6 Best treadmill workouts for runners

Sometimes it’s much easier to head indoors and run on the treadmill. However, you needn’t fear… with these treadmill workouts for runners, you’ll get in a great sweat and training session.

Running on the treadmill is one of those things, you either love it or hate it. Despite the many benefits of treadmill running, including the ability to get a run in on even the coldest of days, running uphill safely, and protecting our joints, running on the treadmill can often become quite monotonous, decreasing our motivation to train and or run as no human should be staring at a blank wall for quite so long.

Nonetheless, despite the potentially boring nature of running on the treadmill, there is a wide variety of treadmill workouts for runners to enjoy, improving our aerobic fitness, essential to running further and faster.

However, first, let’s discuss why you should consider hitting some of your workouts on the treadmill compared to hitting up your usual running route.

Why should you choose a treadmill workout for runners?

Running on surfaces such as tarmac and concrete is especially impactful on the joints, particularly the knees. This is because when we run we place anywhere between 1.5 to 3x our body weight through our joints each and every step. As you can see, throughout the entire duration of your run that’s quite a lot of steps, consequently resulting in quite the pounding for our joints – as you can imagine, this is not ideal.

So, what can we do to combat this? While we’re not saying don’t run on harder surfaces, we are saying to minimise running on these types of surfaces as much as possible, minimising any impact which can be avoided. And, therefore, reducing our risk of picking up an impact-related injury.

Instead, we recommend running on softer surfaces such as the trails or fells, grass, or, of course, a trip to your local gym to run on the treadmill.

Opting for a treadmill workout for runners is especially popular as when running fast, we increase our risk of impact injury once again. Therefore, substituting the road for the treadmill once in a while will reduce this risk of injury while allowing you to run in a much more controlled environment.

Likewise, treadmill workouts for runners allow you to solely focus on your run and/or workout compared to dodging cars and avoiding pedestrians or other road users – a great piece of equipment to make use of, especially if you live in a busy area.

Converting from min/mile or km/mile

Often at the gym, the treadmills are set to km/mile. If you’re not used to running using this metric it can be quite challenging attempting to workout conversion math while chasing a sub-5-minute mile, it’s just not going to happen.

Therefore, before starting your treadmill workout, we recommend making note whether this is on your hand or on your phone of your goal converted speeds – you can do this using the treadmill conversion chart from Runner’s World.  

Nevertheless, without further or do, here are our six treadmill workouts for runners.

1. 5x1km repeats (great for 5k training)

An all-time classic running workout, and not just on the treadmill. Kilometre repeats are the holy grail when it comes to breaking your 5k personal best. Not only are these super simple to do, but they will also elevate your heart rate rapidly while having you fight and hold some of your fastest speeds.

Here’s how to do it:

  • 1km warm-up jog at an easy pace
  • 1km at 10k pace or slightly faster 
  • 3-minute recovery jog 
  • Repeat 5x 
  • 1km cooldown jog at an easy pace 

Related: 8 Tips to help you beat your parkrun personal best.

2. Hill workout

One of the more useful features of the treadmill is the incline button. This handy little switch allows us to replicate running uphill indoors, all without the risk of taking a tumble (granted you don’t go too steep!).

For this hill treadmill workout, we will be gradually increasing the incline as the run goes on, testing and improving our strength while giving our lungs quite some punishment.

Here’s how to do it:

  • 5-minute easy warmup jog 
  • 5-6 minutes 2% incline 
  • 6-7 minutes 4% incline 
  • 7-8 minutes 2% incline
  • 8-9 minutes 6% incline 
  • 9-10 minutes 8% incline
  • Repeat 3x 
  • 5-minute easy cool down jog 

The number of minutes is the point of time in the interval workout e.g. 7-8 minutes 2% incline equals 1 minute on that incline difficulty.

3. Simple intervals

Regular interval training can be just as good on the treadmill, if not better due to the controlled conditions and reduced wind. 

These intervals consist of short bouts of fast-paced running, ideally anywhere between your current 5k and 10k pace, testing your body, but not killing it – allowing it to make those essential adaptations to become faster.

