Mark Kelly by Mark Kelly

TreadmillRegardless of your goals or where you live in the world, you can use a treadmill.  There are some negatives and a lot of positives with treadmill training if you are runner or simply want to lose weight. Negatives include a lack of fresh air and scenery, and the biomechanics are slightly different in that a treadmill pulls your leg back for you. The positives, however, are that speed, incline, time, lighting and temperature can all be monitored and controlled.

A standard treadmill with speed, pace and incline is all that is needed for a great workout. Here are four different workouts that should get you on track for a great race without having to actually go to the track.

1. Establish a Base Pace and Cadence

Try to find a speed that you can comfortably run at for at least 15 minutes.  Find your heart rate at that speed and make sure you take it at least three times and get similar values. Also, see if you can talk at this pace at about the five - minute and 10- minute marks.  T his is called your base pace. Continue running at this base pace for at least two weeks as you get comfortable with your form and learn how to relax while running. The key is to have your heart rate as low as possible for a certain running speed. This is called running economy.

To determine if you are running at an efficient cadence, count the number of times one of your feet hits the treadmill for a 20- second period (use the timer on the display panel).  You want to be close to a 30- count for the 20- second period.  This would be a cadence of 180 steps/minute , which has been shown to be the most efficient cadence for experienced runners. It is fine for beginners to be around 162 to 168 steps/minute (27 to 28 count). Lower than this is not efficient and probably means you are over striding or going too slow.

Try to build your base up to 20 minutes of continuous running, and then move up to two sessions of 10 minutes with one to two minutes of rest between sets. Eventually you will move to two 15- minute sessions. If you are training for an event lasting longer than an hour, build up to 4 x 10 minutes, then 3 x 15 minutes.

2. The Need for Speed to Take the Lead

High- intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions tap into metabolic pathways that slower stuff doesn’t, burn a lot of calories during and even after the workout, raise the lactate threshold, build muscle and burn more belly fat than moderate- intensity continuous exercise (MICE). The intervals can be structured several ways, based on the duration of each interval, the rest period between intervals and the number of intervals performed. The two biggest mistakes people make are n ot giving enough time for rest intervals and not going hard enough to elicit an anaerobic challenge.

After a five-minute warm- up, begin the interval program with three two- minute segments at about 80 percent of your heart rate reserve ( HRR) (see my article on heart rate formulas to learn how to calculate). T ake a one- minute rest between sets and then do three one- minute intervals at 85 percent HRR; take a 30- to 60- second rest, depending on your conditioning level. Finally, do three 30- second intervals with 30- second rest periods.  There are several smartphone apps available to help you keep track of the different intervals .  

3. Get in the Treadmill Hill Drills for Some Thrills and No Spills

Another type of interval training involves hills versus flat running. One danger of hill running is going too fast downhill and losing your footing or balance and taking a spill. Fortunately, there are no downhills on treadmills. While there is no easy answer to how much harder a given incline makes a run, there are a couple of guides. features a conversion chart that allows for “equivalent paces” of certain inclines with a given treadmill running speed.  

Here’s a quick guide: If you run at 6 mph or a 10- minute mile pace, then a 3-percent grade is like doing a 9- minute mile pace, while a 6-percent grade is like an 8- minute mile pace. For example, if you run at 7.5 mph (an 8- minutes mile pace), then the 3-percent grade is like a 7:23 mile pace and the 6-percent grade is like a 6:42 mile pace.  

Give the following a try: Do one minute at your base pace at 0-percent grade and take a minute rest. Raise the treadmill to a 3-percent grade, and try another minute at the same pace; rest a minute. Raise the treadmill again to 6-percent grade and keep at the same pace for the minute.  Rest for two minutes, raise the speed to 1 mph above your base pace and raise the incline to 2-percent grade. Rest a minute and raise it again to 4 percent and run for one minute.  Repeat this whole cycle for six intervals.  

4. Finding a Race Pace by Talking It Out

We discussed base pace earlier—now we want to determine your race pace. The b ase p ace was in the aerobic zone, which is called Zone 1.  As you get out of your aerobic zone, you tap into some anaerobic metabolism.  This is known as Zone 2. Even in this z one, you will not be above the onset of blood lactate accumulation ( OBLA).  Experienced racers are able to keep themselves just below the OBLA point so they can maintain their race pace without going over the edge. The Talk Test is a great way to determine your different z ones.  As you increase treadmill speed, try to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or some other familiar phrase. Y ou will go from saying it easily to saying it with a just a little difficulty. This is the first ventilatory threshold (VT1), which is right at the border between Zones 1 and 2.  When the talking gets really difficult and it hard to speak more than a couple of words, you are at the second ventilatory threshold (VT2), which is the border between Zones 2 and 3.  Put yourself just below this point and see if you can last at 10 minutes.  

If your clients are interested in training for endurance events or simply want to improve their fitness, visit for tools and resources that will help them reach their goals.

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