Treadmill Workouts Using High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Get more benefits from your time on the treadmill and overcome plateaus

Running on treadmill at gym
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Have you reached a standstill in your treadmill training? One powerful way to improve your treadmill workouts is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). By adding HIIT to your workout plan, you can achieve more gains in aerobic fitness and burn more calories in your workouts. Learn how you can do a HIIT treadmill workout no matter what your fitness level.

HIIT To Overcome the Treadmill Plateau

All too often, you get stuck in a rut with your workouts. You use the same program on your treadmill or simply get on and walk or run at your favorite speed and incline. You will need to shake that up if you are going to see fitness progress. Your muscles and energy systems are used to your routine, and if you can give them a new challenge, they will have to work harder to respond.

That challenge will come by adding speed and incline in intense bursts to your treadmill routine. You may be comfortable with the settings you have been using, and that is the problem. You will need to get out of your comfort zone to see progress.

There have been studies that showed high-intensity interval exercise is better for fat loss than steady state exercise in young women who were overweight. If that is your goal, it's worth a try.

How HIIT Works

When you do steady-state cardio exercise, you are mostly using the slow-twitch muscle fibers which provide contractions for endurance exercise. When you switch to a high-intensity burst of activity, like a sprint, your fast-twitch muscle fibers come into play as well. If you haven't been doing intense intervals, this is a brand new challenge. Your body will build new muscle and energy systems to meet the new demand.

When you do an interval of HIIT, you boost your heart rate and fatigue your fast-twitch muscle fibers. The effect of the intense interval will keep your heart rate elevated for a few minutes even as you switch back to lower intensity activity. And you will be prompting your body to build new muscle during recovery.

HIIT Treadmill Workout

Personal trainer Lorra Garrick designed this workout.

  • Warm up for 10 minutes on the treadmill before you begin high-intensity intervals. When you are going to be doing sprints, it is important to do the full warm-up. In the last five minutes of your warm-up, you can do one or two cycles of increasing the speed for a minute below your maximum level, such as 1 to 1.5 mph faster than your warm-up speed.
  • Find Your One-MInute Maximum Treadmill Setting: Choose a treadmill setting at which you can sustain your effort for no more than one minute. Learn what your one-minute limit is. Start with your usual speed and incline and increase it by 1/2 mile per hour or one percent more of incline. Continue to do that until you find the speed and incline where you can only keep it up for one minute.
  • 1 Minute Work—2 Minutes Recovery: Now you will begin intervals of one minute of a work interval of that maximum setting, and two minutes back at your recovery setting where you are comfortable. After one to two minutes at the recovery setting, your heart rate may still be somewhat elevated, but your breathing has returned to a rate where you can again speak in at least short sentences.
  • Do 5 to 8 Cycles: One cycle is an all-out effort, followed by a recovery interval. Aim for five to eight cycles.
  • Cool Down for five minutes at an easy pace.

Walk, Power Walk, or Run for HIIT

You can mix up styles within a HITT workout. Each person has a different capacity for reaching their maximum minute of exertion. It may be a run, it may be a steep incline, it may be a power walk. You can choose, there are no rules.

Once you find your HIIT combination, don't be afraid to change it up. You'll likely begin to build endurance and capacity. The speed and incline that were your maximum settings will become easier after a few weeks, and you'll need to bump it up again. Walkers may discover they will need to start running on the treadmill to reach their interval maximum.

A Word From Verywell

Keep challenging your body in new ways to get the results you want from your treadmill workouts. Whether your goal is losing weight, improving your speed, or building endurance, changing your workout can help. Have fun and experiment with different types lengths of intervals, speeds, and inclines.

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