7 Effective Treadmill Workouts For Runners

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The majority of runners usually prefer to run outdoors in the fresh air, taking even an outdoor rainy or snowy run over the boredom and monotony of running indoors on a treadmill. 

For this reason, the running community has even created a tongue-in-cheek nickname for the treadmill—the “dreadmill”—to encapsulate the only-if-you-have-to attitude many runners harbor in terms of doing treadmill workouts.

However, as much as treadmill running may not offer the change of scenery, fresh air, and mental stimulation that only an outdoor run can provide, the treadmill can actually be a highly effective tool in any runner’s toolkit.

With a little bit of an attitude adjustment and focusing your mind on the positive benefits of treadmill workouts, you can start embracing treadmill workouts and using this tool to help you become a faster, stronger, and more efficient runner.

In this guide, we’ve created some of the most effective treadmill workouts for runners. Embrace the treadmill and give these a go!

We will cover: 

  • Benefits of Treadmill Workouts for Runners
  • Best Treadmill Workouts for Runners

Let’s dive in! 

A person on a treadmill.

Benefits of Treadmill Workouts for Runners

Although most runners prefer running outdoors, there are several key benefits to doing treadmill running workouts, even if only occasionally.

Here are the top benefits of treadmill workouts:

  • Safety: Whether it is dark outside, the roads are slippery, or you’re in an unfamiliar or unsafe area, running on the treadmill keeps you safe and off of the streets.
  • Convenience: Particularly if you buy a treadmill, there is nothing more convenient than getting in a treadmill workout at home. If you have kids and can’t get out of the house for a run without leaving them alone or want to squeeze in a quick workout during nap time or on your lunch break, treadmill workouts can be the most time-efficient option.
  • Race Course Simulation: There are also performance benefits of treadmill workouts for runners. You can simulate a race course on your treadmill to dial in the specificity of your training. Some of the higher-end home treadmills even allow you to make courses using Google maps, and the treadmill will automatically adjust according to the gradient of the route. 
  • Hill Workouts: If you live in a flat area, you can use the incline to simulate hill running. Moreover, if you find that excessive downhill running during hill workouts bothers your knees, you can avoid this inevitable need during outdoor hill workouts by doing your hill repeats on the treadmill.
  • Effective Training: Research suggests that running on the treadmill can be an effective training tool for runners and does a good job replicating outdoor running, as long as the incline is set to 1% grade.
  • Reduced Impact: If you run on a treadmill with a well-cushioned running deck, you might experience lower joint impact forces, which can be great for runners with arthritis, joint pain, or low bone density.
People on treadmills at the gym.

Best Treadmill Workouts for Runners

Almost any type of running workout can be beneficial for runners, but here are some effective treadmill workouts for runners:

#1: 1-1-1-1 HIIT Treadmill Workout

This is a challenging HIIT treadmill workout for runners training for the 5k or 10k. You can also use it for marathon training treadmill workouts because it’s a great way to keep your legs sharp.

This HIIT treadmill running workout is great for building physical and mental stamina to handle faster paces for longer distances. It will also train your body to shift into faster gears when you are tired.

The number of rounds that you should complete will depend on your training level and target race. Beginners can start with just one set after a warm-up and cool down, but experienced runners can work up to performing 4-8 complete rounds of the workout. Each round takes 4 minutes.

Begin with a 5-10 minute warm-up at a comfortable pace. 

Then, do 1-8 rounds of the following:

  • 1 minute at 10k pace
  • 1 minute at 5k pace
  • 1 minute at mile pace
  • 1 minute at recovery pace 

Keep cycling through, shifting gears at each minute mark without stopping in between.

As you get fitter, you can remove the recovery minute and try to do 3-6 rounds with just the pace work. 

Cool down for 1 mile.

A person running on a treadmill at home.

#2: 5k Race Pace Treadmill Workout

This is a challenging running treadmill workout to help you train for a 5k.

The entire workout is only 5 km.

  • Warm up by running 1 km at an easy pace.
  • Run the next 1 to 3 km at your 5k race pace.
  • Cool down the last kilometer at an easy pace.

Beginners and intermediate runners should run the 2nd km at race pace, take the 3rd km at a recovery pace, run the 4th km again at race pace, and finish with the cool-down the last kilometer at an easy pace.

Experienced runners should run kilometers 2-4 at race pace, getting in a 3k effort.

People running on treadmills at the gym.

