How To Do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) On A Treadmill

Woman doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on a treadmill


By Simon Gould

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of training that’s really gained momentum in popularity over the past few years. Research is showing how beneficial it is for you. How it can enhance your fitness routine and improve your performance in many endurance activities. HIIT is tough to do you are really training to the edge of your peak but the results are worth it.

History of high intensity interval training (HIIT)

It was thought that physiological improvement only came about when doing cardio activities like ellipticals, cycling, running etc for long periods. Then it was discovered HIIT had the same benefits in a shorter amount of time. Although we think of HIIT as relatively new, there has been signs of athletes using similar techniques as early as 1912.

In modern times as early as the 1970’s a middle distance athlete (Sebastian Coe) was practising what we would call HIIT on a track. Running a fast 200 meters followed by a 30 second rest and repeating the cycle. Since then there are various regimens of HIIT practised by different coaches at famous sporting universities each with slight variations on a common theme.

5 Advantages of HIIT treadmill workouts

1. Increases speed – You’ll find after a few HIIT treadmill workouts your speed on your normal runs will quicken. You’ll be able to run a personal best by doing this kind of speed training. By running very fast or sprinting as part of a HIIT workout, you’ll be exceeding the speed of your normal runs which is something you may not normally do. Your body adapts to this.

2. Increases endurance – Just like your body adapts by making running at speed easier. Your stamina increases due to your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) being challenged more than usual. This adaptation starts after a few weeks and gets stronger over time. HIIT is well know to increase endurance and is something long distance runners do.

3. Burns more calories – If you’re looking to lose weight with your treadmill then consider an HIIT workout. It’s very effective at burning calories. This helps with weight management and burns any unsightly fat you may have. When I lost 30 pounds I used a combination of HIIT and endurance running on my treadmill.

4. Builds muscle – HIIT uses a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise is what helps build muscle the most. Sprinting is an example of anaerobic exercise you can do on a treadmill. Setting the incline very high instead of sprinting is another example. It’s hard exercise but it builds leg muscles.

5. Reduces blood pressure – Studies show there is a measurable reduction in blood pressure after 2 months of doing HIIT. All exercise can reduce blood pressure but this study specifically looked at those doing HIIT. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer as there are often no symptoms, so any reduction is a good thing.

Problems with HIIT on a treadmill

This training is probably best done on a track for runners. On a track you have the 100, 200 and 400 meter markers clearly laid out for you. This mean you can do 200 meters at a sprint and then rest for 20 seconds or how every much time you’ve allotted. This is different on a treadmill. You can’t run an accurate short distance on a treadmill.

The treadmill distance counters go from 0.1 km to 0.2 km and you’re not 100% sure when the marker has been achieved. You also have to wait for the belt to speed up and slow down to each part of the training regimen. There is a way it can be done on a treadmill is if you do your sprints by time and wait for the speed to get to the correct amount.

Solutions for HIIT on a treadmill and a workout

So the solution for HIIT on a treadmill is to do your sprints by the number of seconds instead of distance. You get used to doing it on a treadmill and it can be an advantage because the speed is determined for you. This means you’re forced to push yourself harder to maintain the speed each time. HIIT can be done on any cardio machine.

There are many variations of HIIT you can do to running for short or longer sprints and doing shorter or longer recovery runs. The total amount spent on the workout can vary from 5 to 20 minutes. They all involve sprinting at a great speed for a short amount of time, then recovering and then sprinting again. Here is a sample workout:

  • Warm up 5 minutes at 6 mph
  • Sprint 30 seconds at 11 mph
  • Recovery 30 seconds at 8 mph
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Cool down 5 minutes at 6 mph

The speeds we used are arbitrary. Change these amounts to suit your own speed. You must make sure your heart rate is at 90% of maximum to get the most out of the sprinting you’re doing. The first 4 or 5 sprints will be doable but after that it gets tough but keep pushing yourself to maintain it as long as you can. You can jump on the sides to wait for the speed to change or carry on running while the speed changes. It’s up to you.


This form of training can be very beneficial but it shouldn’t replace what you’re already doing. It shouldn’t replace the long exercise activities you’re doing to build endurance. You should do both to get the benefits of both. It is a way to ease the boredom of the treadmill and if the weather is too bad or a track is no where near you then this the treadmill is a great alternative.

For the best results HIIT should be done 3 times per week. We would advise only trying HIIT after many months of training have been performed already. You don’t want to be new at running and trying this. This is also very hard on the body so care needs to be taken for the first time you try it. However, give it a chance and you might be pleasantly surprised at your new progress.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

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