Conquering the Treadmill – Part 2 (Execution)

This is part 2 of “Conquering the treadmill” where I actually help you execute this super easy and super customizable workout for whatever level you’re at. If you’re just tuning in now, go read part 1 of this series because there is some preparation you need to do before you even step foot on the treadmill. If you think “nah, I got this” and try to execute the below workout without the proper preparation, I think your chances of conquering the treadmill will be a lot lower. Just sayin!

Now…onto part 2

I don’t know if it’s a famous quote or not, but I like the adage, “90% preparation, 10% perspiration.” For so many things in my life that adage rings true and this is no exception. When I get on the treadmill, I already know the plan. The only thing I need to do is execute.

So what’s the plan? In a nutshell, it’s an interval workout where you push yourself really hard for a couple minutes and then you catch your breath for a couple minutes and then you push yourself hard, and then you repeat for about 30 minutes or 3 miles – whichever one you want to aim for (for me, these are about the same now).

But it’s not as simple as just cranking the treadmill up to a super fast speed and killing yourself and then walking for a while. In my opinion, that’s a good recipe for injuries. So this is not that.

The other part of this plan involves timing to your music – which is why I went through such painstaking detail in the first post to make sure you had the right music. That’s where this is unlike a lot of other plans. My times on these aren’t exact…it needs to be set to the start and end of each song. Now, some people may not like that because not every song is the same length, but that is actually where I think this plan gets its magic. You may mentally think you can only run for 3 minutes at a super fast pace, but once that song gets going and you’re focusing on the end of the song, not the end of the time, you’ll soon see you can actually run for 5 or 6 minutes at that same pace…without even really realizing it.

The other thing to note is that there are a variety of ways I customize this depending on my current abilities. So I’m going to start with the basic plan and then I’ll show you how to customize it for your various needs.

 

I call this the “Slow Fast Run”

Run level: This is a great run for beginners because it gets you to start to feel what it’s like to build up the fast twitch muscles in your legs. It has bursts of speed so that you’ll finish your treadmill walk or run faster than you normally would if you just did one consistent speed on the treadmill, but it won’t push you to your limits. I like to do this one when I haven’t run in a while.

I’ll start by giving you descriptions for each step and then I’ll give you an example at the end of what that looks like for me (which is just one example).

Song #1: Comfortable Pace (your warm up song)

Get on the treadmill and select a pace where you can hold a conversation. If you’re walking, this is a fast walk. If you’re running, this is a slower run. Consider this your warm up song. Find your pace and then for the rest of the song, put a towel over your display. The goal is NOT to look at any of the stats on your screen, but to just focus on the music, focus on what you want to visualize (make it selfish, people!) and think about how you’re going to rock this workout.

Song #2: Hard and Steady Pace (Increase speed by 0.4 mph…should be breathing harder than a normal run)

Wherever you’re at, increase your speed by 0.4mph – on most treadmills they go up or down by 0.1 mph so this is usually four “clicks” up. Do this by trying to keep the towel in place over most of the stats, just uncover the area with the speed to make sure you’re going up properly.

Song #3: Step Up – Round 1 (Increase speed by 0.5 mph after each 1/10 of a mile)

This sounds complicated but it’s not. Here’s what you need to do. Once this song starts, uncover the treadmill display because you’ll need to look at some stats. The goal here is to focus on increasing your speed after every 1/10 of a mile, so you’ll occasionally need to look down to see how far you’ve gone.  

  • First 1/10 of a mile: If you want a challenge, you can start the song by increasing your speed 0.5mph on the first leg of this song. If you want to ease into it, just stay at your song #2 pace for the first 1/10 of a mile.
  • Second 1/10 of a mile:  Increase your speed 0.5mph (5 clicks up). This should be relatively hard, but remember you’re only doing it for a 1/10 of a mile…even if you’re going slow that’s roughly 1 minute or less at that pace.
  • Third 1/10 of a mile: Increase your speed another 0.5mph (5 clicks up). This should feel really fast. But again, just remember that it’s only for a VERY short period of time, and also you might even be half way through your song already.
  • Fourth or last 1/10 of a mile:  give it all you’ve got and go up another 0.5mph (5 clicks up). You might think this pace is insane but just try it! You’ll be surprised at what you can do when it’s just for a very short period of time.
  • Remainder of song (if you’re still going): Still have some of the song remaining? From here, it’s up to you – you can either keep going up in intervals (AMAZING!) or you can stay at the pace from the last leg, or if it’s a really long song, you can step down the pace 0.5mph (5 clicks down) for 1/10 of a mile and then go back up for the last part of the song – like an interval in an interval!

However you do this – just remember that the goal is to be very out of breath after this. Your legs may feel tired and fatigued, but that’s good! And just remember this isn’t the speed you’ll stay for the rest of the workout.

