What’s a Good Treadmill Workout for Beginners?


If you’re just getting into running, it might be more convenient and comfortable to get started on a treadmill, rather than running on the road.

But you still need a plan when running on a treadmill, especially if you want to improve.

Which leads to the question: what’s a good treadmill workout for beginners?

In this article, we’ll delve into the benefits of using a treadmill and how to structure your workouts for the best results.

Why Is a Treadmill Great for Beginners?

Beginner runners can benefit from using the treadmill in many ways! Here are a few things for which the treadmill gets a big thumbs up.

It’s Easier On Your Joints

The cushioned deck of a treadmill is much easier on your joints than the road’s hard surface. It absorbs shock, so you can expect relief from pain and a reduced chance of impact injuries.

You should wear shock-absorbing shoes when running, but the added padding on the treadmill deck does make a difference.

It’s Safer Than Outdoors

Regardless of where you live, running outside does pose some risks.

If you’re the type who enjoys running early in the morning or can only run after work hours when it’s dark, the treadmill allows you to run in the comfort of your home rather than outdoors in dark.

As well as darkness, running outside has risks like traffic, weather, people with bad intentions, stray animals, and so on. The treadmill is much safer, as long as it’s not in a front yard or somewhere where you’d still be exposed.

It’s More Convenient

Having a treadmill in the next room is much more convenient than getting up, getting dressed, packing your stuff, and leaving the house. You can—quite literally—roll out of bed and onto the treadmill!

Aside from that convenience, when you’re on the treadmill, you also have nutrition and water readily available, entertainment, and the bathroom steps away.

It’s also great when you’re watching the kids, waiting for a delivery, or just don’t feel like being seen.

It’s Easier to Control

One of the best things about the treadmill is that you have control over your workout. For example, if you happen to live in a very flat area, you can create your own hills on the treadmill with an incline.

It’s also a great way to learn how to pace yourself and to push yourself harder. Once the pace is set on a treadmill, you need to keep up. This can be a good way to get a feel for different paces, and you can try to replicate them on the road to apply them to real-life race situations.

Treadmill Settings for Beginners

Not sure how to set your treadmill up when first starting out? Here’s a quick speed guide so you know where to begin.

  • 2 to 4 mph: Walking speed
  • 4 to 5.5 mph: Fast walk/light jog
  • 5.5 mph and above: Jog to run

You can experiment with this as you go, but this should give you an idea of a good starting point based on your level of skill and comfort.

In terms of incline, the resistance provided by a 1 percent incline is equivalent to real-world ups and downs. A 3 percent incline is quite a lot more tricky, and anything above this will be difficult.

Easy Treadmill Workouts for Beginners

Now that you have an idea of settings for new treadmill runners, you may be wondering how to use them to get a good workout.

Here are a few easy treadmill workouts for beginners that you can start with today!

30-Min Beginner Workout

This workout is an excellent way for new runners to get in shape. It’s long enough to give you a great workout but not so long that it’s intimidating. It consists of running and walking intervals, which is a good way to build a base.

You’ll need a watch to track your time. You can perform this workout two to three times a week in the beginning, and you’ll soon start seeing improvement! Here’s how it works:

  • Walk at a pace of 2 to 3 mph for 10 minutes to warm up.
  • Up the pace to around 5 to 5.5 mph for 2 minutes.
  • Slow down to a walk for around 2 minutes to catch your breath.
  • Increase to running pace again for 2 minutes, then back to walking.
  • Repeat this cycle 5 times in total.
  • To cool down, walk at around 2 mph for a few minutes.

Once you’re used to this workout and the running sections start to feel easy, you can slowly increase the running time and decrease the walking time.

For example, try 2 minutes running and 2 minutes walking instead of 2 ½ minutes running and 1 ½ minutes walking. You can eventually increase that to 3 minutes of running and a minute of walking.

5K Pace Beginner Workout

To do this workout, you should know your 5K pace. If you aren’t sure and can’t quite run a 5K race yet, work up to running a single mile first. Once you know your mile pace, you can figure out your 5K pace.

For example, if you can run a mile in 10 minutes without stopping, your 5K pace should be around 10:40 per mile. If you run an 11:30 mile, your 5K pace should be about 12:15 per mile.

For this workout, warm up by taking a slow, casual run for about 5 minutes. Then, set the treadmill to your 5K pace and run for a minute to 2 minutes. When you feel like you can’t run anymore or hit 2 minutes, whichever comes first, lower the speed to a slow run and run for a minute to catch your breath.

Depending on your fitness level, time, and goals, you want to repeat the run/jog steps between 5 and 8 times. Don’t forget to end with a 5-minute cool-down jog.

Beginner Incline Workout

If your treadmill has an incline function, this exercise is great for building running muscles and improving endurance. Start with a 10-minute warm-up, walking or jogging lightly.

