Three Power Workouts for the Treadmill

Build strength and stamina indoors that will translate to strong runs outdoors. – By Jenny Hadfield

This is a great time of year to take advantage of the incline benefits on the treadmill. You’ll develop strength and stamina that will translate well for outdoor runs and races this spring. Here are three fun and challenging hill workouts for the treadmill.

Powerful Hill Workout (50 minutes)

This workout doubles as a high-intensity interval session and builds power along with boosting your metabolism for hours postrun.

  • Warm up by walking for 2 minutes.
  • Run easy for 5 minutes.
  • Repeat 8 times: Run for 90 seconds at a 4 to 5 percent incline at a pace that elevates your effort to the *Red Zone (hard effort, breathing vigorously, can’t talk). Recover with a very easy jog at 0 percent incline for 3 minutes.
  • Run easy for 5 minutes.
  • Cool down by walking for 2 minutes.

Notes: The quality of your performance on the hill intervals depends greatly on the quality of your easy-jog recovery in between. Make sure to go slowly enough to get your breathing and heart rate down before you attempt the next hill interval.

Hilly Tempo Workout (45 minutes)

This is an effective combination of a tempo run and hill workout. It will boost your redline threshold and will teach you how to run hills by fee, a skill that will pay off on race day.

  • Warm up by walking for 2 minutes.
  • Run easy for 8 minutes.
  • Repeat 1: Run five minutes at a 1 percent incline and at a pace that elevates your effort level to the top of the *Orange Zone, or Zone 4 if you use a heart rate monitor.
  • Recovery 1: Jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover.
  • Repeat 2: Run five minutes at a 2 percent incline and at a pace that elevates your effort level to where it was on the previous rep.
  • Recovery 2: Jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover.
  • Repeat 3: Run five minutes at a 3 percent incline and at a pace that elevates your effort level to where it was on the previous rep.
  • Recovery 3: Jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover.
  • Repeat 4: Run five minutes at a 4 percent incline and at a pace that elevates your effort level to where it was on the previous rep.
  • Recovery 4: Jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover.
  • Run easy for 5 minutes.
  • Cool down by walking for 2 minutes.

Notes: The secret to running this workout optimally is to tune into your effort level (or heart rate) and find the pace that puts you in the target zone on the given day. The pace will slow as the incline increases with each repetition.

Mindfully Long Hill Workout (50-60+ minutes)

This workout is all about running mindfully, getting in the flow of hill running, and building hill-running endurance.

  • Warm up by walking for 2 minutes.
  • Run easy for 8 minutes.
  • Repeat 3 times: Run 1.5 kilometre at a 3 percent incline at an easy effort in the *Yellow Zone, or Zone 2 for heart rate. After 1.5 kilometres, run 2 minutes at 0 percent incline, at a faster, but controlled Orange Zone (or Zone 3 heart rate) effort to simulate the speed of running downhill. Then, run one minute easy (Yellow Zone) at 0 percent before moving on to the next rep.
  • Run easy for 5 minutes.
  • Cool down by walking for 2 minutes.

Notes: Be the hill in this workout by adjusting your speed to truly run easy on the incline. If you can’t hold the incline within the easy Yellow Zone, lower the incline percentage or powerwalk it until you build the fitness to do so. Ultrarunners train and race with run-walking to keep their effort at an appropriate level, and it pays off with energy conservation during longer runs and races.

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* We run aerobically or in what I call the Yellow Zone for our easy runs, recovery runs, and long runs. Running at this effort allows us to run for a long time, improves our fat-burning enzymes, and isn’t very stressful on the body.

The Orange Zone is a step up from Yellow and hovers around the lactate threshold (redline), the point at which we shift from using more fat for energy to using more glycogen. We run in this zone during workouts like tempo runs and long intervals to raise the redline, which helps us run faster at easier efforts.

When you cross over the redline, you run into the Red Zone, or the effort level that is flat-out hard, well outside your comfort zone. This is the effort where we run intervals, hill repeats, and any high-intensity workout. Training in this zone will improve fitness and speed and boost your metabolism for hours post-workout.

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