Song #4: New Comfortable Pace (Lower your pace so that you’re either at your song #2 pace or slightly below that…but definitely above your song #1 pace)

What I love about song #4 pace is that your perspective will completely shift. When you do the song #2 pace originally you’re thinking “this is harder than I’d like…this pace isn’t sustainable.” but then after you run super fast and you come back down to this pace, you think “SWEET RELIEF!!!” And suddenly this pace feels quite manageable. Maybe still hard, but not AS hard as it was a couple minutes ago. Also – put the towel back over the treadmill stats. Focus on the music. Focus on the future version of you you’re working towards!

 

YOU’RE HALFWAY THERE!!!

 

Song #5: New Hard and Steady Pace (Increase your speed by 0.2 mph or 0.4mph)

If you’re starting out, just go up 0.2mph (2 clicks). If you’re more experienced, try going up 0.4mph (4 clicks). This is going to be a bit uncomfortable and definitely a time when you need some good visualization because this is essentially your new “hard and steady” pace. You’ll want to slow down on this. You’ll keep thinking “is this song over yet?” This is arguably more hard then the interval step at song #3 because I find that when I break a song into 1/10 of a mile and focus on multiple end points, it goes faster. This one might drag on. But dig deep! Lip sync those lyrics and punch the air if you need to. Just keep going until the song ends. Also, keep the towel on the treadmill. No peeking! Peeking only makes the time go by slower.

Song #6: Step up – Round 2 (Increase speed by 0.5 mph after each 1/10 of a mile)

The drill is the same as song 3, but you’re likely starting from a faster place. Take the towel off the treadmill stats and marvel at how far you’ve come. You’re doing this! Then come back down to Earth. Yes this will be hard, but remember it’s only for a couple minutes! You can do this!

  • First 1/10 of a mile: Increase by 0.5mph or stay at your Song #5 pace.
  • Second 1/10 of a mile:  Increase your speed 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Third 1/10 of a mile: Increase your speed another 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Fourth or last 1/10 of a mile:  Give it all you’ve got and go up another 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Remainder of song (if you’re still going): Your choice – either keep going up in intervals (AMAZING!) or you can stay at the pace from the last leg, or if it’s a really long song, you can step down the pace 0.5mph (5 clicks down) for 1/10 of a mile and then go back up for the last part of the song – like an interval in an interval!

Song #7: Sort of comfortable pace (Repeat song #4 pace or go up 0.2mph if you really want to work yourself on this last leg)

Yes you’re going back down to your song #4 pace or slightly up, but at this point in the workout it would be mean of me to call it a “comfortable” pace. You can handle this pace but now your legs are really fatigued, you’re probably sweating profusely and you’re likely thinking “What did I get myself into?” You’re almost done, though! Just put the towel back on the treadmill and zone out and listen to your next awesome sauce song.

 

PAUSE AND CHECK THE TIME

Because your song lengths vary, it’s good to check the time after the 7th song. Some days I find that I only have enough time left for one more song (3-5 minutes), some days I find I could actually go two more songs (5-8 minutes). This is all on the assumption that you’re aiming for 30 minutes or 3 miles. If you’re aiming for 30 minutes, it’s easy to see how much time you have left. If you’re aiming for 3 miles, think about each 1/10 of a mile as taking about one minute and then figure out how many more minutes you have left.

So there are two ways to continue at this point – one is if song #8 is your last song and one is if song #9 is your last song. I’ll describe both ends just so you have them in your back pocket. And if you have MORE than 9 songs…I’ll address that in the notes below these version.

 

Ending on Song #8: Step up – Round 3 (Increase speed by 0.5 mph after each 1/10 of a mile)

You’re like…”Wait, what? I can go no further!” Oh yes you can! Trust me, these last couple minutes are going to fly by! You got this! Dig deep!

  • First 1/10 of a mile: Increase by 0.5mph or stay at your Song #7 pace.
  • Second 1/10 of a mile:  Increase your speed 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Third 1/10 of a mile: Increase your speed another 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Fourth or last 1/10 of a mile:  Give it all you’ve got and go up another 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Remainder of song (if you’re still going): Get it up there! Another 0.5mph! This is not your choice. You WILL finish strong! KEEP GOING! FEEL THE BURN! YOU ARE A GOD/GODDESS!!!

 

Ending on Song #9: Hard and Steady for song #8 (increase 0.4 mph) and THEN Step up – Round 3 for song #9 (Increase speed by 0.5 mph after each 1/10 of a mile)

Song #8: Okay, you’re increasing 0.4 mph. If that feels astronomically hard, then just increase by 0.2mph. The point is you gotta do this. Keep the towel on the treadmill. Focus. Feel the inspiration. Visualize your future self being the best version of you yet! Think about the words of the song. Think about how you’re going to blow away everyone’s expectations of who you could possibly be. There are no limits to what you can accomplish. This is a small amount of pain and sacrifice for a lifetime of gains ahead of you. YOU ARE A WARRIOR. Now do the damn thang!

