Easy HIIT Treadmill Workout for Runners

So first things first, what is HIIT? More specifically, what is a HIIT treadmill workout?

It stands for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and it’s one of the top training trends in the fitness world. Why? Because high-intensity is a shorter, faster workout that gets your heart rate pumping it makes the workouts quick and very effective.

What is a HIIT treadmill workout?

Quite simply, it’s running fast in short spurts on a treadmill. You may think of Zumba, spinning cycling classes, or other boot camp workouts when it comes to high-intensity training. The loud techno music, some guy yelling at you, “let’s go!” The same principles apply when you incorporate short sprinting bursts while running on a treadmill. Except you can listen to whatever music you want. HIIT on a treadmill consists of quick changes in speed and elevation to get your heart rate up and then rest and then up again and then rest. Typically it lasts anywhere from 15-60 min. If you’re breathing so hard that you can’t talk, you’re doing it right.

Steady-state vs HITT treadmill workout

If you’ve been to the gym recently you’ve probably seen people jogging on a treadmill while watching an entire movie. This is not a HIIT workout. This is called steady-state training. It’s a longer duration at a continuous speed. There is a time and place for these types of workouts. As you prep for a marathon, they will become an essential training method. What’s crazy about the human body is that it has the amazing ability to adapt pretty quickly to the same type of workouts over and over. This leads you to a plateau, where your progress just levels off.

Using a HIIT treadmill workout as a regular part of your workout plan can take your marathon training to the next level. Next, an explanation of why HIIT is effective.

Why HIIT treadmill workouts are effective

First a brief physiology lesson. Your body has two main types of muscle fibers throughout the body, Fast-twitch, and slow-twitch. 

Fast-twitch muscle fibers

HIIT recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers. 

Fast-twitch muscles are designed for short, quick, powerful bursts of energy. When you think of fast-twitch think of:

  • Sprinters in the Olympics
  • Mahomes to Tyreek Hill touchdown pass
  • A soccer player on a fast break 

Fast-twitch muscles typically need more fuel than slow-twitch. If your workout targets fast-twitch fibers, you can actually burn more calories during a shorter workout. You’ll also burn calories after the workout. It’s a phenomenon known as the “after-burn effect.” It’s when your body continues consuming oxygen following your workout, which keeps your body in a calorie-burning state well after your workout is over.

Slow-twitch muscle fibers

There’s a big difference between a sprinter and a long-distance runner, namely the duration. Sprinter can run fast, but can’t typically keep up that speed for 26.2 miles. Steady-state activities, use slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are designed for aerobic, long-endurance activities. 

It includes things like:

  • Marathon runners
  • Long-distance cyclists
  • Rowing

What is the best HIIT treadmill workout?

When you first get into HIIT running, it may take a little trial and error on your part to find the right workout for your level of ability. With treadmill running, there are two ways to make it more intense, difficult, and challenging:

  • Increase speed
  • Increase uphill incline

Try to find a speed and incline that you can sustain for no more than one minute. 

  • For beginners, this may be a 3 mph jog with absolutely no incline. 
  • For someone more conditioned, it may be an 8 mph speed with an 8% incline grade.

Trial and error

As you try and experiment with different speeds and inclines, it’s important to learn what your maximum top-line limit is. After one minute at the peak, you should be completely wiped and have to take it down a bunch of notches. 

The interval

After finding your max (interval) and going all-out for a minute, slow down to something easy and manageable for two minutes (interval). Easy and max depend on you and your individual training level. After your trial and error period where you discover the intensity, now you will need to find a challenging duration.

Cycles in HIIT treadmill workouts

Now that you know your top interval and your bottom interval, you can start working in different cycles. Cycles are the number of times you hit the top interval and the bottom interval. If you go hard for one minute and easy for two minutes that would be one cycle. When you’re first starting out, shoot for completing 6-8 cycles. 

Warm-up before HIIT treadmill workouts

To prevent injury and get your body ready for an intense workout, be sure to stretch and warm up. Start with 5-10 minutes of easy manageable walking or jogging. If you’re really ambitious you could even include a few intervals just below your max level to get your body all primed and ready.

The easy HITT treadmill workout plan

Try this easy HIIT treadmill workout that will help get you started:

  1. Start with some stretches
  2. Warm up with a brisk walk 3 mph for 10 minutes
  3. Increase speed and run at 6 mph for 1 minute
  4. Return to manageable, walk at 3 mph for 2 minutes

Repeat this complete cycle 5 more times (6 cycles total)

Do a cool-down walk for 5 minutes before stretching and drinking plenty of water.

(If these intervals aren’t enough of a challenge, add a slight incline to the treadmill to the running interval)

How often should you do a HIIT running workout?

Try to integrate HIIT running at least twice per week. Cycle it with your other cardio workouts to keep it interesting and challenging.

Few thoughts on HIIT treadmill workouts

The key to success is to really push yourself. That’s how you take your training up a notch, by pushing the boundaries. Find the emergency shut-off. If you get running too fast and this will help you stop. You may hate HIIT workouts at first, but they will really help increase your lung capacity, and endurance and strengthen your muscles.

Good luck. You can do it.