Against all odds, you might just fall in love with the treadmill this month, thanks to this killer workout program that uses speed, hill, and endurance intervals—plus bodyweight moves with the treadmill turned off—to take the dread out for good.
"I just love running on the treadmill!" said maybe about three people ever. After all, it's dubbed the "dreadmill" for a reason. But whether you're training for a race or just trying to get in your dose of cardio, the treadmill is often unavoidable in February when heading outside to run isn't an option (for most of the country, anyway). That's why we tapped the queen of cardio, ultramarathoner Robin Arzon, New York Times bestselling author of Shut Up and Run, and vice president of fitness programming and head instructor at Peloton, to create a total-body treadmill workout that is fun, tough, and actually engaging.
In addition to helping you beat boredom, the roughly 30-minute-long interval workout will help you become a stronger runner by improving your endurance, speed, and power over the month, while also sculpting your entire body with killer hill intervals and bodyweight moves that incorporate the turned-off treadmill. (You can also opt to do them on a mat instead.) Don't worry, you'll also have time for recovery—which can mean a jog or a walk if you're a beginner—to get your heart rate down and prepare you for the next interval. And most importantly, since the program is built around your own personal base pace (more on how to figure out that number below), it's designed for all levels of athletes—even those brand new to running. (Related: 11 Science-Backed Reasons Running Is Really Good for You)
Need a little extra motivation? Look no further than Arzon's 30-minute playlist filled with power tracks to help you "get off your ass when you really just want to watch Netflix." (This girl gets us.)
How it works: The first week, you'll follow the workout as-is. If you're new to running, start implementing this workout into your routine two days per week, Arzon suggests. The rest of the week you'll spend doing low-impact workouts like spinning or yoga, plus one "long" run—whatever that means to you. While this is a great opportunity for those training for longer races to get their miles in, it can also be swapped for 60 minutes of sustained cardio, such as 30 minutes on the StairMaster and 30 minutes on elliptical, Arzon says. For the rest of the month, you'll focus on improving one component of the workout each week—speed, hills, or endurance—while keeping the other areas the same. (This ensures you don't increase your total distance by more than 10 percent per week, a good safety measure.) Even though you're only making one component harder at a time, you'll probably see improvement across the board, she says.
Before you begin your treadmill workout, start with some pre-run dynamic stretches that will improve your range of motion and loosen up your muscles to help reduce your risk for injury. And after you finish your cool-down sesh, turn the treadmill off and use it for some quick static stretches that will help loosen up tight quads, glutes, lats, and hamstrings. (Speaking of which, here's how to prevent the most common running injuries.)
30-Day Treadmill Challenge
Pre-Run Dynamic Stretch: Butt Kicks
While standing tall with arms at sides in running position, kick heels back one at a time to touch glutes. Perform 20 total kicks.
While holding on to the treadmill with left arm for stability, swing left leg to side, and then back across torso. Perform 10 times, then repeat with right leg.
Stand with arms out to sides, then bend down, touching right hand to the top of left foot. Come back up to standing, then touch left hand to right foot. Continue alternating, for a total of 20 twists.
Standing tall with core engaged, lift right leg straight out in front of you as you touch left hand to toes. Repeat 10 times, then switch to left leg.
Bodyweight Circuit: Triceps Dips
A. With the treadmill turned off, place hands on the side of the treadmill with fingers facing forward and legs extended fully in front of you.
B. Bend elbows to lower your hips toward the floor until elbows are at about a 90-degree angle. Perform AMRAP for 1 minute.
A. With the treadmill turned off, come into a high plank position with hands placed firmly on either side of the treadmill, directly beneath your shoulders.
B. Lower chest down toward the base of the treadmill, keeping back straight and neck in a neutral position.
C. Straighten arms to return to starting position. Perform AMRAP for 1 minute.
A. With the treadmill turned off, come into a high plank position with hands directly below shoulders, firmly gripping either side of the treadmill base.
B. Alternate driving knees into the center of body for 1 minute.
A. With the treadmill turned off, place right foot behind you on the side of the treadmill, keeping toes pointed out and foot flexed.
B. With hands on hips, come down into a low lunge position so that left leg forms a 90-degree angle, keeping knee over ankle. Drive back up to starting position. Perform AMRAP, then switch sides.
Post-Run Stretch: Hamstring Stretch
With the treadmill turned off, bring right leg up to the right side rail, touching hands to toes as you bring head down toward knee. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the left side.
With the treadmill turned off and left hand holding on to the railing for support, grab right ankle with right hand, bringing heel to glute. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Holding on to the treadmill railings for support, cross left ankle over to right knee, then bend right knee and extend arms out to bring hips back into a seated position. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other leg.
With feet spread wide on either side of the treadmill and hands holding the console, lean forward, keeping a straight back. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
Week 1View All
Photo: Ja Tecson
Find Your Base Pace
Before you begin, you'll need to figure out your base "run" speed or "base pace" which will be your building point for the rest of the workout. How? The talk test. Start running and find the speed that feels challenging while still allowing you to sing your favorite song or hold a conversation for a few minutes without panting, Arzon says. (You should feel like you're giving about 40 to 50 percent of your effort—after all, you'll be adding speed onto this throughout the workout!) To figure out your "jog pace" for the workout, subtract about 1.0 from your base pace number. A good rule of thumb: You should feel like you want to be going faster, she says.
Be sure that you aren't pressed right up against the treadmill—if you're hugging the console then you probably need to adjust your speed, Arzon says. And remember to keep your chest up and eyes forward—no looking down at your feet!
Week 2View All
Photo: Ja Tecson
Speed It Up
In week two, you'll take each interval in the speed block 0.2 faster, including your base pace.
Week 3View All
Photo: Ja Tecson
Up the Incline
Take each interval in this hill section of the workout 0.5 steeper. You'll be feeling the burn!
One important form tip to keep in mind: As you up your incline, shorten your stride and lean into the treadmill slightly, Arzon says. Remember to use your arms to maintain momentum and don't hold on to the arm rails—even on a serious climb.
(More on that here: 5 Treadmill Tricks to Help You Burn Double the Calories)
Week 4View All
Photo: Ja Tecson
This week, you'll add in one extra minute of running (at a speed of your base run plus 1.5) before you jump back down to a recovery jog in order to build your endurance.