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Treadmill Training - Any Ideas??

An email from a military recruit in Wisconsin requested information on how to spice up running on the “dreadmill.”  He states, “During the winter time it is nearly impossible to run any timed event due to the 2-3 ft of snow on the ground or ice on the roads.  Is treadmill running going to hurt me running ability I am trying to build up for training.?”

Yes, I know all about the dreadmill and do not like it compared to running on the ground as I have always felt that the machine did a bit of the work for me.  However, after experimenting with the treadmill during recent bad weather myself and some research, I have found some good workouts to do that will spice things up on the treadmill.

If doing a long - slow - distance (LSD) run, the treadmill can get a bit boring, but so can  running around a track or even in some environments for that matter.  To get more out of the run on a treadmill, slightly increase the incline 1-2% to make it similar to running on the ground.  Now if you really want to push the caloric burn and work the legs and lungs, take it up to 5% and you will actually burn two times the amount of calories that on a flat treadmill.

But the LSD run does not spice up things on the treadmill, so add speed to the workout using interval and tempo training.  Here are three workouts to add to your running plan during the week if stuck inside and cannot run on a track or trail. Try these workouts to increase speed in your mile pace. 

SPRINT INTERVAL - Most treadmills can only go up to 10-2 miles per hour (5-6 minute per mile pace) so it is not a FULL sprint but about 80-90% full pace, but fast enough that many use the handrails for safety at this level on the fast runs.  Run as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds, followed by a walk for 60-90 seconds. 
Repeat 8-10 times for a challenging routine.

Sprint – Jog Tempo Run - Pump that one up a bit and jog at standard run pace for you for five minutes.  Then add the pace of your goal mile pace.  Say you are trying to run a 6 minute mile.  Shoot for that pace on the treadmill (which is 10 miles per hour) for as long as you can, then drop down to regular running pace for twice as long as you ran at goal pace.  Repeat this cycle for as long as you can perhaps 5-6 times.

TEMPO Training - Run 10-15 minute warmup, run faster but comfortable run for 20 minutes, then a 10-15 minute cooldown to build leg endurance and running tolerance.  Add some leg PT at every transition for adding workout.  For instance do 20 squats, 20 lunges at each change in pace, then hop back on and run.

These workouts should help you keep your running pace as good as or perhaps even better than it was when you had to stop running outside.  I think it is fun and smart to mix in a little bit of everything into your training plan as doing ONLY one thing for too long tends to neglect certain elements of fitness. 

Hang in there and keep working and trying new things to spice up your routine. 


Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at


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