Treadmill Workouts for Winter Running Triathletes

My Current Paincave -
The University of Arizona Rec Center
Now that winter is upon us I thought I would compile some of my favorite treadmill workouts. Treadmills can be great tool to improve running by allowing me to:

#1) Run more miles - Treadmill running is easier on my body. I can run longer and recovery is shorter than running outside on concrete and asphalt. Ultimately it is a great tool for increasing my volume.

#2) Drive cadence - The nature of treadmills tend to be good in driving cadence and good form.

#3) Reduce chance of injury - Besides slipping on ice, avoiding cars, etc, running on treadmills usually results in running in a warmer environment. I'm a big fan of running in warmer environments because ultimately it results in less joint and tendon stiffness. The youngsters might not appreciate this but I can assure them that they will appreciate it as they get older.

As for actual workouts, I'll give you a couple of sample workouts that I do. Let's call my threshold pace 5:25.

The Threshold Workout: Very similar to the popular cycling workout where the emphasis is on threshold work at, near, or above your threshold pace. The goal here is to work at raising my lactate threshold or the "sustainable speed" that I have.

Warm-up: 10-15 minutes starting at 6mph. Increase by .1mph every 15 seconds. By 5 minutes I am at 8mph, at 10 minutes I am at 10mph. Continue until I reach the starting point for my mainset (usually between 10.8 and 11.2. Afterward set back to 7.0mph or easy jogging pace for 2-3 minutes of recovery.

Mainset: 2x20 minutes. Start at a point that is a little bit below threshold. Say 10.8 for now and increase by .1 every 3 minutes. If I start at 10.8 that would leave me at 11.4 for the final segment. Recover for 5 minutes at easy pace. Then start the next one .2 above the starting point of the first one.

Cool-down: Easy jogging 5-10 mins. I do this as descending back down from say 8mph to 6mph decrementing by .1mph every 15 seconds, or 30 seconds depending on the length of cool down.

The Accelerated Tempo: A more aggressive tempo workout that takes me to the mental breaking point and beyond. The goal here is that I am doing a V02 max interval at the end of some significant running. I like this workout on the treadmill because it is short, and is constantly building and reinforcing positive/growing thoughts. In addition you get to see your cardiovascular and respiratory systems transform. You are aware of when you start sweating, breathing hard, building up significant amounts of lactate and really suffering. These can be extremely motivating because generally you are going to want to quit and the strong minded will always "embrace the suck" and breakthrough. Breaking through mental barriers is often times more important than physical barriers. Lastly I like this workout as it gives my body a chance to warm up and adapt before the pace gets really high.

Warm-up: 10 minutes starting at 6mph. Increase by .1mph every 15 seconds until I reach at 8mph. Hold steady until I reach 10 minutes.

Mainset: 40 minutes. Starting at 8mph increase by .1mph every minute. I have 40 minutes but I will keep on pushing this so it could be 45 minutes by the end. 40 minutes puts me at 12mph. 45 minutes puts me at 12.5mph.

Cool-down: Set at 4mph until I get some semblance of recovery and then bump to 6mph and jog easy for 5-10 minutes.

Again these are my workouts with my pace. Always consult a physician and your coach before starting any fitness regimen. In addition, if you want to use these workouts with the intended benefit then they will have to be adjusted based on your own capabilities.


  1. Eric I am not doing incline right now as I am working on leg turnover, however they could be done with incline. These particular Woodways are about 10% harder than any treadmill I have ever ran on before.

  2. I'm looking forward to trying these workouts. For the Threshold I plan to start the main sets on 8.4 and work up to 9.0 Then go 8.6 to 9.2 for set 2. Should be tough but reasonable.
    For the Tempo though i am not sure where to start. Was thinking about going from 6.0 to 10.0 but 6.0 just seems so slow, however, I'm not sure I can handle much over 10 at the end of a set like that. So I may have to modify it a little. Thoughts or ideas? Thanks.

    1. Sounds good on the Threshold set. For the Accelerated Tempo, what if you started at 7.0 but took 20 minutes to get to 8.0, so you would increase by .1mph every 2 minutes. Then continue for the next 20 minutes with a .1 increase for every minute. How does that sound?

    2. Thanks TG. I'll give it a shot! My work schedule dictates quite a bit of treadmill work so I'm always looking for ways to keep it interesting and challenging.

  3. I found that when I used to get on a treadmill, I would get quickly bored and rarely pushed myself like I should.  A friend told me about some killer treadmill workouts on iTunes.  They basically have a top-notch trainer taking you through a HIIT routine for the treadmill.  Seriously kicks my butt every time, in just 20 minutes: