Some people love treadmills and spend most of their time exercising on them, while some people begrudge any time spent on them and avoid them as much as possible. For the lovers we have loads of new treadmill training sessions that you’ll enjoy, and for the haters we have short, sharp workouts that will get you on and off it in ten minutes while still getting in a good-quality session.
Before we get to our workouts, it’s worthwhile understanding the preset workouts that treadmills come with. Pretty much every treadmill now comes loaded with a range of sessions, which usually fall into one of four categories. Interval sessions involve bursts of fast running or even sprinting broken up by recovery sections at a slow pace. These are great for burning lots of calories in double-quick time, but should be used sparingly. Hill sessions are similar to intervals, but the harder sections involve raising the incline of the treadmill belt rather than increasing the speed. These build leg strength as well as increasing your fitness and burning calories.
Many treadmills also offer fat-loss programmes that are designed to keep you in the so-called fat-burning zone. This is at around 65% of your maximum heart rate, where your body primarily uses fat for energy rather than carbs (which are the main source of energy when you hit higher heart rate zones). You’ll need to enter your age and weight, and ideally link a heart rate monitor to the treadmill, for these programmes to be as effective as possible.
Finally, you’ll also find a fitness test programme on many treadmills. This is exactly what the name suggests – a test of your fitness, where the workout gets progressively harder over time. It’s a bit like the bleep test, and worth doing from time to time to check how you’re progressing.
Harry Aikines-Aryeetey’s Treadmill Sprint Workout
This sprint session was put together by former Team GB sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey for audio-workout app WithU (opens in new tab), and is a great, speedy session that will push you hard in under 15 minutes. The full session is below, but first here are some pointers from Aikines-Aryeetey’s audio instruction to help you sprint like a pro.
“I need your chest up and I need you to be popping off the floor,” says Aikines-Aryeetey. “Pop off the floor and dorsiflex – that means pulling your toes up. Aim for minimal ground contact time.
“Your arms and shoulders should be relaxed. I want you to be bouncing off the treadmill flowing through the balls of your feet. You’re a duck on water – I want to see you relaxed up top, but working hard below.”
For the first two minutes and 45 seconds, gradually progress from walking to a steady jog, then return to a walking pace for the remaining time.
Reps 6 Time 45sec Rest 30sec
In the first rep aim to run at 80% of your sprinting speed. In the second aim for 85%, and raise it to 90% for the third rep. Then repeat that sequence on the fourth, fifth and sixth reps. On the rest sections, slow to walking pace.
Jog slowly for two minutes to bring your heart rate down after the sprints session.
Interval Workout For Beginners
A simple but effective interval session is one that sets a speed which you return to after each effort. A baseline of 5km/h is an easy place as any to start, but feel free to adjust that according to your level or even how you’re feeling on the day so you’re firmly in your comfort zone. You’re going to end up running 10km/h faster than this baseline so make sure you can handle that top speed for a minute. The good news is that as you’re going to gradually increase the speed over the session, your body should be ready for the big finale.
Work at your base for one minute, then increase the speed by 1km/h. Hold at this new speed for one minute, then return to your baseline for a minute. For your next effort increase the speed by 2km/h, after a minute return to your baseline speed for a minute, then up the speed for the next effort by 3km/h and so on. Continue in this manner until 20 minutes has elapsed.
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Zwift Treadmill Workouts
To use the Zwift virtual training app you link up a footpod, a treadmill sensor or even a smart treadmill to the app, and then watch as your avatar runs on screen in scenic virtual worlds. It’s a great way to decrease the monotony of treadmill running, and there are plenty of top-notch preset workouts on Zwift, where the finish line for each step or interval is marked by a banner to help with motivation at the end of a rep. If that has piqued your interest, our guide to Zwift running explains all.
Here are a few example workouts from Zwift, which you can do on any treadmill without connecting to the app. You will need to know your 5K pace though, because the pace for the workouts is set at percentages of your 5K pace. This running pace calculator should help convert your best time to a pace.
