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There are pros and cons to treadmill workouts. On the plus side, they can provide you with “instantaneous biofeedback,” says Eric Bean, professional triathlete and coach of the Fast Forward Triathlon Pro Development Team based in Chapel Hill, N.C. In other words, treadmill workouts allow you to “experiment with foot plant, body lean, and arm and leg mechanics,” he says, giving you feedback on how to make your stride as efficient as possible. And they can teach your body to run at a consistent pace, as you can’t subconsciously slow down on a treadmill like you can on the roads.
A treadmill workout can also be a good solution when it’s too dark or cold outside to run. And many age-groupers use the treadmill when they can’t leave the house because they have to keep an eye on the kids.
Here are three treadmill workouts—two from top coaches and one from an Ironman World Champion—that can boost your run training. Always be sure to set your treadmill to at least a 1 percent grade, as this simulates running on the road.
Workout No. 1
Warm-up: eight minutes easy followed by 4×20 seconds at 5K pace or slightly faster.
Main set: 12×1 minute, alternating at a 4 percent grade, a 4.5 percent grade and a 5 percent grade.
The interval at 4 percent should be moderate, the effort at 4.5 percent should be moderately hard, and the interval at 5 percent should be hard. Try to run faster with each set of three.
Take one minute of rest in between each interval.
Cool-down: 10 minutes easy.
—Mike Ricci, head coach, University of Colorado at Boulder Triathlon Team
Workout No. 2
“One treadmill session I have a love-hate relationship with is 10×3 minutes at best effort, with three minutes rest between each,” says Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae . “It’s kind of boring but quite effective!”
Always remember to properly warm up and warm down before you do this session. A proper warm-up should include some strides on the treadmill.
Workout No. 3
Warm-up: 20 minutes of running. The first five minutes should be easy and can include walking. By minute 10, you should be running the same pace you would during a long run, and by minute 15, you should be running at a moderately fast pace. For the final five minutes of your warm-up, do progressively faster strides that are 15 to 30 seconds long, separated by 15 to 45 seconds of “recovery running” that is done slightly faster than the pace you expect to hold during the main set.
Set No. 1: 3×30- to 45-second hill repeats at a 5 percent, 6 percent and 7 percent grade. These hill repeats should be fast, but not so fast that you can’t finish the workout. Take a 2:15- to 2:30-minute rest, so that each repeat takes three minutes.
Set No. 2: 3×30- to 45-second hill repeats at a 6 percent, 7 percent and 8 percent grade. Slightly increase the pace you’re running, as well. Take a 2:15- to 2:30-minute rest, so that each repeat takes three minutes.
Set No. 3: 3×30- to 45-second hill repeats at a 7 percent, 8 percent and 9 percent grade. Slightly increase the pace you’re running, as well. Take a 2:15- to 2:30-minute rest, so that each repeat takes three minutes.
Cool-down: 10 minutes of easy running.
— Eric Bean, professional triathlete and coach of the Fast Forward Triathlon Pro Development Team