Effective training sessions for the treadmill

Workouts to replace your run

How can you get the most of your treadmill training sessions? Louise Damen provides some training session ideas so that your progress doesn’t stall when you hit the treadmill.

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

Treadmills are like Marmite; you either love them or hate them! Whether you’re a fan or not, treadmill training can be beneficial for a number of reasons. It provides a controlled environment and enables you to monitor your speed very closely, making it perfect for both tempo running and recovery running. If it’s too dangerous to run outside, (whether that’s due to weather or geographical location), then the treadmill is a fantastic way of staying safe and maintaining quality. Plus you have the additional advantage of being able to train in a vest and shorts!

There is, of course, the obvious boredom factor when it comes to treadmill running. However, one of the best ways to break the monotony is to inject a stimulus into your run.

With that in mind, check out these top treadmill training sessions:

Progression run

This is a particularly effective session if you are tight for time. Set the treadmill at a 1% gradient to account for the air resistance outside and the obvious advantage of the belt moving towards you. Start with an easy 5 minute warm up and then increase the pace so that you are running at a relaxed speed for the next 5 minutes. Aim to increase your pace by 0.5-1.0 km/h every 5 minutes until you have been running for a total of 25 minutes. Finish with 5 minutes of easy jogging to cool down before stepping off the treadmill with a great 30-minute workout in the bag.

Uphill tempo

This workout is a fantastic way to introduce a different stimulus to a tempo run. Using an incline brings the additional benefit of reducing the impact on your legs, whilst also strengthening them at the same time.

After warming up for 5 minutes, set the treadmill at an incline of 5%. Increase the speed so that you are running at a comfortably hard pace, but not flat out. Effort wise you should be able to say about three or four words, but be unable to hold a full conversation. Aim to complete 20-25 minutes of continuous running, or if this is too challenging then split the work into blocks such as 2 x 10 minutes or 4-5 x 5 minutes with a short, 1-minute recovery. The key to this workout is to err on the side of caution and to start a little slower than you feel you need to as the hill will start to bite! Reduce the gradient and cool down with 5 minutes of easy jogging.

3 minute intervals

This session is a great way to work on your speed endurance whether you are training for 5k or a marathon. Three minute intervals are ideal as they are long enough to gain the physiological adaptions from running at a higher intensity, but not so long that you cannot maintain the pace.

After warming up for 5-10 minutes at an easy pace, set the treadmill at a 1% incline. Run 5-6 x 3 minutes with a 90 second jog recovery at your 10k race pace. You can gradually build up the number of intervals as you get fitter. Of course, there are no set rules when it comes to workouts so if you want to add a twist then why not aim to run the last 2-3 efforts at closer to 5k pace or you could alternate each effort between tempo effort and 5k pace. Finish with 5-10 minutes of easy jogging to bag a high quality workout.

Continuous hills

Who says that treadmill sessions have to be boring? This workout is a fantastic way to build leg strength and endurance and the variation will make the time fly.

After a 5-10 minute warm up, increase the gradient to around 10% for 60-90 seconds and a pace that is ‘comfortably hard’, not an eyeballs out effort. Reduce the gradient back to 1% and run at a steady pace for 90 seconds to actively recover. Repeat the hill run followed by the active recovery 5-6 times. Once again, you can gradually build the number of efforts as you become fitter. Remember, the aim of this session is to run each hill segment hard, yet controlled so that you are able to maintain a steady pace during the flat segments. If you’re forced to stop and walk you are running too hard! Finish with a 5-minute easy cool down jog.

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