The Treadmill Workout Plans Just As Good As Running Outside

Sure some runners love their treadmill; but, most runners prefer to be outside when the conditions are conducive to running in the elements. So what do you do when you’re trapped inside day after day, week after week, and you simply need to get your workout in?

You may feel like a hamster running on a wheel when you jump on your treadmill. You may find staring at the same space to be mind-numbing. However, it does not have to be that way. There are many ways to use your treadmill in a way that will be engaging and exciting each time you jump on!

1. Fartleks

Swedish for speed play, fartleks are just places where you speed up within your workout. In a fartlek, you mix endurance training with speed. The idea behind it is to vary your pace throughout the workout. A classic fartlek is not terribly structured as far as how often you speed things up.

As a coach, a favorite way to train athletes using the fartlek method is simple: athletes run in a circle around a track or soccer field. After appropriately warming up, the coach blows a whistle when athletes are intended to speed up or slow down.

Nike Running Club App mystery speed run
Nike Running Club App

How can you fartlek on your treadmill? Try running with the Nike Running Club app! “This mystery speed run starts with a guided warm-up followed by an interval-based speed run. The athlete will run a variety of paces and durations over the course of the run. There will be different recovery durations during the running intervals. In other words, you will have no idea what is next until you’re in the moment.

This is a challenging workout that keeps you on your toes! Prepare to flash yourself back to high school track practice!

2. Treadhills

Do you miss hill work at your favorite incline? If you’re lucky enough to have access to a treadmill that inclines, you can replicate hill repeats! Again, turn to the free Nike Run Club App for guidance. The workout labeled Treadmills warms you up for 5 minutes. Your incline set is 2 minutes at 10K pace with 3% elevation, 1 minute at 5K pace at 2% elevation and 30 seconds at mile pace with 1% elevation.

Nike Running Club treadhills
Nike Run Club

Each of those efforts is followed by one minute of recovery and the series is repeated three times.  This twenty-five-minute workout is certain to keep your mind engaged and body challenged.

How Fartlek Can You Go

Another great place to find engaging workouts is Pinterest. Pictured above is an example of a treadmill workout that will keep you struggling to keep up. This example has your incline set as high as 10%. Your pace will vary also, and the workout keeps your time on any one task to only a minute.

There are many examples of treadmill interval workouts that incorporate hill work on Pinterest. Next time you are bored, scroll through!

3. Intervals Based on Perceived Effort

treadmill workout

The above workout from Pinterest leaves the athlete to determine what pace to set the treadmill at. What exactly is a sprint? Again: flashback to high school. When your coach yelled, “Sprint!” the intention was for you to give 100% effort.

Nike Run Club App often has the runner determining how fast they should run. In this workout, for example, the athlete alternates one minute of hard running with one-minute easy running. It does not give you any specific effort to match or speed to hit. You decide what is hard and what is not.

4. Specific Paces To Hit

If a workout states you should run 3 minutes at 5K pace and you are on a treadmill, you have to do some math. Okay so if my 5K PR (personal record) is 24:15 and I am trying to better that time, I may shoot for paces based on a 24 minute 5K.

To keep your math easy, forget the .10 of the 5K for just a moment. Dividing the 24 minute 5K by the 3 miles to travel that distance means you are running 8-minute miles (we will get to that .10 I promise).

Using a standard treadmill speed converter, to replicate running outside you would need to set your treadmill at 7.5 and a 1% incline. To maintain true to that racing distance, add approximately .2 to your treadmill speed and let ‘er fly.  So your speed efforts are 7.7 or 7.8 for 3:00.

Note: For those of you unfamiliar with this, coaches affectionately refer to this as Track Math. Who knew math could be so fun?

Nike Run Club App

As you can see above, this Nike Run Club workout titled How Fartlek Can You Go gives assigned paces for the athlete. You will need to do some Track Math before starting this. I find a Post-It note on the treadmill screen helps keep me focused.

5. Distance-Based Intervals

Last winter we had a run of extremely cold temperatures that kept many runners living in Northeastern Wisconsin inside. One week, I decided to try out a friends workout assigned by her coach. Her workout read the following, and her coach gave her efforts to match. On the track, this would have made perfect sense. On a treadmill? I was lost for a moment.

My friend Sarah to the rescue. She and I talked through efforts. We decided where I should set the treadmill for each interval. I wrote it all on a post-it note and hit the ‘mill.

The journey UP the ladder was challenging but not terrible. Hitting the same pace on the way back down the ladder that I had run going up? Now that was painful!

Speed Ladder

  • Warm-Up 800 meters
  • 400 meters, walk 400 meters
  • 800 meters, walk 400 meters
  • 1200 meters, walk 400 meters
  • 1600 meters, walk 400 meters
  • 1200 meters, walk 400 meters
  • 800 meters, walk 400 meters
  • 400 meters, walk 400 meters

6. Running + Strength Training = Epic Workout

One last way to keep your treadmill workout from getting boring is to switch back and forth from running to strength training. A favorite way to do this is to use the treadmill for warm-up (5:00-10:00 minutes), then to jump into the strength portion.

A circuit of 7-10 stations where you move quickly from one to the other is ideal for this purpose. Your last station can be a treadmill interval. I prefer 400s but 800s work nicely for this purpose also. Then you repeat the circuit!

In the end, you have a satisfying and challenging workout!

treadmill and strength circuit

Pictured is another way to approach the treadmill and strength circuit. As you can see the sky is the limit!

Mental Toughness Equals Stronger Runners

One of the biggest benefits to the treadmill is it builds mental toughness. When out for a run, it’s somehow easier to keep moving. On the treadmill, however, it’s super easy to let the boredom and self-doubt creep in. This does not have to happen!

Next time you are stuck looking at your treadmill for your workout don’t look at it as stuck! Instead, look at it as an opportunity to create an engaging and challenging runner that will help make you a better, well-rounded athlete.


High-intensity Running and Strength-Training Workouts
Nike Run Club

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