Treadmill season is fast approaching (and for some snowy parts of the country, is already here). And while many runners firmly dread the machine, it can be a useful training tool. “The treadmill provides the option to run in relative comfort even when the weather outside is dangerously cold, snowy, and icy, or, on the flipside, extremely hot, humid, or polluted,” says Coach Angie Spencer of The Marathon Training Academy podcast and blog. But despite the upsides, it can still be a bit more boring than running the roads or trails.
One of the easiest ways to banish boredom during a treadmill workout is to change things up, and one of the easiest ways to change things up is through intervals. Not only does it keep your mind occupied (so the minutes fly by), but high-intensity efforts also get your heart pumping and challenge your main run muscles in a different way than steady-state efforts. Another bonus: High-intensity intervals can boost your run speed, too.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been around since the 1970s but has become all the rage in recent years, topping the list of the hottest fitness trends. It gained new attention when Japanese trainer and scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata found that this form of training not only increases aerobic capacity and stamina, it also improves anaerobic capacity, or ability to build muscle, shares Kimberly S. Clay, PhD, MPH, MSW and Executive Director of Play Like A Girl.
HIIT is short, intense periods of exercise at maximum ability, followed by short rest periods. Combinations of intense cardio, like sprinting and strength training in a short period of time forces you to push yourself harder and farther, making your workout more efficient. According to a 2019 meta-analysis published in the journal Sports Medicine the HIIT method can significantly improve cardiorespiratory fitness in a short amount of time.
“Using the HIIT method, you can even get a super effective treadmill workout in 20 minutes or less. Essentially, it takes 60 seconds of intense activity, then 30 seconds of rest, done eight to 10 times to maximize results,” says Clay.
Short on time? This HIIT treadmill workout is efficient and fast, perfect for when you have a busy day ahead. Or incorporate it intentionally into your weekly training to improve your speed.
20-Minute HIIT Treadmill Workout
- Start with a 5-minute jog at a reasonably steady pace to warm-up and get your muscles ready to go.
- At the 5-minute mark, choose your “high-intensity speed” (aim for 10.0) and sprint at that speed for a minute.
- Select your rest speed and walk at rest speed for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the sprint at the highest intensity you can maintain adding an incline (preferably, 4.0) to mimic normal outdoor running conditions, and follow with 30 seconds of rest and recovery.
- During recovery, walk at rest speed to lower your heart rate and prepare for the next high-intensity interval sprint.
- Complete eight to 10 rounds for a total of 20 minutes, including the workout and recovery.
- Cool down with a walk at a lower speed for two to three minutes, and stretch it out to avoid cramping.
Notice your heart rate recovery during the rest. As you get stronger, your heart rate will recover quicker, which is a sign of endurance strength, which improves your run pace. This can be you benchmark for measuring your improvement.