Running for Beginners: A Treadmill Interval Workout

March 6, 2012 · 39 comments

I am asked frequently how to “get started” running. I know the process can be very frustrating for beginners. I honestly feel like I’m starting from square one again after being sidelined for surgery.

And as I hit the treadmill yesterday for the first time since before surgery (I’ve solely been running outside since), I was reminded of how I actually transitioned myself from an elliptical lady to a treadmill queen.

Seriously, after I stopped playing field hockey in college, I didn’t do a darned thing. I was so maxed out from 12 years of sports that all I wanted to do was be lazy.

And then my need for fitness kicked in again, of course. So I hit the elliptical, and I lived on that thing. And then I got bored.

So, I’d start with treadmill intervals. I still remember how rough it was first getting on the treadmill. I was so proud of myself when I’d run a whole mile without stopping on that hamster wheel… because I was just so gosh darn bored.

Essentially, I’d increase my speed as I completed mileage. Once I hit a mile, I’d go back down to a low speed and bump up the incline. This can be done using a myriad of speeds and incline levels, but I made a 2.5 mile sample starting from square one.

Pin It

I wanna hear how this works for all you beginner runners. Feel free to save/pin/print this puppy and stick it on your treadmill to remind you when to switch up your speed and incline. As you build endurance, you’ll see how easy this gets and be able to bump up your speeds.

What are your favorite tips for running beginners? Are you a fan of interval workouts? They completely cure my boredom.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kaelin March 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Thanks for the workout Alyssa!!!

I am a newbie runner, but have always worked out (fellow elliptical lady, workout DVD goddess). I started running last summer to bump up my cardio game. I do 99% of my running outside with my dog. I was totally frustrated with my running this fall, seeming to get no where and hating every step. I bought “Running for Mortals” by John Bingham and LOVED LOVED LOVED IT! I would sooooo highly recommend this book for anyone stuck in a running rut, especially for those just beginning to run. While I still have to kick myself in the pants to go for a run sometimes, I am noticing my progress more now that I have a plan.


2 Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries March 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm

i’m a huge fan of intervals on the treadmill. in fact, without intervals i kind of despise the treadmill!
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3 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat March 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm

My favorite tip is to just get out there and DO it. It’s nice to know your distance or have a goal in mind, but to get started running it’s about just getting a move on!
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4 Robbi Ann March 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I’m really hoping and praying to the running gods that this helps me not absolutely despise the treadmill. The more I run outside, the more bored I get with running on the elliptical. So, hopefully this weekend I’ll get through this workout & enjoy it.

Just outta curiosity, how long did you consider yourself a “beginner”?


5 Lena @Fit on the Rocks March 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

When I was first starting, it was way easier and more satisfying to get outside with a friend and just work on slowly jogging together while catching up. It made me feel less like a hamster and provided a source of entertainment. Win-Win.
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6 Emily March 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Great post, I’m going to try it at the gym today to spice things up!

I’m new to your blog, a friend shared it with me a few weeks ago, but I love it! I’m a sunsafe nerd, and I’m so glad you shared your skin cancer story/no-tanning bed message. And I love that your “local”…I’m a reporter at WVEC (Ch. 13) in Norfolk, so we are neighbors! πŸ™‚


7 Talia @ Bite Size Wellness March 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Oh my gosh I feel like you are speaking right to me with this post. I also was an ellipitical maniac gone runner (sort of) and have zero attention span while I am on the treadmill. Intervals and change-ups work for me:
Glad I am not alone about the hamster wheel!!
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8 Amber K March 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I fall in and out of “like” with running. I never truly like it, but sometimes it’s all I want to do. I say as long as you keep moving, you’re grooving! Taking walk breaks really helps keep me moving.
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9 Alice March 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Hi! I read your blog all the time but i’ve never commented before, i just hover! but this post really caught my attention.
I absolutely love intervals on the treadmill, they make the time fly.

Whilst this workout looks great, i wouldn’t necessarily say it was a beginners workout. For someone who already has a good base level of fitness (uses the eliptical, takes classes etc but doesn’t run) this workout would be ideal!

However when i started my fitness journey last year, i was SERIOUSLY unfit, i mean seriously. Running was the method i chose to get fit. And honestly i couldn’t even run for 1 minute let alone contemplate 2.5 miles, so my intervals consisted of running (sloooooooowly) for 30 seconds and walking for a minute to recover, it really was beginners level!! It’s really incredible how quickly my fitness built, and it wasn’t long before i completed my first mile without walking breaks (it took about 13 minutes!) i was SO proud of myself. Fast forward a year and i’m training for my first half marathon and i ran my fastest mile last week in 8.24 (then ran 7 more!). I certainly caught the running bug!

This is a GREAT introduction to treadmill intervals, but you’d definitely need to be pretty fit in order to complete it.

Sorry for the essay! Love your blog!



