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 Treadmill Tryout 
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Treadmill Tryout
by: Sandra Prior

Some runners find treadmill running boring and tedious. They argue that there's nothing to look at, that the indoor air is stale and that real runners do it outdoors. Perhaps. But treadmill running has its converts and its benefits. In fact, the predictability of treadmill running may also be its greatest virtue. The reliable roll of the belt, the comfortable indoor temperature and the safety and security of a lit surface certainly beat cold roads, arctic blasts and dark, treacherous footing.

Below are treadmill workouts that will make you a stronger, faster runner no matter what your level of ability. Each of them takes less than an hour, so they're easy to fit into your schedule. When running these treadmill workouts, keep two points in mind: Don't do more than two of the workouts per week (the rest of the time, just run easily); and, set your treadmill's elevation at 1 degree. This compensates for the lack of air resistance in treadmill running and makes your speeds roughly equivalent to similar speeds outdoors.

By building slow, you can improve your short distance 5km speed. Begin with a 10-minute warm-up, and then set your treadmill at a ‘comfortably hard’ faster speed that you can maintain for five minutes and take note of the speed. For your first treadmill workout at this pace, run continuously for 5 minutes. Finish the workout with 10 to 20 minutes of easy cool down running. For each of the next 10 weeks, run the same workout but increase the time you spend at your goal pace by 1 minute a week. At the end of 10 weeks, you should be able to run longer and faster. Time to take on a 5km race.

Tilt Killer

The term ‘intervals’ usually means a series of short, hard runs interspersed with jogging or walking. In this variation, instead of speeding up for the hard stints, you increase the incline. The high level of effort will improve your power.

Set the treadmill's speed for about half of your full effort. Set the incline at three percent and run for 20 to 30 seconds, then return to a zero incline for 30 seconds. Repeat this sequence at five percent, and then seven percent. That's one repetition. Do eight to 10 repetitions.

Musical Pickups

In the gym, you can use the music being played in the gym or use your own Mp3 player to dictate the pace of your workout.

After an easy warm-up jog of five to 10 minutes, put on some high-energy music for a little speed-play. Alternate between faster segments of running (but don't sprint) during the chorus and slower segments during the verse. Or string together a couple of short songs, running to the beat of a faster song followed by a slower one. After 15 to 20 minutes, cool down with an easy five- to 10-minute jog.

Speed Demon

Try this session to increase your speed and running form. Run easily for 10 minutes, then set the treadmill at a speed about 15 seconds per kilometre faster than your best recent 5km pace. Run three 3-minute repeats at this speed, alternating with 3 minutes of very slow jogging. After completing a set of three repeats and recovery jogs, rest for 5 minutes by jogging. Then run a second set of three repeats and recovery jogs. When finished, run easily for 5 minutes to cool down well.

Guessing Games

Letting your mind guess the time that you run at different paces takes the focus off how your legs are feeling. After a five- to 10-minute warm-up, hit your regular training pace. Don't look at the treadmill timer until you estimate that 60 seconds have passed. How close did you come? Take a short break with some easy running and try again, this time running for two or three minutes.

Cruise Intervals

If it's building some endurance you are after, then include longer segments of intervals to gain form and speed for events like half marathons. After a gentle warm-up of five to 10 minutes, run 10 minutes at 10km pace followed by two minutes very easy. The key is to concentrate on form and be able to do at least two sets of longer intervals while staying relaxed.

Out to Lunch

This hour-long workout will revitalize your day, put paid to any non-training guilt, boost your afternoon production and most importantly, keep your race preparation on target. Warm up by doing a mildly challenging 10-minute hill session on a stationary bike. Get off and stretch vital muscles like the calves, hamstring and pelvic area, then head for the treadmill.

Get introduced with 9x400m intervals. Manually increase the speed and incline to the desired levels, then make a note of the distance on the metre when you are ready to begin the interval. Now add 400m and keep running until you reach the required distance, focusing on running fast but with good form. Allow yourself about 45 seconds to 1 minute recovery by lifting yourself off the belt and putting your feet either side of the band. Lower yourself back onto the belt, gradually increasing your running stride and the amount of weight carried on your legs. Once you are back into full running style, add another 400m to the distance for your next interval.

You can do the same with other quality sessions: 4x1000m with 1-minute recovery, or 2x2km, or even an 18-minute threshold pace run. All of these sessions require a different pace. The 400's will be just faster than your best 5km speed, the 1000's and 2000's might be at your 10km pace and the threshold close to your 15km pace. Cool down with 10 minutes on the exercise bike.


Exercise physiologists recommend this killer 30-minute workout that uses speed and elevation to build speed and strength. After a five-minute warm-up and five minutes at 30 seconds to 1 minute slower per kilometre than your 10km race pace, increase elevation by two percent. Run for two minutes, then raise elevation another two percent. Progress up to two minutes at 12 percent elevation. Cool down for eight minutes. When you're at two to four percent incline, you think, ‘I can do this’. At six to eight percent, it has your attention. From 10 to 12, it's really hard. This workout will help you power up hills of all sizes when you're back out on the road.

Climb Time

Most treadmills are restricted to a maximum speed of 16km per hour and many hardcore runners will want to go faster than this in their quality efforts. However, to get a genuine equivalent of an outdoor 16km/h (3:45/km pace) you need to add incline to your run on the treadmill.

Let's say you put the incline at 7%, then crank it up to 11km/h. Your equivalent outdoor pace is around 3:50/km. Increase the belt speed to 13.5km/h and your equivalent pace moves to under 3:35/km, and if you crank it up to 16km/h, the outside equivalent would be 3:18/km or around 18.25km/h (about a 33-minute 10km pace).

Of course, instead of increasing the speed you can increase the incline to get the equivalent effort. If you use an 8% incline the pace of the belt can drop to 11.75km/h (as opposed to 16km/h at 7%). This means the same perceived effort can be achieved without the high impact of high speeds and makes treadmill training a good option for the injured runner.

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Sandra Prior runs her own bodybuilding website at

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Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:40 pm
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