Running on the 'Dreadmill' Doesn't Have to Be Monotonous

A senior airman runs on a treadmill.
Senior Airman April Wright, 37th Airlift Squadron aviation resource management, runs on a treadmill at the Southside Fitness Center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, June 14, 2021. (Airman Jared Lovett/U.S. Air Force photo)

An email from a military recruit in Wisconsin requested information on how to spice up running on the "dreadmill."

He asks:

"During the winter time it is nearly impossible to run any timed event due to the 2-3 ft. of snow on the ground or ice on the roads. Is treadmill running going to hurt my running ability I am trying to build up for training?"

Yes, I know all about the "dreadmill" and do not like it, compared to running on the ground, as I have always felt that the machine did a bit of the work for me. However, after experimenting with the treadmill during recent bad weather myself and some research, I have found some good workouts to do that will spice things up on the treadmill.

If doing a long, slow-distance (LSD) run, the treadmill can get a bit boring, but so can running around a track or even in some environments, for that matter. To get more out of the run on a treadmill, slightly increase the incline 1%-2% to make it similar to running on the ground.

Now if you really want to push the caloric burn and work the legs and lungs, take it up to 5% and you will burn two times the amount of calories than on a flat treadmill.

But the LSD run does not spice up things on the treadmill, so add speed to the workout by using interval and tempo training. Here are three workouts to add to your running plan during the week if you are stuck inside and cannot run on a track or trail. Try these workouts to increase speed in your mile pace.

Sprint interval

Most treadmills can go up only to 10-12 mph (a five- to six-minute per mile pace), so it is not a full sprint but about 80%-90% full pace. That is fast enough that many use the handrails for safety at this level on the fast runs. Run as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds, followed by a walk for 60-90 seconds.

Repeat 8-10 times for a challenging routine.

Sprint-jog tempo run

Pump that one up a bit and jog at a standard run pace for you for five minutes. Then add the pace of your goal mile pace. Say you are trying to run a six-minute mile. Shoot for that pace on the treadmill (which is 10 mph) for as long as you can, then drop down to a regular running pace for twice as long as you ran at your goal pace. Repeat this cycle for as long as you can, perhaps 5-6 times.

Tempo training

Run a 10- to 15-minute warmup. Run faster but comfortably for 20 minutes, then a 10- to 15-minute cooldown to build leg endurance and running tolerance. Add some leg PT at every transition for an added workout. For instance, do 20 squats and 20 lunges at each change in pace, then hop back on and run.

These workouts should help you keep your running pace as good as or perhaps even better than it was when you had to stop running outside. It is fun and smart to mix in a little bit of everything into your training plan. Doing only one thing for too long tends to neglect certain elements of fitness.

Hang in there and keep working and trying new things to spice up your routine. 

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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