Day 25: Treadmill Hills

This workout is a great way to spice up a treadmill run and can help improve your speed and form.

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Doing steady aerobic runs without any change in pace or incline will often put you on the fast track to staleness, boredom and plateau. This treadmill hills run session from coach Karen Smyers provides a great opportunity to break up the monotony of aerobic running and really allows you to work on your form as you “power up” some of the incline efforts. 

She says: “Doing hills on a treadmill gives you the opportunity to control the speed and effort of each hill repeat, so it is dialed in to just the right amount of workload for you while forcing you to maintain your speed in the face of fatigue—or risk falling off the treadmill! Because the treadmill encourages glute/hip muscle recruitment as you power up the incline, it really encourages you to work on your form. Many athletes find themselves at a faster pace for their aerobic runs after doing this workout a couple of times in successive weeks.”

Fun fact from Smyers: “A great rule of thumb for the treadmill—for every 1% incline you add, it is equivalent effort-wise to about 0.3 mph more in speed, so 8.0 mph @ 1% = 8.3 mph at 0% incline.” 

Treadmill Hills


15 minutes, gradually increasing speed as you warm up. 

Set the incline @ 0% throughout, but raise it as follows: 

1% at minute 4 for 1 minute, 

2% at minute 8 for 1 minute,

3% at minute 12 for 1 minute.

Main Set

3 rounds of: 

1 minute @ 1% with 1 minute rest

45 seconds @ 2% with 45 seconds rest

30 seconds @ 3% with 90 seconds rest

Start at your 5K race pace for the first 1 minute hill (so it is a little harder than 5K race pace since it is at 1%). Keep the speed the same for the whole set, but remember that as you increase the incline each hill will be a little harder, but also shorter). 

Increase your speed for each set by 0.1 or 0.2 mph if you feel you are capable. If you have any niggles (e.g. calf pulls) in your recent history, it is better to err on the side of caution—you can increase the speed the next time you do the workout if all goes well.  

Focus on great form: Try to get good power per stride from your legs, use your arms to help drive your legs, and keep your torso lifted as you lean your hips forward (don’t bend forward at the waist as you get tired). Jog or walk as easy as you need to during the first part of the rest, but gradually return to the faster end of your warm-up pace before starting the next hill so you are running into it (not starting from a stop or walk). 


8-10 minutes easy jog @ 0%

Meet Your Coach

Ironman World Champion Karen Freaking Smyers. Need we say more? (OK we have a lot more to say. Read all about the woman, the legend here.)

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