Outdoor, Treadmill & Incline Running Part 2

PART II: Incline Running on the Treadmill

Outdoor hill runs are a fun way to add variety to your workout routine, BUT if you are running indoors on a treadmill, incline running isn’t as fun.  Why do you ask…because it’s not only physically demanding, it’s also psychologically challenging (in other words no motivation to do it)!  It can take all the effort you have to get on the treadmill as it is, especially during the drabby dreary winter months in Michigan, adding inclines in on a regular basis can seem impossible on some days.

As you can imagine, I wouldn’t be writing about this topic unless there were some valuable benefits to including regular hill running in your routine.  First, you can accomplish the same energy expenditure achieved from high speed running while running on an incline at a lower speed.  This reduces overall impact on the joints while still giving the heart, lungs, and legs the same workout.


Speed    % Grade    METs       Speed     % Grade      METs
5.0 mph          0              8.7            5.0 mph        4.0             10.0
6.0 mph          0              10.2         5.0 mph         8.0             11.4
7.0 mph         0               11.7         5.0 mph         12.0           12.8
8.0 mph          0              13.3         6.0 mph          4.0             11.8
9.0  mph         0              14.8         6.0 mph          8.0             13.5
10.0 mph       0              16.3         6.0 mph         12.0            15.2

Remember METs is a measurement of work: 1 MET = the oxygen (energy) used by the body at rest (sitting and doing nothing). The harder your body works during the activity, the more oxygen is consumed and the higher the MET level.

As you can see from the chart, you can do the same amount of work running at 8.0 mph with 0% incline as running at 6.0 mph with 8% incline.  The benefit is of running at the slower speed is reduced impact on the joints and a different type of stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones.

Not only does adding inclines to your workout reduced impact on joints, it also causes an overall improvement in sprinting ability on flat ground.  Sprint hill running is often used in traditional speed training programs to help sprinters increase stride length, speed-strength and ground force production.  Uphill sprinting is especially used to improve the acceleration phase of a sprint race (coming out of the start).[1]

Despite the mental and physical challenge of incline treadmill running, it’s worth it to give it a shot.  Here is an example run that I recommend for clients when they are first starting out.  If you haven’t been running on a regular basis you should try this at a walking speed and then slowly increase speed in order to be able to sustain this workout.

During this workout you keep the speed constant and manipulate the incline each minute for 20 total minutes.  Below is an example of a workout you could do.

Constant speed: 5.0 mph
Min 1: 0% grade
Min 2: 3% grade
Min 3: 6% grade
Min 4: 9% grade
Min 5: 3.0 mph walk, 0% grade

1.  NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training, 2nd Edition; Coburn & Malek; © 2012

Outdoor, Treadmill & Incline Running

PART I: Treadmill vs Outdoor Running

Do you get bored running indoors on a treadmill?  I do.  When I gave up outdoor running during winter I started to get really bored during the months of January, February, and March.  My solution…I found a way to add variety and fun into treadmill workouts by including speed intervals, incline running, distance running, and moderate intervals.  I usually rotate through a schedule of different types of runs that allows me to set goals, stay motivated, and achieve new personal bests in different categories.

I’m sure some of you are dedicated outdoor runners, but even if you do minimal running on a treadmill, it’s helpful to know the differences between outdoor and treadmill running.  One main difference is in caloric expenditure.  Typically caloric expenditure is lower on a treadmill than with outdoor running.  While the treadmill allows you to maintain constant speed, there is no wind resistance when running on the treadmill, reducing overall energy expenditure by about 7%.  Research suggests that an incline of 1% will compensate for lack of wind resistance as it relates to energy expenditure.

Another difference when using a treadmill instead of outdoor running is the moving belt.  The belt pulls your foot backwards as it lands compared to push forward off of a solid surface when running outdoors.  I haven’t come across recent research on this subject but in my opinion the moving belt also reduces total caloric expenditure by a certain amount as well.

When it comes to the moving belt, something to keep in mind is the impact of a constant speed moving belt on muscles when running at high speeds.  The belt does not slow down even when muscles are fatiguing.  As muscles fatigue the neuromuscular system will not be able to fire the muscles in the same sequence at the same rate but the belt will continue to pull your foot back at the same pace.  This can increase risk of muscle pulls, especially when the runner is extremely fatigued.

Summary of Benefits to Running on the Treadmill:

  • Speed is constant and controlled
  • Shock absorbing deck reduces impact on joints
  • No unexpected terrain to navigate
  • Can’t skip your run due to bad weather  😉

As you can tell, there are benefits and drawbacks to both treadmill and outdoor running.  The key is to choose which type of running works best for you, motivates you to stay consistent, and keeps you safe from injuries.  Once you have that in mind you can build a program that includes variety and challenge no matter if it’s indoors or outdoors.  Next week I plan to review the difference in workload for incline treadmill workouts and I’ll also share a simple incline workout with you so you can try it on your own.  If you have any questions, be sure to email me at jes@jesreynolds.com!

Foam Roller Magic for the IT Band

“My knee has been bugging me” is what he kept telling me…”Everytime I do my basketball drills and layups..my knee feels really inflamed and it hurts”.  So we tried a lot of things to correct it….everything from new shoes, motrin, stretching, ice, and even an evaluation by an orthopedic specialist.  Still, the knee pain came back each time and I think it got a little bit more sensitive over time, now even flaring up after running.

Then one day I was thinking about it and it hit me.  I mentioned to Shree the IT band stretch and also suggested he use the foam roller to really release the tension in the tissue.  He tried it a few times and wah lah!  No more knee pain and lots more fun basketball drills.  I wish I would’ve realized it sooner!

Having a tight IT band can be the cause of injury and inflammation when moderately tight or it can even lead to slight scoliosis or leg length differences if it’s severely tight.  Stretching or rolling the IT can be helpful to those who:

  • are very active
  • are regular runners
  • do a lot of squatting and jumping
  • are over 30
  • have “un diagnosed” knee pain


What:  The IT band is a band of connective tissue similar in structure to ligaments and tendons.

Where:  The IT band originates at the top of the femur, is connected to both a small muscle on the outside of the hip called the tensor facia latae and the gluteus maximus.  From the top of the hip, it continues down the side of your leg, crosses the knee joint and its insertion point is at the top of the tibia.

Why:  The IT band assissts in hip movement and rotation as well as playing a role in stabilizing the hip, pelvis, and knee.

The IT band is very hard to stretch.  But, if you have access to a foam roller, it’s a wise thing to learn how to use it effectively on the IT.  I’ve included a video and some resources below so you know how to roll and stretch it out.  Try it and Let me know if you notice a difference!

Brief Running and Gait Analysis Video

Brief Running and Gait Analysis Video

Almost everyone who’s into fitness goes running. Some people prefer the treadmill or the trail to the open road, and some people are just cruising up and down the basketball court.

One thing I see people fail to pay attention to is their running form. Proper running form makes for an effective, efficient stride that results in the ability to achieve higher speeds and maximize endurance. Take a look at this brief video to better understand the variables involved in proper and effective running form.

Running a Marathon: Training Schedule Resource

Your marathon training schedule should be based on your current conditioning level, your chosen marathon pace, and the time you’ve allotted for training. I found this web address from Runners World to assist you in making your marathon as enjoyable as possible (not possible!).

This page has everything you need to train for a marathon including expert advice, training workouts, and training schedules based on your level of conditioning. Let me know if you have any questions.

Good Luck!