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?

56 thoughts on “Treadmill Interval Workouts

  1. I love treadmill intervals whether it be speed or incline (or both) really breaks up the workout and helps the time pass. I tend to get in a comfortable pace and do shorter sprints of 30-60 sec on the TM with the same amount easy. Another great one is 10% incline with 10K pace on TM for 60-90 sec with 60 sec rest (or walk – I tend to walk off the TM).
    Jen recently posted..Foam RollingMy Profile

  2. These are some great ideas! Fingers crossed I don’t have to use the treadmill, but I will do what I have to! Yesterday I did an “informal” speed session, where I ran as fast as I could for about a quarter of a mile or maybe 3/10ths and then jogged it out until I felt ready to do it again. It’s hard to measure that way, and I did more recovering than speeding, but it felt great.
    Travel Spot recently posted..Finish This: JulyMy Profile

  3. I actually like doing intervals on a treadmill. I should clarify that. If I have to run on a treadmill, doing intervals is a great way to make the time go faster and to make you think about something other than how boring it all is. I usually do just a straight up two minute interval with one minute recovery, but some of these look like fun.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Mandarin Orange “Chicken” Salad. Vegan. Transition RecipeMy Profile

  4. thank you for these! they are excellent. I’ve been doing intervals (beyond the usual 400/800, etc) of all kinds for as long as I’ve been running and yes, they help a ton! So much to be said for plyometrics as part of crosstraining.
    Marcia recently posted..Olympic-Caliber RandomsMy Profile

  5. Great set of workouts! I will say, I never use the treadmill unless I absolutely must, but I do like doing fartlek on the road. I also like tempo–a bit of both builds all the systems we need.

    BTW–no, I never threw on bike shorts when I raced tris–just the bathing suit and it always worked fine. No chafing, actually!

    And–did my first glycogen depleted run today! 16 miles w/ no fuel before or during. Had to take it slow, but I didn’t bonk!
    misszippy recently posted..Dress rehearsingMy Profile

    • I try to avoid the treadmill at all costs too… but repeat 100 degree days sometimes drive me to it.
      No shorts, I’m impressed! And I’m assuming the water is warm enough? I always assumed anything above the far south would require a wetsuit. It’s nice when you can go without.
      Nice job on the fueling test! Unfortunately, I’m not logging double digits at the moment to check it out… curious to try when I’m back at it.
      Laura recently posted..Treadmill Interval WorkoutsMy Profile

    • Yes, thank you for sharing! I know- I feel the same way. I’ve been giving my shin a little break, and speed work is the one thing that always seems to bring on any aches/pains, it’s definitely something to be cautious with!
      Laura recently posted..Treadmill Interval WorkoutsMy Profile

  6. Wow! Lots of interesting workouts in here to break up the boredom.

    The speedy McSpeedster workout can also be called easy with strides! 20-30 seconds with almost max intensity = the same duration/intensity as a “stride”. Careful on going completely all-out too often or you’ll wind up on the bench! :)
    Raina recently posted..Heart Rate TrainingMy Profile

  7. I avoid the TM at all costs but this is great info for those days when you just have no other option. Luckily here in the pac NW the mornings are almost always cool, so I can get my runs done outside. In Texas heat I think I’d be treadmill bound almost every day!
    kathy recently posted..Friday five…My Profile

  8. This makes me feel really good about those 30-sec, 60-sec and 75-sec strides my coach is having me do. I’ve been thinking geez, 35 minutes for the total run is so short….but if those intervals really help your fitness so much, well, that makes me feel better.

    Oh, and I do them on the treadmill sometimes, outside other times. Mixing it up helps!
    Terzah recently posted..How My Training LooksMy Profile

  9. Thanks for sharing Laura. I use my TM quite a bit- even for marathon training. Sometimes with my crazy schedule I have to run at 4 am because it is my only free time and I don’t feel safe hitting the road by myself that early. Before I had my coach I would use the MacMillian calculator a lot. Now all of my workout times are based off of my threshold test.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..You watched the Olympics outside?!My Profile

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