Treadmill Interval Workouts

I’ve received several emails recently wanting tips for increasing speed. Whether you’re looking for more speed, endurance, or overall increased fitness, intervals are the most effective and efficient type of training, especially high intensity interval training.

When I started running, I thought of intervals as the the traditional 400’s, 800’s and mile repeats.  Those are effective of course, and can be fun at the track, but have you ever tried long repeats on a treadmill? It’s killer! You’re going nowhere, the distance is crawling by, and you can see that you’ve only been sprinting for 15 seconds when it feels like 45.

Can shorter bursts of intensity have the same effect in your training? Surprisingly, research continues to say yes! Remember when I mentioned the 30-20-10 interval training research? With only ten seconds of sprinting at a time, the study found that the participants had a 4% improvement in performance in seven weeks, with only 3 30-minute sessions at a time.

Interval training will improve your strength, speed, endurance, and will also raise your metabolic rate, so that you continue burning calories for hours afterward.

There is nothing magical about the 30-20-10 method. There are countless ways to incorporate short “speed play” into your treadmill workout.  If you’re not a runner, many of these could also be done on the elliptical or even a bike.

With the help of a few friends, I rounded up a number of interval workouts that can be done on the treadmill:

If you don’t know your race paces, use the McMillan calculator to determine what your effort should be in each speed phase. For example, my first phase would be a 7:40 pace, followed by 7:10, 6:35, and 6:00 minute mile/pace.

If you want to make it more challenging, use your 5k or sprint pace (faster than 5k) through all four phases of speed work.

I love the look of this Tabata Treadmill workout:

Tina has an awesome treadmill workout post with six different interval options, including this one she calls the “Speedy McSpeedster” Quickie workout:

Intervals can include strength as well, like these two:

For more inspiration and treadmill boredom-busting, check out some of these interval workouts:

And then hop over to Jill’s for more Friday Fitness posts!

If you’re new to interval training, begin with one speed session a week and allow your body to adapt to the increased training demands to avoid risking injury.

Do you use interval training? Runners, have you ventured beyond traditional repeats and tempo runs?

Do you incorporate plyometrics?

Thanks to Kim, I have been diligently searching out new cross training opportunities each month for her New 2 U Cross Training Challenge.  It’s been so helpful to have that extra push to try new things.

There is an HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) class at my gym that I’ve wanted to try for months.  It was only offered Saturday mornings (typical long-run day), but this month a second class was added Wednesday evenings, so I finally went.

The class itself was much what I expected- rounds of intense cardio mixed with strength training.  There’s no doubt it was a great workout, better than an easy run would have been, but all the jumping and plyometrics on hardwood floors was a lot of pounding for a non-running day.

Runners can benefit from pylometrics, and I’d like to incorporate some of these exercises more often but it’s important to add them in gradually and carefully. I like these recommendations to use a grassy area and start with 10-20 minutes to ease in, rather than the hour-long HIIT class.

That being said, I know some runners who really enjoy HIIT, and it would definitely make you a stronger runner! And for non-runners, it’s an awesome all-around cardio and strength workout.

Here’s a glimpse of the class I attended

30 second bursts of cardio

  • jumping jacks
  • mountain climbers on the bosu ball
  • squat jumps on the bosu ball
  • side-to-side squat jumps
  • quick feet (switching feet over the bosu ball)
  • jump-rope
  • burpees
  • plank “jacks”

Strength moves

  • push ups on the (upside-down) bosu ball
  • overhead shoulder press with dumbbells
  • bicep curls
  • tricep kick-backs
  • wood-chopper (dumbbell overhead and down to the side as you squat)
  • spiderman push ups
  • planks

I thought my arms would be sore, but I felt it the most in my hips for the next two days, from all the side to side jumping.

Have you done an HIIT class or plyometrics?

Do you find plyometrics complement your running, or puts you at risk for injury?


