversions
min/milemphmin/kmkmph
4152:2924.1
5123:0619.3
6103:4316
78.54:2013.7
87.54:5812
96.65:3510.7
1066:129.6
115.46:508.7
1257:278
134.68:047.4
144.28:416.8
1549:196.4
163.79:566
173.510:335.6
183.311:115.3
193.111:485
20312:254.8

Here are 9 treadmill workouts for runners each specific to accomplishing a different goal:

1. Sprint Interval Workout:

Speed workout helps to build and maintain strength. This workout uses your fast-twitch muscles to energize the big muscle groups like your glutes. With warm-up and cool down, you can stay on the treadmill for an hour. The following are a few tips for the Sprint Interval Workout:

  • The treadmill should be set at approximately 1 percent incline. You should walk for 1 minute at a comfortable speed. Continue with your warm-up for 5 minutes with easy running. Keep in mind that your speed should be conversational, i.e., a pace whereby you can effortlessly carry on a conversation (RPE of 2-4). This will help to get your blood pumping and muscles warmed up, readying you for a workout.
  • Gradually increase the speed to strenuous or hard breathing (RPE 8-10), which should be for 30 seconds. Follow it up with a recovery session of easy running for 90 seconds.
  • Repeat the recovery intervals and sprint for 9 to 10 times (Total time: 18 minutes).
  • Cool-down by running easy or walking briskly for 4 minutes.
  • Your total treadmill time should be 30 minutes.

2. Endurance Workout (Mini-Progression Run):

Endurance training helps your body to function well for longer intervals of time. Your pace should continually increase every 5 minutes rather than remain at a constant speed for the overall workout.

  • Five minutes of walking at a moderate speed: Perform side shuffle on the treadmill for 15 to 30 seconds on each side. After that, perform quick steps and high knees for 30 seconds. Run at a comfortable speed for 5 minutes.
  • Starting with a run of RPE 4 or 5 each increase in speed should become more difficult slowly raising the RPE until your last interval repeat is at an RPE of 7-8.
  • Run for 5 minutes. Every minute increase your speed by 0.5 mph. Run easy for 2 minutes for recovery.
  • Repeat this method at least six times.
  • Run for a few minutes to cool down.

3. Side Stepping Workout:

Side-stepping workout includes side shuffles as well as running and walking, which work on your quads and glutes.

  • The treadmill should be set at a 1 percent incline. Begin with 1 minute walking at a manageable speed as a warm-up and continue your warm-up with easy running for 4 minutes.
  • Then, come back to your walking speed and then turn the body to the side, holding onto the side railing down in a squat position, after that begin side-stepping your feet. Carry on with side-stepping for another 30 seconds before you go back to your original walking pattern.
  • Increase the speed and run for 2 minutes. This should be easy and conversational running (RPE 2-4). Then reduce the speed-and-walk interval of side shuffles on the other side for 30-seconds.
  • Continue with 30 seconds of side shuffles or 2 minutes of easy running (alternating sides) until you have been doing it for 20 minutes.
  • Cool-down with easy running for 5 minutes.
  • Your total treadmill time should be 30 minutes.

4. Walk the Hills or Run the Flats Workout:

If you like running and walking, this is the workout that is good for you. This workout will also work on your glutes.

  • Start the treadmill at a 1 percent incline before you start your warm-up. Your warm-up should be about  5 minutes either with easy running or brisk walking.
  • Increase the incline to 2 percent and Walk for 1 minute.
  • Run at a comfortable speed (RPE 2-4) for 1 minute while decreasing the incline to 1 percent
  • Increase the incline to 3 percent and Walk for 2 minutes.
  • Run at a comfortable speed (RPE 2-4) for 2 minutes while decreasing the incline to 1 percent.
  • Increase the incline to 4 percent and Walk for 3 minutes.
  • Run at a comfortable speed (RPE 2-4) for 3 minutes while decreasing the incline to 1 percent.
  • Increase the incline to 4 percent and Walk for 4 minutes.
  • Run at a comfortable speed (RPE 2-4) for 4 minutes while decreasing the incline to 1 percent.
  • Run easy or walk briskly for a 5-minute cool-down
  • Your total treadmill time should be 30 minutes.
Treadmill-Workouts-For-Runners

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5. Pyramid Treadmill Workout (Scorch the calories):

The pyramid treadmill workout is another form of interval training that includes walking and running. If you follow the workout instructions below you could burn a lot of calories:

  • Start with a 3-minute warmup of easy running or brisk walking.
  • After warming up, set your incline to 1 percent.
  • Run for 30 seconds at a medium pace (RPE 5-6) – recover with a 30-second walk
  • Run for 1 minute at a medium pace (RPE 5-6) – recover with a brisk walk for 1 minute
  • Run for 2 minutes at a medium pace (RPE 5-6) – recover with a brisk walk for 1 minute
  • Run for 3 minutes at a medium pace (RPE 5-6) – recover with a brisk walk for 1 minute
  • Run for 4 minutes at a medium pace (RPE 5-6) – recover with a brisk walk for 1 minute
  • Run for 3 minutes at a Hard pace (RPE 7-8) – recover with a brisk walk for 1 minute
  • Run for 2 minutes at a Hard pace (RPE 7-8) – recover with a brisk walk for 1 minute
  • Run for 1 minute at a Hard pace (RPE 7-8) – recover with a brisk walk for 1 minute
  • Run for 30 seconds at a Hard pace (RPE 7-8) – recover with a 30-second brisk walk
  • Cool-down with easy running for 2 to 3 minutes or a few minutes of brisk walking
  • Your total treadmill time should be 30 minutes.

6. Yoga Run Workout:

If you are looking for something simple and you like yoga, you can try out this yoga run workout. This workout includes running with yoga exercises in between the sets.

  • Warm-up with easy running
  • Run at your normal comfortable speed or slightly slower (RPE 2-4) for 7 minutes
  • Slow down the treadmill to a stop and do some simple yoga poses.
  • Repeat this 3 to 5 times
  • Make sure to keep your yoga stretches and forms to simple. Do not do any extreme deep stretches because you could possibly end up injured.

7. The 5K Treadmill Workouts (Perfect for new treadmill runners):

This is the most comfortable workout for runners. This workout is suitable for those who are new to treadmill exercising because this workout does not have any speed-running nor incline running activities.

  • 1 km easy warm-up run
  • Run for 3 km at your race speed (goal race pace)
  • 1 km easy cool-down run

8. Race Pace Speed Treadmill Workout:

If you are training to run for a full marathon or half marathon, this workout can be beneficial to help you reach your goals. The race speed workout helps you get comfortable at your target goal pace.

  • Warm-up with easy running for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Run for 1 mile at your marathon goal pace (RPE 4-6)
  • Run 90 seconds at 80% of maximum effort (RPE 8) – recover for 1 minute at an easy running pace (RPE 2-4)
  • Run 90 seconds at 80% of maximum effort (RPE 8) – recover for 1 minute at an easy running pace (RPE 2-4)
  • Run 90 seconds at 80% of maximum effort (RPE 8) – recover for 1 minute at an easy running pace (RPE 2-4)
  • Run 90 seconds at 80% of maximum effort (RPE 8) – recover for 1 minute at an easy running pace (RPE 2-4)
  • Run for 1 mile at your marathon goal pace (RPE 4-6)
  • Run 90 seconds at 90% of maximum effort (RPE 9) – recover for 2 minutes at an easy running pace (RPE 2-4)
  • Run 90 seconds at 90% of maximum effort (RPE 9) – recover for 2 minutes at an easy running pace (RPE 2-4)
  • Run 90 seconds at 90% of maximum effort (RPE 9) – recover for 2 minutes at an easy running pace (RPE 2-4)
  • Run 90 seconds at 90% of maximum effort (RPE 9) – recover for 2 minutes at an easy running pace (RPE 2-4)
  • Run for 1 mile at your marathon goal pace (RPE 4-6)
  • Cool-down with easy running for 10 to 15 minutes

9. 3, 2, 1 Workout:

The 3, 2, 1 workout will help you increase your understanding of speed and, in turn, get used to running at different speeds. In this workout, you have to run at an increased speed and recovery speed. Your recovery speed will be 60 to 75% of your maximal heart rate. This is approximately 60 to 90 seconds slower than your standard training speed. Your running speed pace target should be aimed at your race day’s goal, which you have planned to run.

  • Warm-up with easy running for 5 minutes
  • 3 minutes of running at a high speed (RPE 7-8)
  • Recovery run for 3 minutes
  • 2 minutes of running at a high speed (RPE 7-8)
  • Recovery run for 2 minutes
  • 1 minute of running at a high speed (RPE 7-8)
  • Recovery run for 1 minute
  • 1 minute of running at a high speed (RPE 7-8)
  • Recovery run for 1 minute
  • 2 minutes of running at a high speed (RPE 7-8)
  • Recovery run for 2 minutes
  • 3 minutes of running at a high speed (RPE 7-8)
  • Recover run for 3 minutes
  • Cool-down with easy running for 5 minutes
Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach (Level 2). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

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