Beginner Treadmill Workout: Tips, Drills, and How-Tos

If you don’t like running outdoors or you don’t live in a climate where running outside is appealing, that’s no reason to stay on the couch. Invest in a treadmill or join a gym where you can train inside–it’s one of our favorite cross-training activities that can keep you on track with your training program.

However, it’s not intuitive how to start running on a treadmill. OK—it’s pretty easy to learn how not to fall off, but it’s not as simple to pick up a beginner treadmill workout that’ll help you see long-term progress.

No worries—we got your back. Below, we’ll walk you through tips on how to start running on a treadmill. Then, we’ll show you a beginner treadmill workout that’ll help you learn the technique and progress your indoor running.

How to Start Running on a Treadmill

Even if you do like running outdoors or enjoy trail running, it’s hard to do in the winter months, and it can feel hard to stay motivated. If you’re a beginner runner who is just starting out, here are some things to keep in mind. 

1. Go Slow

Beginning runners should start with a walk/run approach. Warm-up for a few minutes, then jog for one minute and walk for one minute on the treadmill. Repeat about 10 times–more if you are feeling good and fewer times if you’re gasping for air after five repeats. Everyone has a different starting level. As a rule of thumb, don’t increase your mileage by more than 10 percent each week to avoid burning out and to reduce your risk of injury

2. Use a Slight Incline on Your Treadmill

When you’re a new runner trying to get in shape running on the roads or trails naturally involves uphills and downhills. If you want to get stronger and promote weight loss, your treadmill training plan should involve a slight incline. Start out with a 10-15% incline and play with different levels of incline for short periods of time as you feel comfortable. 

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Mix it Up

I don’t know about you, but running one mile on the treadmill can feel like running three outside. Don’t be afraid to mix things up in your training program by running for a few minutes, then jumping off the treadmill (not literally!) to do a little strength training. Try 10 push-ups, sit-ups, bodyweight planks, or any other core activity for about a minute. This helps your mind press the reset button and brings your heart rate down just a bit before you get back on the treadmill and keep going. 

Pro Training Tip: Another great way to keep your mind engaged is to run to music or watch one of your favorite TV shows. It can definitely help pass the time! 

Now that we’ve got a few tips down, let’s lace up our running shoes and follow along with Coach Holly during this awesome treadmill workout for beginners.

Beginner Treadmill Workout

This easy treadmill workout will take just over 40 minutes total, but it’s broken up into four sections to keep your mind engaged and break it up mentally so you aren’t trying to run for 40 minutes straight– it will go by more quickly than you imagine! We will do a warm-up, a drill cadence, some interval speed sets, and finally, a cool down. 

1. Warm-Up Section

Let’s get your heart rate up, blood flowing and body moving by starting with an easy three-minute jog. Focus on a conversational pace where you can breathe easily. 

From here, we will run for three minutes just a little faster–think about a minute per mile faster. You should still be able to talk, but not quite as easily as during the warm-up. Start pumping your arms a bit more to help propel your stride. 

2. Cadence Drill Section

A cadence drill focuses on how many times your feet hit the ground during your running stride and getting some turnover going. So, set a timer for five minutes. At the top of each minute, spend 30 seconds counting how many times one of your feet hits the ground–no need to count for the next 30 seconds. 

Take that number you get (say you got 45) and during the next minute when you count for 30 seconds again, increase that step number by one. So, during the next round, you’d try to get 46 steps for 30 seconds.

Repeat for five rounds of one minute each, increasing your cadence by about one step each time you count for 30 seconds. The idea isn’t actually to speed up, but to shorten your stride, improve your running form, and increase your running efficiency. 

3. Speed Intervals Section

We’ve made it to the last section before the cool-down, so make it count! 

  • First, we’ll do two minutes of fast running. Focus on about a 7 out of 10 perceived effort. You shouldn’t be able to easily hold a conversation, but you shouldn’t be gasping for air either. 
  • Then, rest easy at a slow jog for one minute. If you’re feeling super fatigued, you can bring it down to a walk break. 
  • Repeat for a total of five rounds of two minutes hard, one minute easy. 

For part two of the interval section, we are going to speed it up but focus on shorter intervals. Don’t worry, this will be fun! 

  • Start with one minute of fast running. Think of an 8 out of 10 perceived effort.
  • Break with an easy jog or walk for 30 seconds to catch your breath, inhaling deeply. 
  • Repeat for a total of six rounds of one minute hard, 30 seconds easy.

On to the final section of intervals–you’re almost there! This time, we’ll go even faster, but for an even shorter amount of time. 

  • Start with 30 seconds of fast running, about as fast as you can go on a treadmill–a 9 out of 10 perceived effort. 
  • Jog or walk easy for a quick 15 seconds to catch your breath.
  • Repeat for a total of six rounds of 30 seconds hard, 15 seconds easy.

4. Cool Down Section

After all that hard work, you want to spend at least three to five minutes of easy walking to cool down and bring your heart rate back to normal. Then, hop off the treadmill and do some of your favorite mobility stretches. Check out our beginner runners’ guide to stretching and mobility: 

Start a Beginner Treadmill Workout Plan

Most coaches, therapists, and runners (in general) treat running treadmills as a tool rather than an end goal. Some people fall in love with indoor running and want that to be the end destination—and that’s perfectly fine.

Running doesn’t have to take place outside. You can find your happy place on the treadmill and embrace it, day in and day out. While the beginner treadmill workout above will get old pretty quick, don’t hesitate to look for other easy treadmill workouts or even develop your own.

Don’t forget to download our new mobile app for access to coaching advice, daily video workouts, injury prevention tips, and complete training programs that will help motivate and inspire your training program!