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10 Treadmill Workouts for Triathletes

Maximize your time on the running machine with one of these 10 treadmill workouts that’ll get you buzzing mentally and physically.

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Looking for a treadmill workout? We have not just one, but a choice of 10. Each of these treadmill workouts has been purpose-built with triathletes in mind to help you use the treadmill to your advantage. And before you start complaining that any treadmill workout is boring and tedious and all of those things: Yes, we hear you, we know it can be—but, it can also be a fantastic training resource if and when you jump on it with the right session in your hand and the right attitude in your head.

Whether you’re waiting for better weather to arrive or simply need more of a focus indoors, a treadmill workout can be an incredibly effective tool to maximize your run training.

The 10 sessions below are prescribed using training zones and/or Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).

The first four of these workouts all come from Coach Brad Seng of D3 Multisport in Boulder, Colorado, and are designed to keep the fun factor intact when the treadmill gets daunting or boring. He gave us some pointers to help you get the most from your time on the treadmill, too.

Coach Seng’s tips to make the treadmill work for you

– Be sure to set the treadmill at a 1% grade for all runs aside from any specific hill reps. This will ensure you are running closer to the feel of running outdoors.

– Always have a towel and water/electrolyte drink on hand due to the increased sweat rate.

– If possible, use a small fan to help keep you cooler and more comfortable, and be sure you have good ventilation.

– Don’t “race” your neighbor. Stick to your specific workout and don’t worry about what speed or grade the person next to you is running.

– Include some light stretching after your warm-up and a few minutes of easy walking as a cool-down before you get off the treadmill to re-establish your equilibrium.

10 Treadmill Workouts for Triathletes

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Treadmill Workout #1: Buffer Buffs Hill Reps

Warm-up

15 min. easy jogging with 4 × 20 sec. bursts with 40 sec. easy recovery

Main set

Repeat the following pattern 3-4 times. Do the strength exercises off to the side of the treadmill:

45 min. hard Zone 3-4 or RPE 7/10 @ 4–6% grade

5 squat jumps

15 sec. sprint @ Zone 5 or RPE 9/10 @ 4–6% grade

20 high knee skips

45 sec. Zone 2-3 or RPE 6-7/10 @ 4–6% grade

10 push-ups

45 sec. fast uphill Zone 3 or RPE 7/10 @ 4–6% grade

10 split squat jumps

45 sec. Zone 2-3 or RPE 6-7/10 @ 1% grade

10 double leg hops

90 sec. fast Zone 3 or RPE 7/10 @ 1% grade

Walk 2–3 min. or stand on edge of treadmill to recover

Cool-down

10 min. easy jogging with final 2-3 min. walking

RELATED: The Benefits Of Treadmill Training

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Treadmill Workout #2: Ramp-Ups

Warm-up

15–20 min. building effort to top of Zone 2 or RPE 3-5/10

Main set

Starting at the speed where you ended your warm-up, increase treadmill speed by 0.5 mph every quarter-mile until you max out.

Note that speed and then run 5 min. easy.

Complete 4-6 × 45 sec. intervals at your max. Recover with 1 min. easy jog between each interval. 

Cool-down

Easy jog for remainder of time

RELATED: The Tricky Business Of Treadmill Pacing

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Treadmill Workout #3: 1-Minute Efforts + 1K

Warm-up

10–15 min. easy with 4 × 20 sec. bursts/40 sec. easy

Main set

2x (4 x 1 min. @ RPE 7/10 with 30 sec. rest after each 1 min. Then do 1K @ 5-10K race pace after #4 of each set)

Walk/jog easy for 2-3 min. between sets

Cool-down

5-10 min. easy

RELATED: 9 Ways To Fartlek

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Treadmill Workout #4: Split Tempo Run

Warm-up

15 min. easy jogging

Main set

10 min. @ Zone 2 or RPE 3-5/10

5 min. @ Zone 3 or RPE 6-8/10

2 min. @ Zone 1 or RPE 1-2/10

5 min. @ Zone 3 or RPE 6-8/10

Cool-down

10–20 min. easy

RELATED: Nail The Tempo Run

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Treadmill Workout #5: High Rollers

Warm-up

8 min. easy followed by 4 x 20 sec. @ 5K race pace

Main set

12 x 1 min. as 1 @ 4% grade, 1 @ 4.5% grade, 1 @ 5% grade

The interval at 4% should be moderate effort, the effort at 4.5% should be moderately hard, and the interval at 5% should be hard. Repeat the pattern four times. Try to run faster with each set of three.

