How to Calculate Incline on a Treadmill & Elevation Gain

If you'll be doing a "hill workout," you may or may not want an audience.

If you'll be doing a "hill workout," you may or may not want an audience.

Gone are the days when treadmills were simple machines consisting of a non-motorized belt placed over a series of rollers. Today's electronic varieties feature an array of functions, including speed- and calories-burn displays and the option of elevating the deck to the percent grade of your choice. But what does term "percent grade" translate to in terms of climbing a hill?

Workout

Stand on the treadmill and power it up. Know in advance what your workout will be; although you can vary the speed during the workout if you like, you need to keep the percent grade at the same value throughout the workout in order to preserve the accuracy of your calculations.

Select a percent grade between 1 and 10. Recognize that percent grade equals "rise over run," that is, the number of feet or meters of elevation gain for every horizontal foot or meter traveled.

Choose a speed for your workout and increase the belt to that speed. Rely on past experience to select a speed you know you can maintain without extreme difficulty while climbing up a grade.

Walk or run for the length and duration you have chosen and stop the belt.

Note the distance you have covered and record this figure.

Calculating the Elevation Gain

Divide the percent grade by 100 and record this figure. For example, if you walked or ran at a 4.5 percent grade, your calculation would yield 4.5/100 = 0.045.

Multiply the number of miles you covered by 5,280 or the number of kilometers you covered by 1,609 to yield equivalent distances in feet or meters, respectively. For example, if you ran or walked 5.4 miles, your calculation would yield 5.4 x 5,280 = 28,512 feet.

Multiply the figure you obtained in Step 1 by that you obtained in Step 2 to determine the effective amount of elevation gain you achieved in your workout. Using the numbers in the present example, this figure would be 0.045 x 28,512 = 1,283 feet of climbing.

Items you will need

  • Motorized treadmill with incline function
  • Calculator

Tip

  • If you're experiencing difficulty maintaining your running or walking form in the first few minutes of the workout or are otherwise struggling, you need to reduce the speed, the percent grade or both. Stop the treadmill, rest for a few minutes and start over with more modest settings.
 

About the Author

Michael Crystal earned a Bachelor of Science in biology at Case Western Reserve University, where he was a varsity distance runner, and is a USA Track and Field-certified coach. Formerly the editor of his running club's newsletter, he has been published in "Trail Runner Magazine" and "Men's Health." He is pursuing a medical degree.

Photo Credits

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