September 15, 2016

My Favorite Treadmill Speed Workout to PR in the 5K

I’ve been meaning to share my absolute favorite treadmill speed workout for a while. The sprints are short and fast, but the rest breaks come frequently enough that it always feels doable (even as I’m gasping for breath). And as for proof that it works? Stay tuned tomorrow for the full details, but I PRed again in the 5K last weekend. My finish time is coming down!

So what is this magical workout I love? Well, it’s pretty easy to remember: quarter mile sprints, then five hundredths of a mile rest. Then back up to the sprint we go! I am ultimately working toward a 5K goal pace of 7:00/mile, so I’m doing these at a 6:20/mile pace – which is about 10% faster than 7:00/mile. After doing these repeats enough times, 6:20/mile pace actually feels fairly doable, which is awesome to me – I used to think that was superhuman speed.


What I love about this workout is that I don’t have to run all that long. At a 6:20/mile pace, I’m only running for 95 seconds per repeat, and I feel like I can grit just about anything out for 95 seconds! My heart rate always has a steady climb as I get further into the repeats and start getting tired, but so far I haven’t ever had to slow down, or fallen off the treadmill (knock on wood). Even if your 5K goal is slower than mine, I think you’ll find that a quarter mile is a doable distance to repeat and recover for the duration. Plus, since each sprint/walk interval adds up to 0.3 miles even, the math doesn’t get hard to figure out when all the blood is going to your legs instead of your brain mid-workout 🙂

Of course, in a 5K race, you won’t get to take breaks like this… so it’s also important to combine this workout with a tempo run where you aren’t taking any breaks. (Which is my least favorite kind of treadmill workout, though I’m getting better at it both physically and mentally.) To me, though, a tempo run kind of feels like a long slog that isn’t really all that special… whereas I always finish this sprint workout grinning ear to ear with pride at how fast I managed to go 🙂

Next time you’re at the gym, give it a shot!


7 thoughts on “My Favorite Treadmill Speed Workout to PR in the 5K”

    1. At the time of the workout, I don’t even think of it as 95 seconds, but 2 minutes (which would be an 8 minute pace). Most of the treadmills I run on have a little track that’s marked into four sections, so I think of each of those sections as 30 seconds. And, I generally don’t start getting tired until I have one or two sections left – which means LESS than 30 or 60 seconds 🙂

  1. I really appreciate your post regarding your treadmill workout. I haven’t tried doing treadmill, I just do jogging around an elliptical park in our neighborhood. And I’m not really technical about calculating what I have done with my exercise routine. But after reading your article, I realized that in order to get what you want you have to be more serious and be more precise. I hope to apply what I have learn here in your blog and buy a treadmill that works like yours. By the way, Is it more fun running on the treadmill than actual outdoor environment?

    1. Both have their pros and cons! I know most people hate the treadmill but I really love it for speedwork because it forces you to run the pace you need, whereas when I’m outside and running on my own power I can sometimes fall off the pace.

    1. I think a great schedule is 3 days a week of running, 3 days a week of cross-training (weights, yoga, other cardio), and one rest day a week. For the running, I like to do one day of sprints (like this), one day of hills, and one day that’s a steady pace for a longer distance than your race. Hope that helps!

  2. jahidul islam abir

    “Wow, this treadmill speed workout sounds fantastic! Thanks for sharing your secret to improving your 5K times. It’s inspiring to hear that you’ve not only set personal records but also made a 10% jump in your goal pace. That’s some serious progress! ‍♂️

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