Take 1 min. rest between each interval

Cool-down

10 min. easy

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Treadmill Workout #6: Rinny’s Love-Hate Treadmill Set

Three-time Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae said she has a “love-hate” relationship with this workout—and we can see why. She said: “It’s 10 x 3 minutes at best effort, with three minutes rest between each. It’s kind of boring but quite effective!” Of course, if you’re looking to keep the workout under 60 minutes then you’ll need to drop that to six rounds of three minutes in order to ensure you have plenty of time to warm-up and cool-down. When doing best effort work like this, it’s always a good idea to include a few strides in your warm-up.

Warm-up

10-20 min. building effort including a few 20-30 sec. strides

Main set

6 x 3 min. @ best effort, 3 min. recovery

Cool-down

5-10 easy jog

RELATED: Train 360: A Complete Look at Absolutely Everything That Goes Into Mirinda Carfrae’s FTP Bike Test

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Treadmill Workout #7: Building Hills

Warm-up 

20 min. building from easy to moderate, including a few 15-20 sec. strides at the end

Main set #1:

3 x 30-45 sec. hill repeats @ 5% grade, 6% grade, 7% grade—all fast, but not so fast that you can’t finish the workout. Recover for 2:15-2:30 min. between each rep, so each one takes 3 min. total

Main set #2: 

3 x 30-45 sec. hill repeats @ 6% grade, 7% grade, 8% grade. Slightly increase to the pace you’re running on each one. Recover for 2:15-2:30 min. between each rep, so each one takes 3 min. total

Main set #3:

3 x 30-45 sec. hill repeats @ 7% grade, 8% grade, 9% grade. Slightly increase the pace you’re running on each one. Recover for 2:15-2:30 min. between each rep, so each one takes 3 min. total

Cool-down:

10 min. easy

RELATED: The Science is In, and Hills Are Absolutely Worth the Burn

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Treadmill Workout #8: Progressive Pyramid Intervals

Note: This is a 45-minute workout as prescribed below, so add five minutes to the warm-up (10 min. in Zone 2) and repeat the first part of the main set (two sets of five minutes at 85% of max. HR instead of one set) if you’re looking to bump it up. This session is prescribed as a percentage of maximum heart rate, so if you’re looking for the RPE equivalent, start out at RPE 6/10 for the first five-minute interval and then nudge that up as you progress through the intervals, so: four minutes at RPE 7/10, three minutes at RPE 8/10, and so on.

Warm-up

10 min. @ easy

5 min. @ steady

Main Set

5 min. @ 85% max. HR or RPE 6/10

1 min. easy recovery

4 min. @ 87% max. HR (slightly harder than previous) or RPE 7/10

1 min. easy recovery

3 min. @ 90% max. HR (slightly harder than previous) or RPE 8/10

1 min. easy recovery

2 min. @ 95% max. HR (harder than previous) or RPE 9/10

1 min. easy recovery

1 min. near max. effort/RPE 9-10/10

1 min. easy recovery

Cool-down

10 min. easy walk or run

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Treadmill Workout #9: Treadmill Hills

Warm-up

15 min. gradually increasing speed as you warm up

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

1% @ minute #4 for 1 min.

2% @ minute #8 for 1 min.

3% @ minute #12 for 1 min.

Main Set

3 rounds of:

1 min. @ 1% with 1 min. rest

45 sec. @ 2% with 45 sec. rest

30 sec. @ 3% with 90 sec. 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).

Cooldown

8-10 min. easy jog @ 0%

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Treadmill Workout #10: Speed Progression

Warm-up

Run 1-2 miles @ 0% grade, gradually increasing effort from easy to moderate

Main set

10 x (1 min. @ 5K pace or RPE 8/10 with 2 min. recovery between each 1 min.)

Note: If you want to increase the difficulty, gradually decrease the rest time and keep the speed the same. You can also build this up to 12 x 1 min. the second time you do it, and then 15 x 1 min. the third.

Cool-down