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The 6 Best Treadmill Workouts For Beginners

Use these drills to make your next treadmill session super effective.

A treadmill can be an excellent training tool for runners, but it is quite often considered much less appealing than running outside. In fact, many runners consider a treadmill run the last resort option when the weather is so inclement that it’s unsafe or untenable to run outdoors.

However, other runners absolutely love running on the treadmill. 

In fact, plenty of runners that I work with actually prefer running on the treadmill to running outdoors because the treadmill is always a consistent environment and they can stick with their running routine without leaving the house.

Moreover, treadmill workouts for beginners can be a great way to progress your running as you build up your fitness level by having consistency, privacy, and an easy way to keep track of your running pace, distance, and workout time.

In this guide to the best treadmill workouts for beginners, we will discuss the benefits of treadmill running for beginners, tips for how to use the treadmill, and examples of some of the best beginner treadmill workouts to get you started on your indoor running routine.

Ready? 

Let’s dive in!

A person walking on a treadmill.

Should Beginners Do Treadmill Workouts?

As mentioned, the treadmill can be a great training tool for distance runners and an approachable type of exercise equipment for beginners who are trying to establish a fitness routine.

When it is freezing cold outside, swelteringly hot, windy, rainy, or the roads are slippery with ice or snow, I almost always suggest that runners swap their outdoor run for an indoor treadmill workout.

Treadmill running can also be safer for people who live in remote areas and don’t have anywhere safe to run in the dark or when they are traveling and won’t have availability to figure out viable outdoor running routes.

While all of these instances are examples of times when it is generally better to run on the treadmill than outside, using the treadmill as a training tool, even when you can run outside, can also be beneficial.

The treadmill allows you to have a very consistent environment where you can dial in the exact speed and incline that you hoped to hit in your running workout.

This makes the treadmill useful for high-intensity interval training (HIIT workouts), hill workouts, tempo runs, and threshold interval workouts.

In fact, a lot of the runners that I coach use the treadmill at least once a week for a HIIT workout or incline running workout, particularly if they are training for a hilly race and live in a flat area.

A person walking on a treadmill.

Are Treadmill Workouts Good for Weight Loss and Fitness?

Here are some of the benefits of treadmill workouts for beginners:

  • Running or walking treadmill workouts can be a great form of aerobic exercise (cardio). To meet the guidelines for physical activity for adults set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 2). How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. and the British Heart Foundation,2Understanding physical activity. (2022). Bhf.org.uk. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/being-active/understanding-physical-activity# you should aim to accumulate either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise per week. 
  • Incorporating treadmill running and walking workouts into your fitness routine can help you burn calories, which can support weight loss.
  • Treadmills provide a consistent workout environment so you don’t have to worry about weather conditions such as running outside in the heat, running in the cold, running in the rain, snow, etc.
  • Safer than running in the dark or when the roads are slippery with winter running weather.
  • Treadmill workouts can be carefully designed based on your fitness level and you can instantaneously change the treadmill speed and incline based on your fitness goals.
  • Treadmill workouts for beginners can help prepare you for running your first race. Research3Van Hooren, B., Fuller, J. T., Buckley, J. D., Miller, J. R., Sewell, K., Rao, G., Barton, C., Bishop, C., & Willy, R. W. (2019). Is Motorized Treadmill Running Biomechanically Comparable to Overground Running? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cross-Over Studies. Sports Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01237-z indicates that despite indoor running in a simulated environment, treadmill training can replicate outdoor running fairly well as long as the incline is set to 1% grade.4Jones, A. M., & Doust, J. H. (1996). A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running. Journal of Sports Sciences14(4), 321–327. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640419608727717
  • The best home treadmills keep a workout history so you don’t have to keep a separate running or training log.
  • You can do hill training, speed workouts, tempo runs, and get accustomed to goal race pace more easily with treadmill running rather than running outside.
  • Running on the treadmill can potentially reduce the risk of overuse injuries because the treadmill running deck is cushioned, so it can help attenuate impact stresses. Running on concrete and asphalt are less forgiving surfaces and can increase the risk of certain overuse injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures. New runners who have joint pain will especially appreciate treadmill runs for this reason.5Milgrom, C. (2003). Are overground or treadmill runners more likely to sustain tibial stress fracture? British Journal of Sports Medicine37(2), 160–163. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.37.2.160
  • Treadmill workouts for beginners allow a running coach or personal trainer to observe your running form and provide feedback in real time to improve your running technique and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Some beginner runners feel self-conscious about running outdoors in public, but a treadmill workout for beginners can potentially provide more privacy. 
A person jogging on a treadmill.

Although there are benefits of treadmill workouts for beginners, there are also some potential drawbacks and risks of running on the treadmill:

  • Beginners who use the treadmill often feel pressure to continually run faster and farther because the metrics are so measurable on a treadmill versus outdoor running. This can lead to overtraining, anxiety about workouts, and feeling disappointed if you are not running as fast or as far as you want to be or have previously.
  • If you do not change the treadmill incline and speed during your workouts, it can be very repetitive and lead to overuse injuries. It is important to incorporate variety in your treadmill workout routine.
  • Treadmill running can be monotonous, and some beginners feel like “running is boring“ because they only ever run on the treadmill. Running outdoors provides a more stimulating environment, which can help distract you from monotonous treadmill running.

How Do Beginners Get Started On the Treadmill?

Beginner treadmill workouts can be as simple as an easy distance run where you run at a steady pace or you can do interval training.