#3: 10-Mile Half Marathon Progression Long Run Treadmill Running Workout

Doing long runs on the treadmill can be boring, but if you are trying to train for a half marathon or marathon during the winter months, you have to get your mileage in, and sometimes the treadmill is the best option.

This 10-mile progression long run will help you train for a half marathon and will break up the monotony of a treadmill long run performed at the same steady pace the entire time. 

Because there is intensity built into the workout, the distance of the long run is only 10 miles, even for experienced runners. However, if you feel like you want to run further and your training supports more volume, feel free to tweak the distance and format of the workout according to your needs.

Here’s what you will do:

  • Run 3 miles easy.
  • Run 3 miles (miles 3-6) at marathon pace.
  • Run 3 miles (miles 6-9) at goal half marathon pace.
  • For the last mile, if you’re a beginner, run at an easy pace, or maintain your half marathon pace to the end if you’re an advanced runner.
A person running on a treadmill at a gym.

#4: 18-Mile Marathon Progression Treadmill Long Run

If you are training for a marathon, here is an advanced treadmill long-run workout that will break up the monotony of a steady-paced run.

  • Begin at an easy run pace (90-120 seconds slower than goal marathon pace). 
  • For miles 3-6, run 90 seconds per mile slower than goal marathon pace.
  • For miles 6-9, run 60 seconds per mile slower than goal marathon pace. 
  • For miles 9-12, run 30 seconds slower per mile than goal marathon pace.
  • For miles 12-18, run at goal marathon pace, finishing with a kick.

Given the intensity of this workout, it should not be substituted for a long run that is only slated to be 18 miles, as it will be more physically taxing than an easy run of that distance. Instead, it’s important to factor in the intensity of your overall training plan and modify other workouts in your week accordingly.

People running on treadmills.

#5: Treadmill Tempo Runs

The treadmill can be a great training tool for tempo runs because you can set the pace that you need to run and then turn your brain off, focusing on just keeping up and distracting yourself with some form of entertaining media.

You can replicate exactly what your training schedule dictates in terms of the distance or target time for your tempo run.

If you are not following a training plan, perform a treadmill tempo run by:

  • Warming up for 5-15 minutes, depending on your fitness level.
  • Run for 20 minutes or more at your threshold run pace, which is the pace that you can maintain for one hour of running at a full-out effort or somewhere between your 10k and half marathon race paces.
  • Cool down with 5 to 15 minutes of easy running.
A person on an incline on a treadmill.

#6: Treadmill Hill Workout

An incline treadmill workout is an excellent way to simulate hill training and can strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and calves and torch a lot of calories.

Here is a hill sprint incline treadmill workout:

  • Warm up with 1 to 3 miles (2-5 km) of easy running.
  • Run 5 x 30 seconds at your sprint pace at 6% incline with 60 seconds at 1% grade at an easy pace for recovery in between each.
  • Run 5 x 30 seconds at your sprint pace at 8% incline with 60 seconds at 1% grade at an easy pace for recovery in between each.
  • Cool down by running easy for 1 to 3 miles (2-5 km).

Be sure to stretch your hamstrings and calves after the workout.

People at a gym doing treadmill workouts.

#7: Tempo HIIT Running Treadmill Workout Sandwich

Combining strength and speed into one workout is a very effective way to train your metabolic and cardiovascular systems to sustain faster running paces for longer distances.

This is a sandwich workout where the “bread” will be two sections of HIIT intervals, while the “meat and cheese” (or veggies!) filling of the sandwich will be a tempo effort.

Warm up with 5-15 minutes of easy running.

Here’s how to do this treadmill running workout based on your race distance:

  • 5k: 4 X 0.3 miles (or 600 meters) at mile pace with 90 seconds recovery, 1-mile tempo effort, 4 X 0.3 miles (or 600 meters) at mile pace with 90 seconds recovery.
  • 10k and half marathon: 3 X 0.6 miles or 1,000m at 5k pace with 90 seconds recovery, 2-mile tempo (3-4 for half marathon), 3 X 1,000m at 5k pace with 90 seconds recovery.
  • Marathon: 3 x 1 mile at 5k-10k pace with 90 seconds recovery, 4-mile tempo effort, 3 x 1 mile at 5k-10k pace with 90 seconds recovery.

Cool down with 5-15 minutes of easy running.

So, when the weather or darkness has you hitting the treadmill rather than the roads and trails, try out one of these treadmill running workouts and see if it passes the time and helps you become a faster and stronger runner.

For even more treadmill workout options, check out our HIIT Treadmill Workouts to push your speed.

People at a gym doing treadmill workouts.
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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