How to Efficiently Run a Mile on a Treadmill

A knowledgeable coach or fellow runner can help you set goals.

A knowledgeable coach or fellow runner can help you set goals.

A treadmill can be a great asset to runners, particularly those who are newer at it and unsure of their capabilities or just how fast they should run. The treadmill allows you to precisely select your speed, and ensures that you stick to a uniform pace, which -- just as when driving a car -- is the most energy-efficient way to go about it. Timing yourself over a mile gives you objective data about your current fitness level.

Perparation and Warming Up

Estimate your maximum heart rate, or MHR. Subtract your age from 220 to get this number.

Multiply your estimated MHR by 0.80 and 0.90. This will be the range within which you attempt to keep your heart rate when running your timed mile. For example, if you are 30 years old, your estimated MHR is 220-30, or 190, and your target heart rate range is 152 (0.80 x 190) to 171 (0.90 x 190). Therefore, you will try to keep your heart rate between 152 and 171 during the meat of your workout.

Stand on the treadmill and set the belt speed to no faster than 3 mph. Keep the incline at 0 percent.

Walk for three to five minutes, then increase the speed to 4.5, 5, 5.5 or 6 mph, whichever feels like the most comfortable jogging pace.

Count your steps for a period of six seconds -- the console on the treadmill should include a stopwatch function. Multiply by 10 to get your steps per minute. Whether you're jogging or running at an all-out mile race pace, your most efficient cadence is about 180 to 190 steps per minute.

Jog for three to five minutes at this speed. You are now warmed up and ready to run a mile for time. Stop the belt and reset the time to zero.

Running a Mile

Increase the speed of the belt to the pace you think you can hold for one mile without quite going all-out. If you have been running for at least a month or two, this is likely to be somewhere between 7 mph, or 8:35 per mile, and 10 mph, or 6:00 per mile.

Check your pulse after two minutes. If you don't have a heart-rate monitor and the treadmill doesn't offer this information, press your index and middle fingers against the carotid artery on the side of your neck, just beneath your jaw. Count for six seconds and multiply by 10 to get your heart rate.

Speed the belt up by 0.5 to 1 mph if your heart rate is below 80 percent of your MHR. Slow it down by the same amount if it is above 90 percent. Otherwise, make no adjustments.

Keep your stride rate at 180 to 190 steps per minute. For maximum efficiency, match your steps to your breathing. Some runners inhale for one step and exhale for two, a one to two pattern; others prefer a two to two pattern. This helps you avoid side stitches and keeps you focused on rhythm.

Finishing and Cooling Down

Watch the odometer on the treadmill. Once you reach 1 mile or 1.61 kilometers, make a note of your time and immediately decrease the speed of the belt to 2 to 3 mph.

Take your pulse again as the belt speed begins to slow. Again, it should be no greater than 90 percent of your MHR. If it is, you probably ran within 20 to 30 seconds of your all-out capability for a mile. If it is closer to 80 percent of MHR, you can very likely maintain this pace for a 5K, 10K or even longer, depending on your experience.

Walk for three to five minutes and stop the treadmill. Drink 8 to 16 ounces of water or a sports-replacement beverage. You now have an anchor point you can use to structure future running workouts.

Items you will need

  • Lightweight running shoes
  • Indoor running attire
  • Heart-rate monitor (optional)
 

About the Author

L.T. Davidson has been a professional writer and editor since 1994. He has been published in "Triathlete," "Men's Fitness" and "Competitor." A former elite cyclist with a Master of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Miami, Davidson is now in the broadcast news business.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images