Here are some treadmill running and walking pace and speed conversions:

Treadmill Speed Conversions

  • 3.0 mph = 20 minutes per mile
  • 3.5 mph = 17:09 minutes per mile
  • 4.0 mph = 15:00 minutes per mile
  • 4.5 mph = 13:20 minutes per mile
  • 5.0 mph = 12:00 minutes per mile
  • 5.5 mph = 10:55 minutes per mile
  • 6.0 mph = 10:00 minutes per mile
  • 6.5 mph = 9:14 minutes per mile
  • 7.0 mph = 8:34 minutes per mile
  • 7.5 mph = 8:00 minutes per mile
  • 8.0 mph = 7:30 minutes per mile
  • 8.5 mph = 7:00 minutes per mile
  • 9.0 mph = 6:40 minutes per mile
  • 9.5 mph = 6:19 minutes per mile
  • 10 mph = 6:00 minutes per mile

No matter what type of treadmill workout for beginners you are doing, you should always aim to use good running form. 

This means that you should not be holding onto the handrails on the sides of the treadmill. Keep a good upright posture. Try to land on your midfoot with quick, light steps.

A person on a treadmill.

What Are the Best Treadmill Workouts for Beginners?

There is no single best treadmill workout for beginners, as it depends on your fitness level and goals. 

Here are a few workouts you can try out:

30 Minute Incline Walking interval Treadmill Workout for Beginners

  1. Walk 5 minutes at a comfortable pace to warm up.
  2. 10 x 1 minute at an 8% incline with 1 minute recovery at a 1% incline between each.
  3. 5-minute cool down walk.

30 Minute Treadmill Walking Workout

  1. 5 minutes of walking at a comfortable pace to warm up.
  2. 15-25 minutes at a steady brisk walk. This should feel like moderate-intensity exercise (7-8 out of 10 as a rate of perceived exertion (RPE). You may need to adjust the incline settings to get your heart rate up to the moderate-intensity cardio zone.6Scheid, J. L., & O’Donnell, E. (2019). REVISITING HEART RATE TARGET ZONES THROUGH THE LENS OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY. ACSMʼs Health & Fitness Journal23(3), 21–26. https://doi.org/10.1249/fit.0000000000000477
  3. 5 minutes of brisk walking to cool down.
People running on treadmills.

What Is the 12 3 30 Treadmill Workout?

The 12-3-30 treadmill workout is a popular TikTok treadmill walking workout that involves putting the treadmill up to a 12% incline and walking at 3 miles per hour for 30 minutes.

This is normally a comfortable pace on flat ground, but it is a difficult treadmill walking workout for beginners at this incline setting. 

Increasing the incline settings significantly increases the intensity of treadmill walking workouts and utilizes your posterior chain muscles (hamstrings, glutes, and calves) more.

Start with 10 minutes and then build up to 30 minutes as your fitness level improves.

Beginner Treadmill Running Workout

The simplest treadmill running workout for beginners is simply to get on, press the quick start button, and increase the speed until you’re at a comfortable warm-up pace. 

Warm-up for 5 minutes with brisk walking or easy jogging, depending on your fitness level. 

After the warm-up run, you can increase the speed until you are at a comfortable running speed.

Then, continue to run at a steady speed. 

Beginners might work towards a 20-minute run on the treadmill. You can run longer and increase the treadmill speed as your fitness level improves.

People running on treadmills.

20 Minute HIIT Treadmill Workout for Beginners

Some of the best beginner treadmill workouts involve run-walk intervals.

The run/walk approach allows you to build up your fitness level while having short walking breaks to catch your breath and decrease the impact stress on your bones, muscles, joints, and connective tissues.

  1. 5 minute warm up, walking or jogging slowly.
  2. 10 x 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy. Aim for a pace that feels like a fast run.
  3. 5 minute cool down walk.

30 Minute High-Intensity Interval Training Treadmill Workout 

  1. 5 minute warm up jog.
  2. 16 x 45 seconds hard at 6 mph, 30 seconds brisk walk at 4 mph.
  3. 5 minute cool down brisk walk.

What Are the Best Treadmill Running Workout Tips for Beginners?

Here are a few treadmill walking workout and treadmill running workout tips for beginners:

Two people high fiving on treadmills.

#1: Find A Training Buddy

Recruit a friend to go to the gym with you and run side-by-side on the treadmill so you have a running buddy.

If you don’t have someone to train with, watch a TV show, listen to a favorite podcast, check out an audiobook, or make a running playlist with motivating songs to help pass the time.

You could also use a treadmill app like Peloton Digital, Run the World, Treadmill Trails, Nike+ Run Club, Zwift, or Couch to 5k Treadmill App for ideas of treadmill runs for beginners and motivation.

#2: Gear Up

Wear proper running shoes for your treadmill workouts for beginners.

Keep a water bottle in the console to have hydration at your fingertips.

A person adjusting the settings on a treadmill.

#3: Switch It Up

Vary your beginner treadmill workouts so that you are doing some slower jogging with longer running intervals to build up your endurance as well as high-intensity interval workouts with faster running and longer recovery periods with brisk walking.

Incline walking is also a great treadmill workout for beginners.

Also, always do a thorough warm-up and cool down on the treadmill. This can involve just walking as you build up your cardio endurance.7Fradkin, A. J., Zazryn, T. R., & Smoliga, J. M. (2010). Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research24(1), 140–148. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181c643a0

Incorporate strength training into your fitness routine to reduce the risk of injury and improve your overall fitness and health. 

#4: Use The Fan

Use a fan or turn down the temperature with the air conditioning if you are using a home treadmill so that you do not overheat. Excess sweating can lead to chafing, blisters, and overheating (which can lead to fatigue).

Consider trying a Couch to 5k training plan to help you find the best treadmill workouts as you get started on your fitness journey!

People running on treadmills.

References

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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