Treadmill Fun (Speed Work for the Winter)

4 Nov

Hey everybody! I thought now would be a good time to share one of my favorite things with all of you – treadmill speedwork!

Most of what you see here was put together by Coachy (isn’t he so nice?!).  He’s got some really great ideas for challenging your body with speedwork over the winter, while we’re confined to the treadmill due to early sunsets and epic blizzards (I know that was last year, but hey, it snowed here before Halloween so I’m bracing myself).

But first we must discuss: Why is speedwork so important?

My words: To get faster. To get stronger. To push yourself past the limits of what you think your body can do, to the point of what your body knows it can do. And because it’s fun, and it makes the treadmill workout go by faster.

From Coachy:  Treadmill speedwork and hillwork is beneficial in so many ways.  It blows off the cobwebs and adds some excitement in otherwise monotonous dreadmill workouts.  It teaches your legs (and your brain) that your legs really can move faster.   The key, physiologically, it to increase your aerobic capacity and lactate threshold – what that means is increase the amount of aerobic (with oxygen) work your legs can consistently accomplish with the fixed amount of oxygen you’re giving them.  Where anything faster becomes anaerobic (lacking oxygen).   Anaerobic workouts burn energy much less efficiently (due to lacking oxygen) and produce much more waste product (lactic acid  etc).    In practice then, these workouts basically blast you through the aerobic/anaerobic threshold, repeatedly.   Ie., intervals x8.   And every time you do that,  push your body through this aerobic/anaerobic threshold, your body adapts and raises the threshold, which enables you to run faster, longer without flaming out with sore lactic acid filled legs.  Run fast.   Cheers.

From Runner’s WorldSpeedwork doesn’t just make you run faster. It makes you fitter, increases the range of movement in your joints, makes you more comfortable at all speeds, and it will ultimately help you to run harder for longer. (source)

From Active.comSpeedwork encourages a runner to focus, to make workouts meaningful, to concentrate in a way that approaches the mindset of a race itself. What’s more notable, and just as important, is the positive effect speedwork will have on your running form. You’ll be purposeful. You’ll have an erect posture, not a slouch. There will be a bounce to your stride, which will itself lengthen. (source)

More from Runner’s WorldWhen you run hard-faster than 10-K race pace-hydrogen ions accumulate in your muscle cells, which causes an increase in intracellular acidity. Since muscles don’t function well in an acid state, muscle contraction becomes impaired and fatigue quickly follows. Our bodies have the natural ability to buffer, or neutralize, these hydrogen ions to a certain degree. But buffering capacity can also be improved through high-intensity training-workouts featuring lots of short, fast repeats with limited recovery-which, in turn, can boost performance in hard efforts lasting less than an hour. In essence, the better you buffer hydrogen ions, the faster and longer you can sprint without tiring.  (source)

Okay so, enough science, right (If you want to read more, check out this article on Lactate Threshold Training)? Here are a few workout’s that Coachy put together for him, for me, and for all of you! Remember that the speeds listed here can be modified to fit your needs! And don’t forget to warm up and cool down properly (I usually do a mile of each!).

Step Down Intervals
See chart below.  Basically you’re running a 1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400 and 200 each at a faster and faster pace.  1200 is ¾ of a mile so it should be faster than your best 5K speed.  Each one after is shorter and faster.    Do these at a track (easiest) or on a treadmill or using a Garmin, monitoring distance.  I print this and bring it with me.
 Hill Climb & Tempo
First 2 miles: climb steady- for each mile follow this pattern (0-0.5 run @ 2.5%, 0.5-1 run @ 3%, 1-1.5 run @ 3.5%, 1.5-2 run @ 4% incline) hold easier tempo pace (mary or mary+ pace) the entire way- get the quads & calfs just a little tired 
Next 2 miles: hold incline @ 2.5%- run 2 hard miles (10K pace) or faster if you can (continuous miles)
Cool down 1-2 miles easy, 1% incline.
Hill Climb, Variation 2

The pace for this one is long run pace. Maybe a minute slower than marathon pace.  After a good warmup start cranking the incline every 2 minutes up and back down twice.   After 2 rounds of this  crank it way up, note last 3 are not ramps but extreme hill/quad burners.  Cool down for 5 minutes to flush out the lactic acid.
Increasing Repeats

1 mile push (challenging tempo pace)
¼ mile easy or ½ mile easy – your choice of rest
2 mile push (easier tempo pace than 1st mile by 10-15 sec/mile)
¼ mile easy or ½ mile easy – your choice of rest
3 mile push (challenging tempo pace)
Easy cool down- your choice of distance
Miles- always fun,  not really

1 mile easy- warm up pace
   1 mile tempo (just shy of 5K pace)
   0.25-0.50 easy pace @ big incline (3-5%)
   Repeat for 3-6 sets
0.5-1.0 mile cool down- easy pace


Speed Ladder
(When I do what Coachy has referred to as “fast” it’s typically 15-30 seconds faster than my 5k PR pace)


1-2 miles warm up easy
¼ fast
Easy ¼
½ fast
Easy ¼
¾ fast
Easy ¼
1 fast
Easy 1 mile- repeat for another set or 2 (however squirrely you feel)
0.5-1.0 cool down miles


I hope this gets you all through the boring winter months of treadmill running! I crushed my 5k PR two weeks in a row last year, due to weeks upon weeks of winter speed workouts!

2 Responses to “Treadmill Fun (Speed Work for the Winter)”

  1. jobo January 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Love these! Me and my love/hate relationship with intervals has moved towards love! I know they are helping with endurance and also lung conditioning! Today’s run proved that, I do believe 🙂 Maybe I’ll try another one or two of these!


  1. My 6-Month Run Challenge: Week 6 « Determined. To Be… - January 4, 2012

    […] was utterly fantastic. More on that later, though, I got a fun idea for a post…end side note) posted awhile ago about a scary good hill climb & tempo interval-ish treadmill workout that caught my […]

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