This workout will help you hold your pace when fatigue starts to set in towards the end of races. After a good warm-up you’re going to complete a series of intervals at your 5K pace. These intervals will get shorter, but so will the recovery sections in between them.
|0-8min||5K pace (8min)|
|12-18min||5K pace (6min)|
|21-25min||5K pace (4min)|
|27-29min||5K pace (2min)|
Tempo sessions are great for improving both your stamina and speed, but knocking out a long 15- to 20-minute stretch at threshold pace is pretty tough mentally, especially on the treadmill. With this workout you’ll break up your tempo sections to make things a little easier while still getting the benefits.
“You’ll be doing five three-minute efforts at 94% of 5K pace, taking short breaks of 30 seconds at 70% of your 5K pace," says Abigail Flynn from Zwift.
Again, make sure you get in a good warm-up before starting your first tempo intervals.
“In this workout you do two sets of three minutes at 103% of 5K pace, two minutes at 105% of 5K pace and one minute at 110% of 5K pace,” says Flynn.
The intervals get shorter but you have to get faster in this short speed session. Even with a good warm-up and warm-down you’ll be done within half an hour, and you’ll enjoy the speed benefits when you next tackle a short race. Take one minute of recovery between each interval, then two minutes between sets.
10-Minute Treadmill Workouts
If you’re a bit more familair with the ’mill, try one of these interval workouts from strength and conditioning coach Jamie Lloyd (opens in new tab) that mix up the speed and incline. Or, if you’re feeling brave, combine a couple for a 20-minute session.
Before you start on your ten minutes of effort it’s important to warm up with a few dynamic stretches and a five-minute jog. You don’t want to go into these workouts cold.
To set the right speed and incline just follow the instructions in the workouts. The pace setting on most treadmills is simply the kilometres per hour speed, while incline is measured in percentage, so you can just mirror the numbers in the workouts below. Or, if you’re an old hand on the treadmill, adjust the speeds to fit your level of fitness.
Keep the incline at a steady 2% throughout this beginner workout but vary your speed between 5km/h and 7.5km/h every minute for 10min.
The incline is really upped in this workout. Start with 1min of running at 6km/h at a 7% incline, then drop down to 5km/h and 1% incline for 1min 30sec to recover. Repeat four times.
The incline stays at 1% throughout this four-interval workout. Start with 2min 30sec at 8km/h, then 2min 30sec at 5.5km/h. Repeat for 10min.
Time to forget the incline and focus on speed. Set the incline to 0% and run at a flat-out pace (14-18km/h, depending on your ability) for 1min, then jog for 1min 30sec at 6km/h. Do this four times. Be careful when finding your top speed that you don’t overdo it and fly off the back of the treadmill.
Having to change the speed and incline settings every minute or so might seem annoying, but it’s actually a great way to distract yourself from the pain in your legs.
|0-1min||7km/h incline 2%|
|1-2:30min||5km/h incline 0.5%|
|2:30-3:30min||6.8km/h, incline 3%|
|3:30-5min||5km/h, incline 0.5%|
|5-6min||6.5km/h, incline 4%|
|6-7:30min||5km/h, incline 0.5%|
|7:30-8:30min||6km/h, incline 5%|
|8:30-10min||5km/h, incline 0.5%|
The incline gets steeper with every minute of this workout but, mercifully, the speed drops at the same rate.
|1min||10km/h, 1% incline|
|2min||9.5km/h, 2% incline|
|3min||9km/h, 3% incline|
|4min||8.5km/h, 4% incline|
|5min||8km/h, 5% incline|
|6min||7.5km/h, 6% incline|
|7min||7km/h, 7% incline|
|8min||6.5km/h, 8% incline|
|9min||5.5km/h, 9% incline|
|10min||5km/h, 10% incline|
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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