30-20-10 Intervals and Yogurt-making

One of my new running buddies has been experimenting with the 30-20-10 workout.  Did you see the article about it on RW?  It’s designed to be easy to remember speed work… a 30 second jog, 20 seconds at training pace, and a 10 second sprint (5 times, then recover and repeat).  I read the original article, but after chatting about it with Liz, I resolved to give it a try.

I got myself to the treadmill for this workout last night.  Big mistake- I spent most of the intervals increasing/decreasing speeds.  Because of that, I only ran through it once (5x 30-20-10) and tacked on a few 400’s… but I do think would be an awesome workout outdoors!

It’s also What I ate Wednesday- snacking edition. After posting on Instagram about my homemade yogurt, I had a few requests for a recipe.  It’s more economical than store-bought yogurt, healthier with your own add-ins, and delicious.  I don’t remember the original source, but I now have it memorized.  Here’s what you do:

Homemade Yogurt in the Crock Pot

  • 1/2 gallon (8 cups) whole, 2 % or 1% organic milk
  • 1/2 c. organic yogurt with cultures (store-bought or reserved from a previous batch)
  • optional fruit or honey/maple syrup to flavor yogurt

Pour milk in a crock pot and turn on low for 2 1/2- 3 hours, or until temps reach 180 degrees.  Turn off, and let crock pot sit covered for another 3 hours until it drops back to 110 degrees.  Whisk in yogurt, and cover again.  Insulate by wrapping in a large towel or blanket and let sit for 8-9 hours, or overnight.  Optional: Blend in fruit or sweetener to part or all of the yogurt.

 *To ensure thick yogurt, pay attention to temperature (any meat or candy thermometer would work!)  I often start the process at 4 or 4:30pm, turn off the crock pot at 7pm, and wrap it all up by 10pm before I got to bed.  Then in the morning… presto! Yogurt!

And because the theme is snacks, here are a few of my favorite yogurt-based snacks:

  • mid morning: plain yogurt with toasted oats or granola and fruit
  • afternoon: blended with frozen blueberries, bananas and spinach for smoothies
  • great kids snack: freeze above smoothie as homemade popsicles
  • healthy dessert: lightly sweetened yogurt with garbanzo brownies crumbled on top
  • before bed: soft toddler cheeks

Would you try the 30-20-10 interval workout?

What are your favorite ways to eat yogurt?


More on 6 minutes to better fitness

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday week! We’re still in PA for a few more days, and are enjoying the family time and change of pace.  I’ve been doing okay with getting a few runs in, although it’s less than usual.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the article that I mentioned in my post on holiday training flexibility on how fitness can be improved with as little as six minutes. If you haven’t read it, the NY Times physical ed column reported on one interval training study which found that people could gain the same fitness endurance working out 5 hours per week as those working out for only 6 minutes per week with intense intervals.  It appeared that they still had benefits to their cardiac health, and could even lose weight.  With all the benefits in only a few minutes of work, why haven’t more people adapted this practice?

I have slowly tried to incorporate more speed-work and intervals into my routine, as there have been countless studies about the benefits of such training.  But honestly, I prefer the long, “easy” runs and have a hard time changing this.  I think it’s partly because intervals hurt! I would much rather go out the door for a casual, pleasant run and enjoy the scenery, than push myself to misery. I’m also not convinced that I would find the same stress relief and satisfaction if the workout was over in a few minutes.

There’s also the concern of injury.  Even the article recognized that this practice was better for cyclists and swimmers, and could cause injuries among runners if they adapted this philosophy (with no easy or recovery runs built in).

I’m guessing people (like me) who enjoy exercise for more than the physical benefits are not interested in cutting it so short.  And people who don’t exercise are unlikely to push themselves to the rate of exertion this study requires.  But it’s an interesting read, none-the-less.  A 6 minute workout would be perfect for the busy holidays!

What are your thoughts on interval training?  How often do you incorporate speed-work? I’ve been reading about interval training for years, but have only recently tried to make it a regular (almost weekly) part of my routine.