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Running on an incline is a different beast than running on flat terrain—take it from someone who was handed a swift kick in the butt after completing a triathlon at sea level and then attempting to run a 10K in Northern California. Totally a game changer!
Though incline running is tough, it’s worth your while. One of the best ways to incorporate incline training into your running routine is to run on a treadmill. Why? Well, on a treadmill, you can fine-tune the settings and run at a specific incline for a specific amount of time. You don’t get this type of control outdoors.
To help you get started, I created four incline treadmill workouts for you to try. As a certified personal trainer since 2017, former cross-country athlete, and recreational distance runner, I hope these workouts add value to your workout routine. Happy running!
This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for health or medical advice. For such advice, consult with an appropriate healthcare professional.
|Mile Best||5K Best/Avg Mile Pace||10K Best/Avg Mile Pace||Half-Marathon Best/Avg Mile Pace||Marathon Best/Avg Mile Pace||Recovery Pace|
This pace chart was originally created and provided by Nike Run Club.
How to Use This Pace Chart
The pacing chart above may seem daunting, but it’s really easy to use. Here’s an example of how to utilize it for your incline treadmill workouts:
If you know your best mile time, you’ll simply find the mile time on the chart and slide your finger over for each corresponding pace in your workout.
If you don’t know your best mile time, you can use this same method with any other race time that you do know. Whether you only know your 5K time or marathon time, this chart will help you properly pace during any treadmill workout.
Editor’s note: These workouts were created under the assumption that you are running on a treadmill with 10 levels of incline. Thus, each workout includes incline levels between 0 and 10. You may have to modify some parts of some workouts if your treadmill has more or fewer levels of incline.
Incline Treadmill Workout for Beginners
This beginner-friendly running workout is great for all levels, but it’s especially good for anyone who is just starting to add running to their fitness routine.
- Total time: 30 minutes
- Fitness level: Beginner
- Effort level: Easy to vigorous
Complete two rounds for a 30-minute workout.
RELATED: 30 Minute Treadmill Workout
Incline Walking Workout
Here’s a treadmill walking workout for any instance in which you don’t want to or can’t run. You’ll notice that this workout does not include pacing information, since our pacing guide focuses on running, not walking. Instead, you’ll use your effort level as a gauge.
- Total time: 30 minutes
- Fitness level: All levels
- Effort level: Easy to vigorous
Complete two rounds for a 30-minute walking workout.
Related: Try the 12-3-30 Workout From Lauren Giraldo
Incline Treadmill Workout for Building Endurance
This is an interval workout, but each working interval is long, since the focus is on building endurance. As a whole, this treadmill routine will improve your stamina, which is a measure of how long you can sustain a prolonged effort.
- Total time: 45 minutes
- Fitness level: All levels
- Effort level: Moderate
Complete three rounds for a 45-minute workout.
HIIT Incline Treadmill Workout
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a wonderful way to get your heart rate up and work up a good sweat in a short amount of time. This HIIT treadmill workout, just 15 minutes long, is sure to have you huffing and puffing in the best way possible.
- Total time: 15 minutes
- Fitness level: Intermediate to advanced
- Effort level: Vigorous
Complete the following five times for a 15-minute treadmill workout. Although the alternating intervals are listed as “easy,” make no mistake: You’ll need these recovery intervals in order to go all-out on the work intervals.
Warm Up and Cool Down
It’s always important to warm up and cool down before and after a workout, respectively. Although results from scientific studies are mixed, fitness experts do know that, at the very least, warming up can better prepare your body for exercise and eliminate the shock from going zero to 100—or from complete rest to a full-out sprint—right away.
Because the workouts provided in this guide are incline treadmill workouts, I wanted to create a warm-up that emphasizes preparation of the glutes, hamstrings, and calves, all of which will be working harder during an incline workout than during a run on flat terrain.
Complete two to three rounds of the following:
- 1 minute walking at a 3 to 5% incline on your treadmill
- 10 (5 each side) single-leg glute bridges/hip thrusts (bodyweight)
- 10 (5 each side) Bulgarian split squats (bodyweight)
- 10 Romanian deadlifts (use a light weight)
Cooling down is just as important as warming up. Give your body a recovery period with this gentle post-run stretching session. Complete it one to three times.
- 2 minutes of walking at a 0% grade
- 30-second forward fold (toe-touch)
- 30-second couch stretch on each leg
- 10 (5 each side) Samson stretches
Benefits of Incline Training on a Treadmill
Treadmills in general have many health benefits. Broadly, among the benefits of treadmills are:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved musculoskeletal health
- Increased daily calorie burn
- Weight loss potential
- Increased endurance and stamina
- Improved mental health
FAQs About Incline Treadmill Workouts
Is incline or speed better on a treadmill?
Even walking at an easy pace on an incline provides profound health benefits, so, as a CPT, I’m inclined to say incline is the more beneficial variable for most people—unless, of course, you’re an athlete who needs to focus on speed for your sport.
Related: Elliptical vs Treadmill
Is a treadmill without incline worth buying?
Most personal trainers would be quick to recommend a treadmill with incline over one without. This is because incline walking and running offer a strength-training element you can’t get when you walk or run on a flat surface. If your fitness goals include getting stronger, developing explosiveness, or building muscular endurance, an incline treadmill is a worthwhile piece of fitness equipment.
What is the best incline treadmill?
According to the GGR staff, which includes multiple fitness experts and hands-on product testers, the best treadmills with incline are:
Best Incline Treadmill Overall: Horizon 7.0 AT
Best Incline Treadmill for Running: NordicTrack Commercial 1750
Best Budget Incline Treadmill: XTERRA Fitness TR150
Best Folding Incline Treadmill: Sole F63
Best Compact Incline Treadmill: Sunny Health And Fitness (SF-T4400) Treadmill
What does running on an incline do?
Many people notch up the incline during their treadmill workouts under the assumption that it’ll increase “toning” or fat-burning, or help them lose weight faster. While running on an incline does pose additional challenges, and thus more potential for calorie burn, to your body compared to running on a flat surface, the bigger focus should be on the musculoskeletal health benefits. Compared to flat running, incline running has more muscle-building potential and can better prepare you for outdoor running events where you may encounter natural changes in terrain.
Is running on an incline bad for your knees?
No, running on an incline is not inherently bad for your knees. However, running itself is not a low-impact form of exercise, so if you’ve been instructed by your doctor not to do high-impact workouts, you should skip running altogether until you’re cleared otherwise.
What muscles does running on an incline work?
Running on an incline works all of the same muscles that regular running works—your entire lower body and core, and your arms in the form of pumping them—but with extra emphasis on your lower posterior muscles. This includes your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Depending on your posture and gait, running at an incline may also tax your lower back more than running on a flat surface.
Does running on an incline burn more calories?
Research about this is inconclusive, but because your body works harder when running on an incline than it does when running on flat terrain, you can safely assume that an incline workout produces slightly more calorie burn than a flat cardio workout of the same length. Of course, total calorie burn is influenced by many factors aside from incline.
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