Do you want to mix up your routine with a treadmill hill workout?
Hill training is one of the best forms of strength training for a runner.
However it’s not always possible to go out and tackle those hills just any old time…for example in February, when it’s icy and snowy outside…which currently it is from where I’m sitting.
So today I wanted to break down how to perform a treadmill hill workout.
If you are using any one of my training plans that call for you to do a hill repeats workout, then these tips and the workout itself can be molded and fit to what you need to do on the training schedule you are following.
Yes, you absolutely can, and a treadmill hill workout can be even more effective than running on the hills out in the big outdoors because of the flexibility that it offers you.
There are many benefits to running a hill workout on a treadmill.
Here are a few.
They are a powerful way to build strength in the muscles that we directly use for running.
Hill repeats help us to build strong muscles as a runner and thereby reduce our risk of injury.
The stronger our muscles, particularly our running muscles are, the far less susceptible they will be to over-use injury which can be common in running.
(Here's a list of common running-injuries + signs, symptoms and treatments.)
Increasing our strength in our running muscles is the building block and first thing we should think about before jumping into any type of focused speed training.
This is why my training plans always include a least 3 to 4 weeks of hill training before any type of targeted speed training happens.
Hill training gives you a mental advantage when it comes to racing on a hilly course.
Instead of being worried at the sight of a hill on the race course you will be confident and ready to tackle it.
Sometimes all you need in order to get out of a rut is to mix it up. Running hill repeats on a treadmill can definitely be the very thing that can help you do that.
If you are a runner and don't have a treadmill yet, I highly recommend making the investment!
Typically you will want to run on a hill that has a 10 to 15% grade when you are running outdoors.
However this is a guideline and many times you might not be sure exactly what grade the hill you want to do hill repeats on actually is.
So let’s just set some guidelines in terms of the effort that you should be putting in while running hill repeats on a treadmill.
Everybody is at different fitness levels and so one incline on a treadmill might be perfect for one runner but not strenuous enough for another.
This is where you want to be honest with yourself about how hard you are working and if you need to be pushing yourself more or backing off a bit.
Your breathing - you want it to be fast and labored.
You shouldn’t be able to talk or carry on a conversation.
A typical breathing rate for a runner running hills is a 2-2 breathing pattern or 2 steps breathing in, 2 steps breathing out.
Your footsteps should be fast and close together.
It should not be a struggle to keep up with the moving belt. If it is you are going too fast.
Be aware of how far apart your footstrikes are to each other. Your landing foot should not be out far in front of your body but instead land directly under you.
You should not have to hold onto the rails (or feel like you almost need to hold onto the rails) - this means that you are going too fast.
Be able to run at 5K effort during a treadmill hill workout.
This doesn’t mean to run at your 5K race pace but instead run at the same effort that you would run at for a 5k race.
The bottom line is that you want it to be strenuous but not overly strenuous.
It will probably take some trial and error as you figure out what works best for you.
Remember that you will be feeling pretty strong during your first hill repeat, however as you progress through the workout it will become harder.
Simply adjust your incline as needed keeping in mind that you do want to be honest with how hard you are working and whether you need to push yourself more or back off a bit.
Alright, let’s talk about the components of how to run a good treadmill hill workout based off of a scheduled hill training session using one of my training plans.
Let’s take the hill workout that is scheduled in the second week of this 12 Week Marathon Training Plan which is a typical hill workout that might be scheduled on one of the training plans you see on this site.
On this marathon training plan, the hill workout is scheduled as:
HT: 8 reps @ 1-1.5 minutes
Therefore during this hill training (HT) workout you will be running 8 hill repeats for a duration of 60 to 90 seconds at an incline that you have chosen.
Ready to get started?!
The first thing you always want to do when running a hill treadmill workout is to warm up properly. (You knew I was going to say that, right? :)
The best kind of warm up for this workout would be to simply jog slowly or run for about 10 minutes.
It would be even more ideal if you included some dynamic stretches (remember, before you run you do not want to be doing stretches that you hold).
See this page on performing a running warm up if you want more information on this.
After you have completed your warm up, begin the hill treadmill workout.
Bump your incline up to your desired incline keeping your speed steady and consistent.
Hold your incline level and speed steady for 60 to 90 seconds.
Once your time is up, that repeat is finished and it's time for your rest interval.
During your rest interval, put your incline back down to a level 0 or a level 1.
Rest for at least the duration of your hill repeat interval.
For example, if you ran your hill repeat for 1 minute you will take a rest break for at least 1 minute.
The goal of your rest interval is to give your legs a rest and to recover your breathing before going on and performing the next hill repeat.
Since the goal of a treadmill hill workout is to build strength in your muscles (versus building endurance) you want to fully recover before each hill workout.
Depending on the speed you are running and the hill incline you have chosen, it may take you longer or shorter for you to fully recover before starting your next hill repeat.
Once you have completed your scheduled amount of hill repeats you will definitely want to finish up with a quality cool down.
Slowly jog or walk for about 5 to 10 minutes to help shake out your legs and bring your heart rate back down to normal.
Follow this with at least 10 minutes of stretching.
If you aren't following a specific training schedule but are looking for a simple treadmill hill workout then I have you covered with this simple yet effective 30 minute treadmill hill workout!
Minutes 1-7: Warm up: slowly walk or jog to warm up.
Minute 8: Hill Repeat #1: bump your incline to a level 5 or higher
Minutes 9:30 to 11 - Rest interval: Drop the incline to 0 and slow your speed to a jog or even a walk
Minute 11: Hill Repeat #2
Minutes 12 to 13:30 - Rest interval
Minutes 13:30 to 15 - Hill Repeat #3
Minutes 15 to 16:30 - Rest Interval
Minutes 16:30 to 18 - Hill Repeat #4
Minutes 18 to 19:30 - Rest Interval
Minutes 19:30 to 21 - Hill interval #5
Minutes 21 to 22: Rest Interval
Minutes 22 to 23: Hill Interval #6
Minutes 23 to 30: Rest interval + Slow jog or walk to cool down.
Finish it off with some deep stretching!
Note: you can definitely complete this treadmill hill workout walking!
That's it for this breakdown on treadmill hill workouts and how to perform a great 30 minute treadmill hill burn!
I do also have this page of 7 other treadmill running workouts you might enjoy.
Here is a guide on running hill repeats outdoors + tips on running form when running uphill!
I'll send you my free 24 Hour Timeline Checklist of Things You Should Do After a Long Run when you sign up!