Running and Fitness – The Treadmill Should Not Be Boring

Four Treadmill (TM) Workouts designed to not bore your mind but explode your lungs and legs.

Disclaimer: Seek medical advice if you have any conditions that concern you or could keep you from working out or running.  I’m not a coach, I’m have not studied the physical sciences of the body.  I am also not an elite athlete.   I’m simply a guy who has been running for the better part of 16 years.  I’ve gone from dying at 5ks to running and completing 100 mile races.  I’m by no means an expert, I only offer these workouts to help you have a little fun on the treadmill.  They work for me.

The TM just like the shoes you run in and the GPS you use to track your workouts has its place and time in any runners routine.  A winter storm, travels for work or pleasure or to counter the hustle and bustle of a fast moving life.  All of these are good reasons to choose the TM as an tool to get your miles in and improve your performance.  As I see it the challenge with the TM is centered on how to pound out the miles without boring your senses into never-neverland, all the while challenging your legs, lungs and heart.

(not an endorsement for this brand, simple stock photo)

To help fight off the boredom & challenge yourself on the speeding runway here are a few of my favorite treadmill workout games.  All of these workouts are based on a five mile distance.

1). TURN and BURN:  Using the five mile workout as a frame of reference I start this workout at a nice and easy pace to get warmed up and reach my normal 10k run pace.  This pace would be a 10k pace that I know I can run at about 80% effort.  As I approach the one mile mark.  At the one mile mark the real workout begins.  With each successive half mile I bump up the pace roughly 10 to 15 seconds faster per mile, depending on the pace calibrations of the TM.

By the end of this workout my legs are on fire and my footfall is normally two minutes faster then my goal race pace.  Using a 9 minute per mile pace as a frame of reference, not a recommendation, the workout breakdown looks something like this:

Mile 1 – 1.5 9:00 minutes per mile, Mile 1.5 – 2 8:50 mpm, Mile 2 – 2.5 8:40 mpm, Mile 2.5 – 3 8:30 mpm, Mile 3 – 3.5 8:15 mpm, Mile 3.5 – 4 8:00 mpm, Mile 4 – 4.5 7:50 mpm, Mile 4.5 – 4.75 7:40 mpm, Mile 4.75 – 5 7:30 mpm, with a cool down period no less than half of a mile.

Of course adjust your speeds to meet your goal race pace and desired improvements along the way.

2). Hill Climbers:  This workout is pretty much the same as Turn & Burn except instead of turning up the TM speed I adjust the elevation.  After the warm up mile I adjust the speed to approx 75 – 80% of my race 10k speed.  For the sake of this post I’ll call that speed approximately 8:00 mpm.  At each successive half mile I’ll bump up the elevation .5% from the 1% baseline I started the workout with.

The goal of this workout is to maintain the same pace as I climb up my imaginary “heartbreak hill.”  The workout breakdown would looks something like this:

Mile 1 – 1.5 1% incline, Mile 1.5 – 2 1.5% incline, Mile 2 – 2.5 2% incline, Mile 2.5 – 3 2.5% incline, Mile 3 – 3.5 3% incline, Mile 3.5 – 4 3.5% incline, Mile 4 – 4.5 4% incline, Mile 4.5 – 4.75 4.5% incline, Mile 4.75 – 5 Finish at 5% or greater.  At the conclusion run/walk a a cool down period no less than half of a mile with an elevation of 1% or less.

Of course adjust your elevation profiles to meet your goals and desired improvements along the way.

(Even the Flash used a Treadmill…Bazinga)

3).  Race Your Neighbor:  The majority of times when I’m forced to the TM I share this time with other walkers, some slower runners, and sometimes a worthy opponent.  Not that I’m a speed demon but when I’m putting in the miles next to a fellow runner I can get a bit competitive.  Yes I know this is vain and a bit petty but its also fun.  During this competitive workout I try and match my neighbors speed and improve on that.  This little unseen competition helps pass the time and on the occasion when my little game catches the attention of the other TM runner it has made for some interesting stationary duels.  As always work in a cool down segment after your victory.

4).  PR Racing Game:  This workout can be run as a “one off” workout or as part of your progressive speed sessions.  The goal of this workout is for you to train at your max 5k race pace or die trying.  Okay you’re not really going to die, nor do I want you too but you might feel like it.  The punchline of this workout is that if you fail to keep up the pace, if you have to slow down the belt speed for fear of flying off the back, the game is over…aka your speed session is done.

Start this workout  with an easy one mile warm up to get your legs awake and alive.  As you approach the end of this first mile ramp up the belt speed to your present 5k PR pace minus 15 seconds per mile.  For the purpose of this post let’s assume a 7:00 minute per mile pace is your race PR.

The goal is to increase the TM speed to reach your race pace at the one mile mark and then turn up the TM speed 15 seconds per mile faster to begin the “5k time trail” portion of the workout.  For the purpose of this post that would be 6:45 pace.  Run the next 5k at this pace for as long as you can or until you reach the 5k mark, a total of 4.1 miles from the beginning of the workout. If you can’t keep up with the pace and have to slow down the time trail is over. Before slowing down the belt, note the distance that you were able to keep up the race pace.  This is the goal you want to beat next time.  Finish the remainder of the 5k at whatever pace you can.

During your next PR session start the time trail portion at the race pace you previously failed at and again try to complete the entire 5k at this pace.  If your able to run the full 5k at the goal max effort pace then this is a successful session.  Your next time trail will be run at a new 5k max effort pace, roughly 10 seconds per mile faster.

The ultimate goal is to stretch our race pace with each success 5k or with a session that falls short, to motivate and challenge yourself for the next go around.

(My time on a treadmill for charity)

Some runners love the TM, some put up with it and others would like to see it dropped off the edge of a bottomless exercise equipment pit.  Although, most recognize the value of it in a training routine.  With some creative approaches, with some training routines and with some simple games you may find your time on the “dreadmill” might just become a bit more bearable.  When available time, the weather or your travel schedule forces you on to the rotating roadway try to turn and burn, climb a hill, race your neighbor, and or work on your 5k race pace as a way to improve your fitness and pass the time.

Do you love or hate the TM?

What TM training games do you play to make the time and miles fly bye?

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