Take Your Treadmill to Hill and Back

The Champion Builder

Your goal: Maximum endurance

Swedish researchers found that marathoners who ran hills for 12 weeks improved their running economy by 3 percent. This translates to a 2-minute reduction in your 10-mile time and 6 minutes off a marathon— without exerting any more effort in the race. To put that in perspective, consider that 6 minutes was the difference between a medal and 26th place in the 2004 Olympic Marathon. For you, it might mean breaking 4 hours in your first marathon or setting a personal best in your next 10K.

"This workout features steep, gradual, and rolling hills, bringing all the aspects of hill training into one session," says Morris. You'll be able to recover energy on the short hills in order to charge the long climbs. Set the treadmill to a speed that's about 90 seconds slower than your normal mile pace. So if you usually run 8-minute miles (7.5 mph), set the treadmill to 6.3 mph, the speed equivalent of a 9-minute mile. Then change the incline of the treadmill at the indicated mile marker.

Mile marker Elevation
0 to 1 1%
1 to 2 2%
2 to 2.5 5%
2.5 to 3 2%
3 to 3.5 8%
3.5 to 4 2%
4 to 4.5 5%
4.5 to 5 2%


If it's too hard:
Stop when you've had enough, and progress by trying to run 10 seconds longer in your next workout.

If it's too easy: Repeat as many segments as you can, starting at the first mile marker.

The Mountain Challenge

Your goal: Sports conditioning

Over the years, professional athletes have used hill training to prepare. And no venue is better known than "the Hill"—a steep 5-mile trail in San Carlos, California's Edgewood Park. It was the site of the legendary off-season training program of former San Francisco 49er and Oakland Raider Jerry Rice for more than 20 years. The rigors of the perpetual ascent simultaneously improve physical conditioning and mental toughness, the X factor of athletic performance.

Use this mountain workout from Morris and you can train there, too—even if you live in Wichita. After your warmup, raise the treadmill grade to 5 to 8 percent (lower for beginners, higher if you're a seasoned vet). Then set the speed to a pace that's about 3 minutes slower than your best mile time.

So if you can run a mile in seven minutes (8.5 mph), you'll set the speed to the equivalent of a 10-minute mile pace, which is 6 mph. Run at that speed and grade for as long as you can maintain conversation in short spurts (three or four words at time). Once you're breathing too hard to talk, shut it down and record your distance.

You should strive to run a little farther—even if it's just 1/10 of a mile—each time you repeat the workout. One to two miles is good for starters; make it to 5 and you're ready for the hall of fame.

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