3 hill workouts for the treadmill

By John Hansen | Feb. 04, 2020, 3 p.m. (ET)

running on the treadmill

The offseason is a time to focus on building your base in preparation for the racing season.

Although the offseason is a key time to work on a foundation, if you are running on a treadmill, just doing straight unvaried runs can dramatically affect your motivation. As one of my clients says, the treadmill is often referred to as the "Dreadmill." 

To help improve your motivation, it’s good to spice up your workouts!

The following three treadmill hill training sessions are not only good offseason workouts to develop endurance and strength, they also give your workouts a little kick to help make your time on the treadmill more enjoyable and motivating. These workouts range from easy, to moderate, to challenging.

To begin, all treadmill workouts should be done at a minimum of .5% incline, except for the warm-ups and warm downs, to simulate the energy cost of outdoor running.

For each workout below start with a 3 minute warm-up at 60-70% of estimated HR max at .5% incline. 

Happy treadmill running! 

Easy workout (25 minutes)

You will be altering the speed (MPH) and the incline throughout the hill section of this workout.

After your 3 minute warm-up, set the treadmill speed at a comfortable 70-75% of your estimated HR max and run for 2 minutes.

At minute 6, increase the incline to 1.5% and drop the speed by .1 mph and run for 1 min. 

Follow this pattern each minute until you peak at 3.5% incline then reverse your steps: dropping your incline, but increasing the speed until you reach .5% incline and your original speed.

Repeat this 6 minute hill segment 2 more times. Finish off the workout with a 5 min easy cool down.

Workout summary:

  1. Warm-up  + 2 min at 70-75%
  2. Min 6, drop speed by .1 mph, 1.5% incline
  3. Min 7, drop speed by additional .1 mph, increase to 2.5% incline
  4. Min 8, drop speed by additional .1 mph, increase to 3.5% incline
  5. Min 9, increase speed by .1 mph, drop to 2.5% incline
  6. Min 10, increase speed by additional .1 mph, drop to 1.5% incline
  7. Min 11, increase speed by additional .1 mph, .drop to .5% incline
  8. Min 12-23: Repeat steps 2-7, two more times
  9. Min 24-25,  2 min warm down; 60-70% max HR, 0% incline

Moderate workout (35 minutes)

This workout is a variation of workout the easy workout to demonstrate how a small change can alter the intensity of the run.
 
You will be altering the incline throughout the hill section of this workout. After your 3-minute warm-up, set the treadmill speed at a comfortable 70-75% estimated HR max and run for an additional 2 minutes. 
 
At minute 6, increase the incline to 1.5% but maintain the same speed as you were running during the 70-75% effort, for 1 min.
 
Follow this pattern each minute until you peak at 3.5% incline, then reverse your steps, dropping your incline until reach .5% incline.
 
Repeat this 6-minute hill segment three more times.
 
Finish off the workout with a 5 min easy cool down.
 
Workout summary:
  1. Warm-up  + 2 min at 70-75%
  2. Min 6, 1.5% incline
  3. Min 7, 2.5% incline
  4. Min 8, 3.5% incline
  5. Min 9,  2.5% incline
  6. Min 10,  1.5% incline
  7. Min 11,.5% incline
  8. Min 12-29:  Repeat steps 2-7, 3 more times.
  9. Min 30-35,  6 min warm down 60-70% max HR, 0% incline

Challenging workout (40 minutes)

This workout is a variation of the moderate workout to demonstrate how additional changes can make the run even more difficult. 

After your 3-minute warm-up, set the treadmill speed at a comfortable 70-75% estimated HR max and run for an additional 2 minutes.

At minute 6, increase the incline to 1.5% but maintain the same speed as you were running during the 70-75% effort, for 2 min. 

Follow this pattern for 2 minutes until you peak at 3.5% incline then reverse your steps:  dropping your incline until reach .5% incline and your original speed. 

Repeat this 12-minute segment one more time. 

After the hill segment is complete, run a 6 minute hill segment increasing the speed by .2 mph from the speed set at the 70-75% effort  and increase the incline back to 1.5%. 

Finish off the workout with a 6 min easy cool down.

Workout summary:

  1. Warm-up  + 2 min at 70-75%
  2. Min 6, 1.5% incline
  3. Min 8, 2.5% incline
  4. Min 10, 3.5% incline
  5. Min 12,  2.5% incline
  6. Min 14,  1.5% incline
  7. Min 16,.5% incline
  8. Min 17-28:  Repeat steps 2-7, 1 more time.
  9. Min 29-34:  speed at 70-75% effort +.2 mph,1.5% incline
  10. Min 35-40,  6 min warm down 60-70% max HR, 0% incline
John Hansen, USAT, and USA Swimming Level 1 Coach and USA Cycling Level 3 Certified coach, Folsom, California. Hansen has an MS in Exercise Physiology and previously worked at the UC Davis Sports performance lab for five years. Hansen currently coaches the UC Davis Collegiate Club Triathlon team. Hansen also has his own coaching business, primarily coaching long course athletes, 70.3 and 140.6. Visit HansenMultisport.com or email john1hansen@sbcglobal.net.
 
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.