Treadmills have a bad rap, but even the most adamant rejectors see the benefit of treadmills for popular workouts, including tempo runs, fartleks, and speed intervals. When it comes to easy mileage runs, however, it is harder to find fans. Running easy on a treadmill does not have to be a monotonous drudge lacking physical and mental stimulation. By varying speed and incline, you can transform an easy run into an enjoyable experience.
I borrowed this variation from Alberto Salazar. After retiring from competitive marathoning, Alberto emerged from obscurity to win the ultradistance Comrades Marathon. Having suffered from fatigue and injury, Alberto did much of his training on a treadmill to minimize his legs' impact. Here's a treadmill variation Alberto inserted into his easy runs.
Set a pace range for your easy run, such as 8:45 (low end) to 7:45 (high end) min/mile. For the first set, run 200m (0.12 miles) at the low end of the pace range. Then, increase 0.1 mph for 200m. Reduce back to the starting low-end pace for 200m. For set two, increase 0.2mph for 200m. Then reduce back to the starting low-end pace for 200m. Continue this cycle until you reach your high-end pace range. Insert this pace block as often as desired during an easy run.
This next variation comes from Peloton trainer Becs Gentry. This set injects hill work that activates your glutes, warms the muscles, and encourages proper running form.
After a 10 minute warmup, starting running at a 4% incline for 2-minutes, 3% incline for 3-minutes, 2% incline for 4-minutes, and 1% incline for 5-minutes. Follow each incline set with a 2-minute recovery at 0.5% incline. Keep your pace constant throughout the set.
This last one is my creation. It utilizes incline work at a constant treadmill pace.
Begin this set at 1% incline for 0.25 miles and then recover at 0.5% incline for 0.25 miles. For the next set, increase the incline to 1.5%, followed by the same 0.5% recovery. Continue this set cycle all the way to 5% incline.
Try inserting these variations into your next easy treadmill run. You should find these variations mentally stimulating, not physically challenging, and a break from the tediousness of easy paced treadmill running.
Best wishes chasing your running goals,