Woman in gym doing treadmill workouts

Treadmill Workouts For When You Can’t Run Outside

Running on a treadmill is never the first option that comes to mind when the winter months hit, but, unfortunately, there are the inevitable days when inclement weather relegates runners indoors. Running on a treadmill is by no means glamorous; the lack of fresh air and a monotonous wall in front of the treadmill gets old quickly.

You can take advantage of bad weather by leveraging the treadmill’s features into unique workouts that improve speed and strength. Timers, distances, and inclines allow you to create workouts that you couldn’t do on a trail or track. Treadmills are great ways to focus on your running form and build mental stamina.

Always Warmup

If your body is accustomed to training outside, you will need to take a few extra moments to acclimate yourself to the treadmill. If you are dedicated to running outside and only resort to using a treadmill in dire circumstances, your body won’t be accustomed to the warm indoor temperatures. The change in the environment makes warming up essential to avoid injury.

Running on a treadmill isn’t a difficult task, but your body needs some time to adjust to subtle changes. It’s important to take a moment and become familiar with the treadmill’s settings (not all treadmills have the same features). Run at a slower pace for your warmup to get used to running while staying stationary.

Use Treadmill Workouts To Increase Your Speed

Treadmills give you the ability to monitor your speed and distance without having to look at a watch. This essentially makes a treadmill a track with easily discernible distances (most treadmills have an image of a quarter-mile track that shows your progress), making treadmills an excellent chance for speed workouts.

Pyramid Workouts

A pyramid workout progresses from shorter to longer intervals, eventually working your way back down to the shortest interval. Below is an example that can be altered to your needs. If you are working on your speed, you probably want to aim for a pace that is quicker than your 5K pace (you can calculate your pace using a pace calculator).

30 seconds – fast pace
30 seconds – active rest (easy jog or walk)
60 seconds – fast pace
60 seconds – active rest (easy jog or walk)
90 seconds – fast pace
90 seconds – active rest (easy jog or walk)
60 seconds – fast pace
60 seconds – active rest (easy jog or walk)
30 seconds – fast pace
30 seconds – active rest (easy jog or walk)

3-2-1 Workouts (Or Descending Workouts)

Sometimes it’s nice to get the most challenging part of a workout done right away. Descending workouts are essentially the back half of a pyramid workout. You begin with the longest interval and work your down the ladder to the shortest interval. These workouts lend themselves to working on your top-end speed since the last intervals cover shorter distances. Descending workouts are fantastic for really pushing yourself to focus on your top speed and increasing foot turnover.

Here is an example of a descending workout that you can alter to fit your needs.

3 minutes – fast pace
2 minutes – active rest (easy jog or walk)
2 minutes – fast pace
2 minutes – active rest (easy jog or walk)
1 minute – fast pace
2 minutes – active rest (easy jog or walk)

For a more intense workout, you can either lengthen the intervals or add on additional sets.

Treadmill Workouts To Improve Hill Running

You can easily create a steep incline on a treadmill to get a great hill workout in. Many treadmills have pre-programmed settings that will create a series of rolling hills as you progress through your run. Running on an incline will boost your strength. Make sure you use the proper form for attacking the inclines, much like you would a hill in real life.

The Gradually Steeper Hill

This workout will gradually increase the incline on the treadmill after predetermined intervals.

3 minutes – 2% incline
3 minutes – 4% incline
3 minutes – 5% incline
3 minutes – 8% incline

You can also do a pyramid workout by changing the incline instead of the pace.

A Training Plan that Works for You.

Our collection of running plans will help you train year-round. From 5k to a 100-mile ultramarathon, we have a training plan built for your experience level and goals. Every plan is delivered via Final Surge, allowing you to sync workouts across devices, receive daily reminders of workouts and activities, and analyze workout and target zone details. Get started today with a training plan built for you, view our running plans here.


  1. How often should I perform the program you suggested to improve my running speed each week? Thank you for the insightful information; it is really useful.

    • This depends on your goals. Most will find completing one of these treadmill workouts per week enough to improve speed and performance. If you’re more accustomed to speed work and have big-time goals, then you can do two of these workouts per week. Just always make sure you have 1-2 days of easy/recovery runs or rest in between hard efforts.

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