6 Ways to Improve Your Treadmill Workouts

running-advice-bugDoes running on a treadmill make you feel like a caged animal, spinning your wheels like a hamster, perhaps? Does it bore you and hamper results? While many runners have those feelings, the treadmill doesn’t have to be such a drag. And, it’s actually a powerful tool – when used correctly – to do some great indoor workouts.

TreadmillHere are six tips for making the most of your time on the ‘mill:

1. Set the incline to 1.5 to 2 percent.

Start by setting the incline on the treadmill to at least 1.5 percent. (Use 2 percent if your treadmill only increases the incline in full percentage points.) This is important because running on a flat treadmill reduces the effort substantially compared to running outside. This little bit of incline helps compensate for the lack of wind resistance and variation in outdoor ground surfaces that make running more challenging and “active” when you’re outside.

2. Vary the pace and incline.

Architecting a good treadmill workout means changing the tempo and effort level. If you’re running one pace for the whole workout, you’re not giving yourself much of a workout. First, warm up for several minutes. Then, increase the pace every one or two minutes. When you really feel warmed up and ready to run, take the pace up to a challenging level for one to two minutes. Then, back it off for one minute to recover. Repeat that routine a few times, depending on the length of your workout. You can follow the same pattern with the incline to simulate hills. The intensity should be enough that you are counting down the time for the interval to end, but not so much that you risk falling behind the pace and potentially falling off the treadmill.
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Training: Is running on the treadmill the same as running outdoors?

I get asked the question a lot: “is it the same to run on the treadmill as it is outdoors?”

The short answer is that because of the lack of wind-resistance pushing against you, it does require less effort to run on a treadmill at the same pace. This means that if you were used to running say 7.0 MPH outside and you were running 7.0 MPH on the treadmill, you would not need as much energy to achieve the same speed. This assumes that you have the incline setting at 0% grade (flat).

The trick to keeping your indoor running equivalent to your outdoor workouts is to use the incline settings on the treadmill. As a basic rule, I would suggest that everyone set the incline setting to about 1.5% to counter this lack of wind-resistance. This is not enough that you’d be running “up-hill” but it does provide more resistance.

For a more precise answer, there are many great equivalency tables that provide an pace equivalency between outdoor running and running on the treadmill. Jack Daniel’s has a good one in his book The Daniel’s Running Formula. However, I’ll give a link below where you can find a nice table on the Internet.

To help in reading the table, the first column on your left is the pace setting for the treadmill itself. Then across the table are the pace equivalencies for outdoor running on flat ground at each of the inclines listed. Obviously it gets harder (meaning you must expend more energy) as the incline increases at any given pace.

It is best to keep the pace as close to your outdoor running speed as possible to keep your leg turn-over approximately the same as your outdoor running. In other words, if you run 8:00min/mile outside and then were to run 12:00 min/mile (5.0MPH) with 10% grade indoors – although the energy expenditure would be about the same – your legs will be turning over much more slowly and you’ll also be running steeply uphill. It would be better to run 7.0MPH with a 3.0% grade, which also is about equivalent to 8:00 min/mile.

This last point of course is not true if you’re trying to do hill training, then you’d want to use the steeper incline settings (if that’s what you’re after).

You can visit the equivalency table by clicking here.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
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