Song #9: Okay, it’s here. The moment of truth. The final few minutes and seconds of your workout. This is going to be a piece of cake because you are fearless and you can do hard things! GO GET IT!

  • First 1/10 of a mile: Increase by 0.5mph or stay at your Song #8 pace.
  • Second 1/10 of a mile:  Increase your speed 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Third 1/10 of a mile: Increase your speed another 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Fourth or last 1/10 of a mile:  Give it all you’ve got and go up another 0.5mph (5 clicks up).
  • Remainder of song (if you’re still going): Get it up there! Another 0.5mph! This is not your choice. You WILL finish strong! KEEP GOING! FEEL THE BURN! YOU ARE A GOD/GODDESS!!!

 

YOU DID IT!!

You’ve completed your challenge! Sure, right now you’re thinking “That sucked.” But then in a couple days you’ll be coming back for more. Because it’s quick and effective. Why is it so effective? Because when you incorporate speed work into your treadmill run, you’re actually moving from an aerobic workout to an anaerobic workout. Why is that awesome? Because anaerobic workouts are what actually move you into a fat-burning phase. Same goes with weight lifting. Basically, after you stop working out, your body will burn calories and fat for much longer with an anaerobic workout than if you just kept a steady pace on the treadmill with an aerobic workout.

 

Here’s what the “Slow Fast Run” looks like for me…

Song #1: Comfortable Pace (your warm up song)

  • For me: 5.8mph for 3-5 minutes

Song #2: Hard and Steady Pace (Increase speed by 0.4 mph…should be breathing harder than a normal run)

  • For me: 6.2mph for 3-5 minutes

Song #3: Step Up – Round 1 (Increase speed by 0.5 mph after each 1/10 of a mile)

  • First 1/10 of a mile: 6.2mph  
  • Second 1/10 of a mile:  6.7mph  
  • Third 1/10 of a mile: 7.2mph
  • Fourth or last 1/10 of a mile:  7.7mph
  • Remainder of song (if you’re still going): 8.2mph

Song #4: New Comfortable Pace (Lower your pace so that you’re either at your song #2 pace or slightly below that…but definitely above your song #1 pace)

  • For me: 6.0 mph for 3-5 minutes

Song #5: New Hard and Steady Pace (Increase your speed by 0.2 mph or 0.4mph)

  • For me: 6.2 mph for 3-5 minutes

Song #6: Step up – Round 2 (Increase speed by 0.5 mph after each 1/10 of a mile)

  • First 1/10 of a mile: 6.5mph  
  • Second 1/10 of a mile:  7.0mph  
  • Third 1/10 of a mile: 7.5mph
  • Fourth or last 1/10 of a mile:  8.0mph

Song #7: Sort of comfortable pace (Repeat song #4 pace or go up 0.2mph if you really want to work yourself on this last leg)

  • For me: 6.2 mph for 3-5 minutes

Ending on Song #8: Step up – Round 3 (Increase speed by 0.5 mph after each 1/10 of a mile)

  • First 1/10 of a mile: 6.5mph  
  • Second 1/10 of a mile:  7.0mph  
  • Third 1/10 of a mile: 7.5mph
  • Fourth or last 1/10 of a mile:  8.0mph

 

How to remember all this

I realize that because I’ve done this routine (or a version of it) for so long, it’s permanently etched into my brain, but maybe you’re looking at this thinking….”How am I going to remember all THAT?!?!?” Well if you back up and take a look at the overall pattern, you may find it easier to remember.

So a quick way to remember it is this…

  1. Slow Pace
  2. Medium Pace
  3. Super Fast Intervals
  4. Medium Pace
  5. Fast Pace
  6. Super Fast Intervals
  7. Medium Pace
  8. Fast Pace or jump to Super Fast Intervals if this is your last song

Do you see it? It’s basically sets of 3 versions of speed, but the beginning has the only “slow” pace and the end may jump up a level if you only have two songs. And because everyone is different, it’s really just the pattern that you need to understand because you’ll figure out what slow, medium, fast and super fast mean to you. I can’t tell you what those levels are. So the first time you do this may be a learning experience, but then you’ll figure out what works best for you – both so you’re not going to easy on yourself OR too hard on yourself (remember, no injuries!)

Here’s a visual of what this workout looks like for me (another way to help you remember this workout).

 

Tips and tricks to make it work for you

Okay, so you feel like you can remember the plan. But can you execute it? Of course you can! But keep these things in mind.

Use commercial breaks to your advantage

When I was using the free pandora stations, at some point my focus would be interrupted by a commercial. It’s the price you pay for free music. When I was getting back into running, I would use these commercial breaks as a chance to walk for 30 seconds or stand on the edges of the treadmill and catch my breath or take a drink of water. If you’re more advanced, you can power through commercials or add them onto whatever your level your at on the previous song. But a break is not a bad thing.