Here’s how to do it:

  • 5-minute easy warmup jog
  • 5-7 minutes fast
  • 7-8 minutes recovery jog
  • 8-12 minutes fast
  • 12-14 minutes recovery jog 
  • 14-18 minutes fast
  • 18-20 minutes recovery jog 
  • 20-22 minutes fast
  • 22-23 minutes recovery jog
  • 23-28 minutes fast
  • 28-30 recovery jog
  • 5-minute easy cool down jog 

The number of minutes is the point of time in the interval workout e.g. 8-12 minutes fast equals 4 minutes of fast running followed by a 2 min recovery jog (12-14 minutes recovery jog).

4. Beginner treadmill workout

If you’ve recently just started running and either want to get faster or want to be able to run for longer, then this treadmill workout is for you. The breaks between the intervals are walk breaks to best prepare you for each interval.

Here’s how to do it:

  • 5-minute warmup walk
  • 5-7 minutes at a strong effort
  • 7-9 minutes walk
  • 9-11 minutes at a strong effort
  • 11-13 minutes walk
  • 13-15 minutes at a strong effort
  • Repeat until 30-minutes

The number of minutes is the point of time in the interval workout e.g. 5-7 minutes at a strong effort equals 2 minutes of hard running followed by a 2-minute walk (7-9 minute walk).

This beginner treadmill workout will have you running at a strong effort for ten-minutes, improving your aerobic endurance session by session. If struggling to maintain what we call a “strong effort” you can instead stick to a much more comfortable speed or even resort to walking if needed. 

5. The boredom-buster treadmill workout

We know running on the treadmill can become tedious, even on the best of days. Therefore, we’ve created the boredom-buster treadmill workout for runners.

Here’s how to do it:

  • 5 minutes warmup walk 
  • 1 minute at a strong effort 
  • Jump off the treadmill and perform 10 push-ups
  • 1-minute walk
  • 2 minutes at a strong effort
  • Jump off the treadmill and perform 10 push-ups and 10 sit-ups
  • 1-minute walk
  • 3 minutes at a strong effort
  • Jump off the treadmill and perform 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 10 tricep dips
  • 1-minute walk
  • 4 minutes a strong effort 
  • Jump off the treadmill and perform 15 push-ups, 15 sit-ups, and 15 tricep dips 
  • 1-minute walk
  • 5 minutes a strong effort
  • Jump off the treadmill and perform 20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, and 20 tricep dips 
  • 5 minutes cooldown walk 

If you can’t perform a full push-up, you can instead perform these on your knees to make the exercise easier.

Ensure to stop the treadmill fully before jumping off to warrant the safety of you and others in the gym. Likewise, be sure to perform the boredom-buster treadmill workout in an area with plenty of space.

This exercise can also be done when running outside, ideally on a running track.

6. The TV workout

Finally, we have the TV workout. If you find treadmill running particularly boring, watching television is a great way to pass the time. If watching a show with ad breaks, you can use these to further structure your workout. For example, you could run at a comfortable pace while watching the show and at a much harder pace during the ad breaks.

If you’d like to take it one step further, you could also watch races such as the great north run or the London marathon while running along from the comfort of your own home, or from your local gym. You don’t have to run the same duration as the race, but it should spur you on to push that little bit harder or run that little bit further!

The bottom line

There are a wide variety of treadmill workouts for runners out there, however, here’s six of our best designed to cater for many different needs. We recommend including up to one or two of these sessions per week into your training routine, especially if you mainly train on the treadmill. However, including these treadmill workouts too frequently into your training will more than likely result in injury.

Is treadmill running bad for you?

Treadmill running has little to no impact when compared to road running. However, running on the treadmill is not natural and can present a slightly un-natural running pattern. Nevertheless, if you can adjust to this pattern, treadmill running is a great way to get in a solid workout while reducing your risk of impact injury.

Are treadmills bad for your knees?

Contrary to popular belief, treadmill running is not bad for your knees. However, treadmill running does present an often un-natural running pattern, this could be bad for your knees if you're not used to it.

How often should I run on the treadmill?

You can run on the treadmill as much or as little as you'd like. However, if you're just beginning to run we recommend running no more than three times per week on the treadmill. If you're not new to running and are looking to include treadmill interval training into your training regime, then perform these no more than three times a week to significantly reduce your risk of injury.

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