10 Annie March 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I started running in november with the C25K program. I can now run for a full 30 minutes without being out a breath, although I run VERY slowly!


11 Brittany (healthy slice of life) March 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I wish I had tips. I’ve been a beginner runner for over a year now and most days it’s still freaking hard! πŸ™‚
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12 theAlmostRunner March 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Oooh! This is nice! Thanks for the good idea, sweetums.
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13 Cinnamon @ eatpraytri March 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm

As a beginner I say a big THANK YOU. I am always looking for awesome treadmill workouts. I live for the intervals. I’m still nervous/hesitant to do a ton of running outside, so I am always looking for good tmill workouts, so thanks mucho!
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14 Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile March 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm

That’s exactly how I started out too. I hated the treadmill but mixing things up was the only way I built up my running!
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15 janetha March 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm

i especially love the workout title.
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16 Sierra @ Posh Meets Pavement March 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Great post. I feel like people are always so confused when I say I love the treadmill. It’s important to specify…I have learned to love the treadmill. Playing with the dials is key for me to keep occupied. I love setting mini goals and switching it up. I like your idea of using incline and speed. I don’t use the incline as much as I should. Time to change that…
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17 Kristen @ notsodomesticated March 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Thanks for this, Alyssa. I bet this will help a lot of newbie runners! I’m going to share it with some friends who want to start running!
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18 Georgia @ Trying Something New March 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I began running last year, and I did it by walking two minutes, slowly jogging one, and back to walking two minutes. Once I could do that, then I would walk one minute, run one, walk one etc. Eventually, I increased to running two, walking one, and today I typically tend to run 8 minutes, walk two for a total of 30 minutes on the treadmill. But if I’m going for a long run, typically I’ll run 15-20 minutes, walk 2 or 3, then repeat until I’m done!
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19 anna, fitscally responsible March 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I love this! I’m always looking for ways to spice up my treadmill routine in the winter.

My #1 tip for beginners is to start small. I know so many people who try to run 2-3 miles right away and get put off by running because they’ve hurt their knee because they didn’t build up to a few miles, died of boredom on the treadmill, or it was just plain really hard for them.

One thing I love about the treadmill is it has made me a very consistent runner. I didn’t notice this until I got a GPS watch and all of my 1/2 mile splits were within a few seconds of each other.
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20 Yellow Haired Girl March 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

This is GREAT! I would like to be a runner, seriously, I would. But I didn’t know how to tackle it! I find the treadmill dreadfully boring. I feel like this could definitely help me out! Thanks, yo πŸ™‚
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21 Lindsey @ Happy or Hungry March 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I have been trying to incorporate more intervals into my treadmill time lately, so as to hopefully not hate it πŸ™‚
I am seriously more and more impressed with your Photoshop skills! Someone has been practicing!
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22 Leah @ Chocolate and Wild Air March 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm

I’m right there with you girl – treadmill workouts have been killing me this winter! But I’ve been toughing them out, training for my first ever half marathon in April (to say I’m nervous is an understatement…)
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23 Megan @ Fiterature March 6, 2012 at 10:01 pm

When I first started running on the treadmill, I would do 30 seconds walking, 30 seconds running. Then I worked my way up to 30 seconds walking, 1 minute running and so on. Before I knew it, I was running the entire time!

I’m an outside runner because the treadmill turns the minutes into hours. But when it’s necessary, I always go back to that 30/30 and it makes those minutes fly by!
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24 Cait @ Cait Hates Cake March 7, 2012 at 8:41 am

I tend to get bored on the treadmill, which is one reason why I love intervals. I can get an awesome workout in in less time, always a plus.
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25 Brianne March 7, 2012 at 9:11 am

Thanks for posting this! I used to be an elliptical junkie and now i have branched out to the treadmill. I have never been a runner but I wanted to challenge myself and mix up my cardio routine. As soon as I can get back to the gym I will be taking this treadmill routine with me! I had 3 moles removed to be tested thanks to your posts on skin cancer and they told me that excessive sweating due to working out is not good for the wounds πŸ™ I am just glad that I am getting them checked! Your workouts are great! Thanks again!


26 Lyndsey @ Polish and Gloss March 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Wanted to come back and say that I tried this workout and made it pretty far (to 2.05 miles) with some added walking breaks in there. So proud of myself and it really helped the minutes fly. I’m excited to do it again in a few days, thanks!


27 Lauren March 9, 2012 at 10:02 am

I am a new reader of your blog and loving it….

Thank you for sharing this awesome treadmill workout, I tried it out last night and it kicked my booty. The woman on the treadmill next to me, ask me where I got the workout and we made a copy of it at the front desk for her. I also referred her to your site. I left the gym feeling sweaty and loved it!


28 Tricia March 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Finally! An easy to follow treadmill interval workout!! My post-spring break body and sanity thank you.


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