Speaking of breaks – take them!

So I went through my routine above, but what I left out was this – right now this workout leaves me pretty out of breath and thirsty after almost every song (minus the first one)…so what I do is right after each song, I hop on to the sides of the treadmill (the treadmill is still running…don’t stop it…it’s take too long to get it going again) and take a 15 second break to get some water and re-focus. I too need breaks! And also, when I’m doing the super fast intervals, sometimes I can only do two legs of that and then I need to take another quick break before continuing the rest. I’d like to work up to not taking as many breaks, but honestly, I’m okay with where i’m at with this.

Also, it’s totally okay to go down to a walking pace. Sometimes I need a good 1/10 of a mile to walk and catch my breath. I don’t count it as part of any song, I just do it when I need it and then when the 1/10 of a mile is done, I switch songs and go back to where I left off. Again – the goal is to exhaust yourself with this workout, but seriously, there is no shame in walking. I do it sometimes too!

Go faster or go slower – whatever works for you!

The routine I outlined is one version of what I do on the treadmill. Some days when I want to go harder, I start at my comfortable pace and then jump right into super fast intervals at the next song. Then I just switch between one song at comfortable or medium paced and then one song doing super fast intervals. This is hard, but a good way to go up a level. And then when I get used to that level, my goal is to do almost all super fast interval songs. So just one comfortable paced song to warm up and then all the rest super fast intervals. That…is super hard. But is also a really great way to build those fast twitch muscles that really make you faster.

And going fast is great and all, but when you’re first starting out, even the routine I outlined may seem too daunting. And that’s okay! You can either try the current routine at a slower, more comfortable pace, or you can increase the span between the fast intervals. So maybe try three songs that get increasingly faster and then one song that does intervals, so you’d do two sets of four (slow, medium, fast, faster, super fast).

Only look at stats during intervals

I tried to make note of this in the routine, but just remember that it’s important to cover up your treadmill display for all songs except for when you need to keep an eye on when you hit each 1/10 of a mile. This is because running is hard (duh) and your mind wants to think more time has passed or that you’ve gone farther than you have, but really you’re not as far as you may think. Just looking at the time that has passed or how the miles inch by is definitely going to be a mental roadblock if you keep those stats in view. Even when I take the towel for the intervals, I still try to only focus on the miles that have gone by…not the time.

Make sure your treadmill won’t automatically stop at 30 minutes

The treadmills at our gym are all programed to stop at 30 minutes…unless you up the time on it. Now this may be fine if you’re a 10min/mile runner and you’re aiming for three miles, but just to be on the safe side I always increase the time to 32 or 34 minutes just so it won’t stop before I’m ready for it to stop. Re-starting it is a pain and definitely takes away from your focus. You don’t have to stay on the treadmill as long as the time you put in…I always stop mine right at 3 miles so I can calculate my average pace.

Don’t get chatty

I touched on this in part 1, but it deserves repeating here. This is not a run that allows you to socialize. I’m not saying you need to be rude to people around you, but do your best to block them out. If they try to talk to you while you’re running (which is rude on their part, to be honest), just make up something like “Sorry I can’t talk! Trying to get through this so I can run home to get my kid to soccer practice!” or something that makes it clear you are in a hurry and need to focus and can’t deal with interruptions.

Sometimes that might not even be enough. In times like that, simply get off the treadmill and go find a different one. Is it rude if they can see you switching machines? Well more like passive aggressive. But it sends a strong message that you don’t have time to talk and they likely won’t follow you.

 

You are a conqueror of treadmills

Now, you have all the tools you need to conquer any treadmill workout. Sure, you could take it easy and do a steady-paced run and watch that cooking show, but those can only hold your attention for so long. What’s great about this workout is that it really makes you appreciate those slower runs. You won’t get as bored doing them because you’ll think “This is such an easy run compared to my speed workout.”

Also – this will help you get over the intimidation factor of training for a long distance event. No longer will you look at those speed days and think, “I can’t figure out these yards and I don’t have a track nearby and WHAT’S THE POINT?!?!” Now you’ll think, “Easy peezy treadmill squeezy.” And then bada bing bada boom, you’ll be done with those workouts before you know it!

Now – get out there and do it! Right now it’s currently snowing in my neck of the woods, so I’m going to go do the same!

p.s. In the first post I said My Chemical Romance had one half of my heart. The other half? Taylor Swift! MUAHAHA! Yes, I’m that basic. And yes, I subscribe to her brand of crazy. I can’t help it. Her last two albums are FIRE when it comes to treadmill running motivation. I don’t know why, but her song “Blank Space” in particular always makes me run faster. Let the crazy commence!

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