If you live in a cold-weather state, you're all-too familiar with how winter can screw up your workouts. Unless you feel like pulling your best Rocky impersonation by working out in Arctic-like conditions, your workouts will be restricted to indoors.
For weight training, this doesn't present too much of a problem. And if you have access to turf, you can still do pretty much everything else indoors.
Otherwise, you're facing a conundrum when you want to do your conditioning work. Your choices are a treadmill, and, if you're lucky, an Airdyne bike.
We're not going to lie. Long treadmill runs suck. Some people love them, and that's fine. But if you're a competitive athlete accustomed to working at a high intensity, long runs on a treadmill will seem pretty boring. And they won't really help you get better at your sport.
Instead, we recommend the following treadmill workouts. They are intense. You will work at a high speed, and the result should be improved conditioning in less time. They are also a good option if you're trying to shed extra weight.
Choose one treadmill workout—other than the warm-up below—and perform it at the end of your strength workout.
Treadmill Multi-Directional Warm-Up
Warming up on a treadmill is a great way to get your blood flowing and increase your heart rate. Problem is: You're only preparing your body to move straight ahead. Most workouts and sports include lateral or multi-directional movements. This treadmill warm-up accounts for that.
- Set the treadmill to about 3.5 mph at a 2-percent grade.
- Start by walking on the treadmill.
- Switch to a Side Shuffle (right), Backpedal, Side Shuffle (left), then return to walking.
- Carefully switch among the variations, holding the treadmill handles if needed.
Sets/Duration: 5x15 sec. each variation
10/10 Treadmill Fitness Test
Before starting a conditioning program, it's important to get a sense of where you stand by testing yourself. This test, designed by elite strength coach Mike Boyle, co-founder of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning (Woburn, Massachusetts), pushes you to the max with an uphill run for as long as you can. Repeat once every three months to see if your conditioning is improving.
- Set the treadmill to 10 mph at a 10-percent grade.
- Sprint for as long as you can.
- Hop off the treadmill when you're totally fatigued.
- Write down your time for future reference.
Treadmill Tempo Runs
Tempo runs are among the easiest ways to improve your conditioning. They challenge your energy systems, are simple to follow and pose little risk for injury. To simulate running on flat ground, simply set the incline to a 2-percent grade.
- Set the treadmill at a 2-percent grade.
- Sprint at 70 to 80 percent of your max speed.
- Maintain a smooth sprint motor pattern.
- Start at 7 to 8 miles per hour and progress as your fitness improves.
- Increase the number of sets by 2 each week.
Sets/Duration: 6-20x15 seconds followed by 30 seconds of rest
Treadmill Tabata Workout
Tabata workouts are perfect for treadmills. The four-minute workout increases aerobic endurance more effectively than a 60-minute sub-max activity, like jogging. It also improves your anaerobic conditioning, which is critical for explosive movements like short sprints.
- Set the treadmill at about 90 percent of your max sprinting speed. You need to be able to maintain the sprint for 20 seconds.
- Sprint for 20 seconds.
- Rest for 10 seconds.
- Repeat for 8 total sets.
Sport-Specific Treadmill Workout
A big problem with simply jogging on a treadmill is that it's not specific to your sport, and if you do it too much, it might actually make you slower. Instead, an easy way to train for your sport is to perform intervals that use similar workloads and rest periods as your sport.
- Select a work duration that's similar to activity in your sport—e.g., a football player might choose 10 seconds, a hockey player might choose 45 seconds.
- Select a rest duration that's similar to your sport—e.g., a football player might choose 30 seconds, a hockey player might choose 2 minutes.
- Perform intervals using this work-to-rest ratio.
- Repeat for 5-10 sets.
Up and Down the Mountain Treadmill Workout
This workout gets more difficult as you gradually increase the incline of the treadmill on each set. The halfway point is the most difficult. Then you start back down the mountain. Although it technically gets easier, the fatigue accumulated from the first half makes the second half just as challenging, if not more so.
- Set the treadmill for a moderate sprint speed and a 2-percent grade.
- Sprint for 30 seconds.
- Rest for 30 seconds and increase the grade by 1 percent.
- Repeat until the treadmill is at a 10-percent grade.
- Once you reach 10 percent, begin decreasing the grade each set until you reach 2 percent.
- If you need an additional challenge, simply increase the speed.
Treadmill Trekking Workout
Developed by coach Mark Roozen, owner of The Coach Rozy Performance Center (Yankton, South Dakota), this complete treadmill training program is performed during his athletes' off-season to improve their cardio base—or if they need to lose weight leading up to the season. A strong cardio base is important for recovering between plays, and for maintaining strength and speed at the end of games.
45-60 minutes of jogging.