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Improve Your Speed With This “Mental Illusion” Treadmill Workout

You can fool your brain to get your legs to run faster!
These buttons can have a huge impact on your workout!

These buttons can have a huge impact on your workout!

This treadmill workout isn’t fun but it is challenging and it not boring. So 2 outta 3 ain’t bad. Especially when you get results immediately.

New to running?  No problem. This workout works for slow joggers or walkers too! Just adjust the speeds to your level. Reduce the length of the warm-up and tempo.

The only difference between the novice and expert is how many times you push one button.

Unfortunately, the workout needs to be on a treadmill. It’s not that you can’t accomplish this workout out on the road, but I haven’t figured out how to get the same training effect. I think I know why.

We have too much control over our mind and not enough control over our terrain outside. The treadmill belt is a mechanical authority. Don’t do what it says and it’ll spit you out. We’ll never out wit a device plugged into a wall. A treadmill is not known for unconditional love:).

There is 1 principle behind this workout. Fool your brain.

There are 2 outcomes to fooling your brain.

1) You will feel you’re running slower than you are.

2) You will think you’re running downhill when you’re not.

What training effect can you expect?

You will run faster for a longer period before your body hits your anaerobic threshold. An increase in leg speed while still breathing aerobically. Sound good?

First understand the duplex of speed:

  1. Intervals– hard effort followed by recovery.
  2. Endurance– training adaptation to go longer with faster leg turnover in an aerobic state (not gasping for air).

There are 4 vital components to this 8 mile workout. Don’t modify the intention of the set or interval distance. Modify incline, speed, or time of warm-up/tempo to accommodate your fitness level. (The example resembles my personal workout. Start slower or faster so that intervals are exhausting but you can get through all 8 of them).

1) Warm-up 2 miles: Flat

  • Start super slow and increase .1 speed every 2/10 of a mile until you reach 2 miles. 
    • Example: Increase speed every .20 distance as follows: 6.0, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 6.8, 6.9 mph  (starting out at a 10 min mile and ending at around 8:50 mile)
  • Walk .10 distance at 2.0 speed.

2) Intervals: Incline

  • 8% incline for .50 (1/2 mile) distance at a speed that feels easy at the start but at the end of 1/2 mile you are fatigued
    • Example: 5.5 steady speed for 1/2 mile
  • Walk .05~.10 distance at 2.5 speed.

3) Intervals: Speed

  • Flat for .50 (1/2 mile) distance at fastest pace you can maintain and complete interval. (Faster than 5k pace)
    • Example: 8.0 steady speed for 1/2 mile
  • Walk .05~1.0 distance at 2.5 speed.

REPEAT steps 2 & 3 three more times for a total of 8 intervals (4 incline / 4 speed)

4) Tempo: Flat  (approximately 1.5 miles left or until a total of 8 miles is reached)

  • Choose a comfortable pace that requires focus but does not strain you to complete.
    • Example: 6.7 to 6.9 speed until 8 miles.

WALK slowly until completely recovered.

You’ll be surprised how good you feel in the flat, speed intervals. Your body feels relief from the incline. As if your legs were let out of a cage.

My heart rate is lower in these speed intervals, following the inclines, than it would be going the same speed in a speed-only interval workout. When the treadmill goes from 8% incline to 0%, it feels like running downhill. It’s a mental illusion and/or physical phenomenon but it works!

Why a tempo run instead of a recovery run after 8 difficult intervals? It’s an opportunity to take full advantage of your brain’s confusion, increase muscular endurance on tired legs, and finish stronger than you may normally finish a mid-distance run.

No matter what your fitness level, you can adopt this rigorous workout, come away sweaty and happy, feeling stronger than you thought you were. Faster too!

If it takes a few tricks to fool my legs into running faster, I say why not?

"Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about."


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One Comment
  1. Erin #

    Ooooh I am going to try this today! Looks like a great way to pass the time

    April 5, 2013

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