How To Do Sprints On A Treadmill (2 Workouts)
By Simon Gould
Sprint training is something experienced runners do on a track. You can keep an eye on the distance and you run as fast as you can. But what if the weather isn't good or there is no track near you? Then you can do sprints on a treadmill. It's easy and you can still get a thoroughly good workout by doing it, so here I'll tell you how.
Benefits of sprint training
Anyone who runs at whatever distance can benefit from sprint training. The whole sprints workout doesn't last for long but it's a killer to the body. It will have you sprinting and running like never before and that's how it works. It's designed to get you burning fat and the heart rate going very high till you can't sprint anymore.
Sprints will increase your aerobic capacity better than long endurance exercise. So it will help you run further if you do long runs. It will also help you run faster when you do your normal runs and yet sprint training only takes 10 to 20 minutes. So the improvement is better than doing a long run and that sounds good to many of us who do long runs.
It helps increase your muscle mass as you're running into and past the anaerobic zone which gets your heart beating to near the maximum possible for you. Building muscle in your legs is good for supporting the knee and thigh joints which protect you from getting injuries. It's another workout in your arsenal and makes the treadmill more fun.
Sprint training is a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It's similar because there are bouts of high intensity exercise followed by a brief recovery. You repeat this sprint and recovery 10+ times in one workout. It's hard but effective. There's been extensive research on the benefits of HIIT and you'll arguably get the same benefits from sprint training.
Sprint training safely
Fortunately there are handrails on a treadmill. These can be needed during a strenuous workout. Sprint training isn't for the beginner. Running coaches advise a minimum of 6 months of running experience before trying it. Going too hard and fast too soon leaves you open to injuries, even on a treadmill. You should always build up your workout intensity slowly.
If you're not used to it, then don't attempt sprint training alone. Make sure there's someone there to keep an eye on you, in case anything happens. Sprinting at a high rate of exertion gives you a high heart rate. You may want to check with a doctor if you can do sprint training, especially if you're a little older or have underlying health conditions.
2 Treadmill sprints workouts
Bear in mind this is hard, we wouldn't recommend you try it without some good months of running under your belt. Sprint training can be done on any cardio machine but we'll focus on the treadmill. Find one with handrails. This in case you need to jump on the sides, if the workout has become too strenuous and you need an immediate rest. As usual we'll have a warm up and cool down which can be jogging or walking:
1st sprints workout
- Warm up for 5 minutes
- Run for 60 seconds at 7 mph
- Sprint for 30 seconds at 9 mph
- Repeat the run and sprints at least 10 times until you can't sprint anymore
- Cool down for 5 minutes
2nd sprints workout
- Warm up for 5 minutes
- Run for 40 seconds at 6 mph
- Sprint for 20 seconds at 11 mph
- Repeat the run and sprints at least 15 times until you can't sprint anymore
- Cool down for 5 minutes
We have written some speeds above but really it's up to you. Sprint at whatever speed you can maintain for the allotted time and because the run is not enough time to fully recover from the sprint, it makes the next sprint harder and harder as you go on. You can use incline if you want but it doesn't matter in the context of the workout.
This is the sort of workout the you want to do as the last workout in the day or the only workout in the day. This is because it's so hard on the body and you'll need time to recover. I would also recommend you do this once per week at the most, this is all assuming you mainly do longer runs of 5k or more and are not usually running too fast.
Create your own treadmill sprint workouts
You can see by the workouts above what a typical sprint routine looks like. You should really create your own because only you know how fast you can sprint and how long you can maintain it. Just remember to get the recovery run in. Make it a jog if you need to. Someone who has a large physique may well have a faster sprint than a long distance runner.
As well as doing it once per week at the most, you only need to do it for around 20 minutes. The whole idea is to make it an explosive workout and it won't be if you can do your routine for 40 minutes. It will take you some practice to see how fast you can run on a treadmill. It's difficult on a small deck but you get used to it. Once you do, it will feel natural after a while.
As I've said before sprinting and HIIT is a shock to the body and it won't be used to doing such a workout, which is kind of the point. There are other speed workouts you can try which are less strenuous than sprinting. These are fartlek, tempo and interval. A treadmill is perfect for these and there is a page of 12 speed training workouts you could try.
Unless you've done many of these before and are confident, it might be an idea to have someone you the first few times you attempt this. It's a hard workout but a great way of telling your fitness level. Athletes do this with doctors to test their VO2 max. It's a way to see how well your body uses oxygen. I recommend you have a go and see what you think of it.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? See my top 3 recommended treadmills for 2022