Treadmills are readily accessible at most gyms and can help you improve your cardio endurance.
The challenge with treadmill running is that it can become boring fast. Many people set a treadmill at one speed and incline, then continue for 20 or 30-minutes, or longer.
The following 5 treadmill workouts range from just 5-minutes to 20-minutes to help you boost your cardio endurance and burn fat. Whether you are a beginner or an elite level athlete, there are instructions to adjust the workout to match your fitness level.
Each workout includes the length, number of rounds, work duration (or the amount of time you are running / sprinting) and rest duration.
Tips Before You Begin
1. Add A Small Incline
To match the challenge of running outdoors, just set your treadmill to an incline of at least 1% if possible. This will get your glutes and hamstrings more involved in your treadmill workouts.
2. Avoid Training To Failure
You’ve probably seen funny videos of people flying off treadmills. If you haven’t, it actually happens. Be careful when you train and avoid training to failure. Leave at least a little gas in the tank!
3. Have Fun
These treadmill workouts will give you plenty of variety to spice up your workouts. While you are training hard, always remember to have some fun and enjoy the workout. The more you enjoy the workouts, the more sustainable they will be.
1. 30:30 Sprint Intervals (5-Minutes)
When your sprint sets are short, your focus is on speed. You want to push your body outside of your comfort limits and go “breathless”. Don’t hold back!
Perform 5 rounds of sprints, working hard for 30 seconds and resting for 30 seconds. After your sprint interval, hold on to the handlebars and safely jump your feet to the side platforms outside of the belt for your rest interval. When it’s time to sprint again, hold the handlebars and safely jump your feet back onto the belt for your work interval.
If you’re new to sprinting, start at an incline of 6 and a speed of 6. Gradually work your way up to an incline of 10 and a speed of 10.
You don’t have to increase the speed and incline simultaneously. You can progressively increase your speed, or your incline, to increase the challenge of the sprint intervals. For example, when you’re comfortable at a 6 speed and 6 incline, increase the speed to a 7 or 8, and keep the incline at 6. You’ll probably notice your intervals are more challenging.
2. 60:60 Sprint Intervals (10-Minutes)
Here, your focus is on endurance. Because you’re running for a longer period of time, you might not run as fast. Work at a speed that’s challenging, but that you can maintain for 60 seconds. Set-by-set, it should be more difficult to maintain the same intensity. Try to keep your settings the same from start to finish!
Perform 5 rounds of sprints, working hard for 60 seconds and resting for 60 seconds. After your sprint interval, hold on to the handlebars and safely jump your feet to the side platforms outside of the belt for your rest interval. When it’s time to sprint again, hold the handlebars and safely jump your feet back onto the belt for your work interval.
You don’t have to increase the speed and incline simultaneously. You can progressively increase your speed, or your incline, to increase the challenge of the sprint intervals. For example, when you’re comfortable at speed 6 and incline 3, increase the speed to 7 while keeping the incline the same.
3. Combo Sprints & Bodyweight Strength (12-Minutes)
We’re combining the best of both worlds here, fusing sprints with bodyweight exercises. Your work-to-rest is 30 seconds on, and 30 seconds off. This workout is a total body challenge that’s great to do with a partner. Are you ready?
Set your incline to a 1.5, and choose a speed that’s challenging for 30 seconds. If you can, maintain the same speed for every sprint interval. Alternate between a sprint interval and a bodyweight exercise, taking 30 seconds of rest between each. You only have 2 rounds, so keep the intensity high for every interval.
4. Hill Intervals (16-Minutes)
There are few exercises that are more challenging than running hills. During these intervals, your hill incline is going to increase while your speed stays the same. Get ready to feel the burn!
Your work interval is 3-minutes long. Every minute on the minute, increase your incline by one full level while maintaining the same speed.
At the end of the 3-minute work interval, rest for 60 seconds by either returning to your starting incline and walking at speed 2, or by safely jumping your feet to the side platforms. Remember to set your treadmill back to your starting speed and incline if you opt for full rest.
5. Endurance Ladder (20-Minutes)
During an endurance ladder, you’ll be pushing your speed over the course of 4-minutes. You start slower, and gradually increase your speed to challenge your endurance. Think about it as a race – you want to finish fast.
Every minute on the minute, increase your speed by one full level. The first minute should feel comfortable, and every minute thereafter should build until you’re approaching breathless in the last minute.
Push through the full 4-minute interval, and then rest for 60 seconds. During the rest interval, you can either walk at a level 3, or jump your feet to the side platforms and catch your breath. Be sure to decrease the speed of the belt during the rest interval if you decide not to walk.
Treadmill Running Benefits
Regardless of the weather outside, you can comfortably run on a treadmill indoors. Almost all conventional gyms have more than one treadmill, so you usually don’t have to wait. You can just go to the gym, hop on a treadmill, and get your workout done.
2. Easy To Track Improvements
When you’re running outdoors, it’s not that easy to track your improvements (unless you have a running app or fitness tracker), and it’s also not always easy to push yourself. On a treadmill, you’re in control of the speed and incline. That means, you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts and track your progress over time. Seeing your speed increase is incredibly motivating.
3. Easier On Your Joints Than Pavement
Street running can be intense on your joints, especially if you’re overweight or have knee issues. Treadmills are padded, so they decrease the impact of your foot strike. An elliptical may be the best option if you have joint issues (See: Treadmill vs. Elliptical: Which Is Better?).
Treadmill Running Considerations
1. Physically Easier
When you run outside, you are 100% responsible for propelling your body forward. On a treadmill, the ground is being pulled underneath your feet. This changes your muscle recruitment. At the same time, you don’t have to contend with wind resistance or imbalances in the ground. As a result, running on a treadmill is often easier than running outdoors. You can level the playing field by setting your treadmill incline to at least 1%.1
2. Increased Calf Activation
Because you have to run against the speed of the belt, your calves have to work harder on a treadmill. This can lead to tight calves and increased potential for injuries such as shin splints and achilles tendonitis.
3. Less Outdoor Time
Exercising outdoors provides so many benefits, in addition to burning calories. You get fresh air, vitamin D, and decreased stress. People who exercise outside tend to have feel more revitalized and energized, and have lower incidences of depression.
- Jones AM, Doust JH. A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running. J Sports Sci. 1996;14(4):321-7. ↩