5 Coach-Recommended Treadmill Workouts

Add these indoor runs to your training mix

Most treadmills you find in gyms and for home use have programmed workouts options. But it can get boring (and limit training) doing the same workout or basic run day after day.

Running coach Jacob Puzey, a treadmill world-record holder (for fastest 50-miles run on a treadmill) and accomplished marathoner and ultrarunner, is well-versed in keeping treadmill workouts fresh. He trained for his first marathon in 2004 almost exclusively on a treadmill.

“I had no clue what I was doing, but it was too cold and dark and icy in the small town I lived in, so I went to the university gym and ran for an hour before class and an hour at the end of the day,” Puzey recalls. “I ended up running surprisingly well for a neophyte college sophomore and realized that I might actually have some potential as a runner.”

He also realized that running on a treadmill can provide a platform for consistent training, especially now that he’s a father of five and has a busier schedule than ever.

Puzey notes that not all treadmills are created equal, with some having decline options and others limiting incline or speed variability. If you’re buying a unit for home use or joining a gym, be sure to compare what options are available first.

Try one of these workouts from Puzey the next time you decide to run inside.

Treadmill Cut-Down

This run can be from 30 to 90 minutes, depending upon training needs and the time you have to run. Start at a comfortable pace and then increase the pace as you go. Increase the pace approximately every 0.25 miles by 0.1 mph. For example, start at 8.0 mph and then increase the pace at 0.25 mile to 8.1 and then again to 8.2 mph at 0.5 miles. By the end of the run you could be running between 10 and 12 mph (6:00 to 5:00 per mile), if that’s in your training. This allows for a gradual warm-up while eventually working up to a long, sustained effort between half marathon and marathon pace. It can also be done more organically based upon how you feel during a run, and accepting that the pace may vary.

Long Run

Plan for 1.5 to 3 hours for this workout. The long run is the cornerstone of any long-distance training plan. In addition to preparing the body and mind for the demands of being on your feet for a prolonged period of time on race day, the long run is also one of the best times to test the nutrition products and strategies you plan to employ on race day. Doing the long run on a treadmill allows you to have a variety of hydration and nutrition products readily available, while allowing you to focus on the task at hand—running the prescribed time at the prescribed pace and taking in fluids and fuel as needed.

READ MORE: Making the Most of the Treadmill


Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play.”  Like the cut-downs, fartleks can either be structured or more organic in nature. Fartleks usually include shorter, harder efforts, making a 15- to 30-minute warm-up essential. From there, you can alternate between “hard” (5K-10K) efforts and “easy” (comfortable) efforts.

Sample fartlek workout:

15- to 30-minute warm-up jog

3-6 x 20- to 30-second strides

8-10 x 1 minute (hard: 5K-10K effort) w/ 1-minute jog recoveries between hard efforts

15- to 30-minute cooldown jog

READ MORE: A Glossary of Running Terms Defined

Hill Repeats

Like fartlek runs, hill repeats end up as fairly high intensity workouts requiring an adequate warm-up before and cooldown after the more intense bouts of running. Recovery intervals between hill repeats will vary depending on the duration and intensity of the repeats themselves. Hills help with strength and stamina and reduce the ground force impact experienced in shorter, faster flat speed workouts.

Sample hill repeat workout:

15- to 30-minute warm-up jog

6-8 x 20- to 30-second short uphill strides @ 6-8 percent grade w/ easy walk/jog recovery until fully recovered between strides

15- to 30-minute cooldown jog

Treadmill Hike

Plan for 30 to 90 minutes at a comfortable effort and an 8-12 percent grade, for this uphill hike workout. These can be really helpful for mountain races that often require hiking skills, and many runners fail to include hiking into their training routine.

READ MORE: 24 Hours on a Treadmill

Allison Pattillo

Motiv Running senior editor Allison Pattillo writes about running, health, nutrition, gear and travel from her home in Colorado. When it comes to gear, she’s a fan of tall running socks, short running skirts and wearing her hat backwards. Even with a BQ and a few podium finishes (all triathlons should be run, bike, canoe!), Allison finds more inspiration from running in beautiful places and exploring on the run instead of the numbers on a stopwatch. She looks forward to the day when she finds her ultimate running dog, which, at this point, may be more bulldog than border collie.