Once your muscles are warm, up the incline to 1 or 2 percent, depending on what you feel comfortable with. Run at this incline for 90 seconds at 80 to 90 percent of your full effort. It should be challenging but not completely all-out.

Lower the incline to flat and jog for 60 seconds to recover. Then lift the incline to 3 to 4 percent, and run for 90 seconds before lowering it to flat again and jogging for a minute.

Repeat these two steps 3 to 4 times, depending on how you feel. You can increase the incline even more if it’s not challenging enough. Don’t forget to do a 10-minute cooldown at the end of the workout.

Beginner Pyramid Workout

This pyramid workout is an excellent choice for those with a pretty good fitness level but are new to running and looking for a moderately challenging workout.

It’s best for treadmills on which you can set up a workout, and the speed changes automatically as you go. If you have to stop and change it yourself after each interval, it can get tedious, and it’s also hard to remember what to change it to unless you’re looking at the workout.

With that being said, if you want to do a fun and challenging pyramid workout, here’s how it goes:

  • Minutes 0 to 5: Warm up, speed 4.0, incline 2.5
  • Minutes 6 to 7: Speed 5.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 7 to 8: Speed 6.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 8 to 9: Speed 6.5, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 9 to 10: Speed 4.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 10 to 11: Speed 6.5, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 11 to 12: Speed 5.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 12 to 13: Speed 7.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 13 to 14: Speed 5.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 14 to 15: Speed 7.5, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 15 to 16: Speed 4.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 16 to 17: Speed 6.5, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 17 to 18: Speed 5.5, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 18 to 19: Speed 7.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 19 to 20: Speed 5.5, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 20 to 21: Speed 8.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 21 to 22: Speed 5.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 22 to 23: Speed 7.0, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 23 to 24: Speed 5.5, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 24 to 25: Speed 6.5, incline 1.0
  • Minutes 25 to 30: Speed 4.0, incline 2.0

Tips for Better Treadmill Running

Keen to start running and only got a treadmill to train on? Here are some treadmill training tips to help you do it right and progress quickly.

Don’t Forget to Warm Up

It can be easy to forget to warm up when you’re in your own home rather than outdoors. However, skipping a warm-up can be detrimental to your performance and make you more prone to injuries.

You can include dynamic stretching, a bit of yoga, and light jogging or walking in your warm-up. It requires just 5 to 10 minutes. Before you get into the full workout.

Don’t Hold the Handles

As a beginner, it might be logical to think that the treadmill handles are there to hold onto as you run. However, they’re for you to grab in case you lose your balance—you definitely should not be holding onto them as you run.

Holding the handles goes completely against your running form. Your arms won’t be able to move freely, and you’ll be more at risk of developing injuries and aches and pains the more you run.

Take care to run as naturally as possible, with your arms free and swinging by your sides. It may take some time to get used to it, but it’s essential!

Look Straight Ahead

As tempting as it can be, don’t look down at your feet while running on the treadmill! You may be worried that you’ll step right off the belt on your stride, but keeping your eyes down is not only getting into bad habits but can also ruin your running form.

Although it might sound like watching your feet will keep you safer, it can throw you off balance and cause you to fall. Keep your eyes focused on a single point on a wall ahead or watching the TV or treadmill screen.

Don’t Focus On Your Time/Distance

Unless you’re doing a workout that relies on time or distance, try not to focus on it specifically. Watching the time or distance tick down makes a run seem long and boring!

It’s natural for your eyes to be drawn back to the screen, so try running with the screen covered, so you don’t get distracted. Alternatively, distract yourself with a TV show or movie.

Use the Perceived Exertion Scale

While most workouts will have some sort of guide to speed and incline, monitoring your own perceived exertion is a good idea. How do you feel while you’re running? For this scale, you’ll need to pay attention to breathing, heart rate, and fatigue.

This is officially known as the Borg Scale, which rates efforts from 6 to 20. 11 to 13 is considered to be light, and 13 to 15 is considered to be intense. 12 to 14 is moderate.

Don’t worry if this sounds confusing. It’s all about monitoring how you feel as you’re running. You should be breathing hard enough that you can only say a few words before needing to breathe again.

If you can have a conversation, the intensity may be too low. On the other hand, if you can’t get any words out, you may be going too hard. Use this scale to self-monitor and adjust your workout intensity as needed.

Work On Your Form

Just because you’re not on the road doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to form! You’re just as likely to get injured if you run poorly on the treadmill.

Ensure that you’re always running with good form. It may even be a good idea to video yourself running and get it checked out by a coach, who may be able to give you some pointers.

Improving your form leads to improved running efficiency, so working on your form benefits you in multiple ways!

If you are interested in a more structured training program, we have a free Couch to 5k Training Plan you can download below. Use the form to get a PDF version for free. Our training plan even makes it easy to do this Couch to 5k on a treadmill!

download our FREE couch to 5k TRAINING PLAN PDF

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Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.