Hill Training on a Treadmill

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I am following your Advanced 1 interactive program to prepare for the Boston Marathon. I live in lovely Indiana, and the snow and cold weather is here to stay a while. The sidewalks are not plowed, so I cannot do the prescribed hill training. I want to know if there are any treadmill workouts that you could recommend for the hill training portion of Advanced 1? I have been stuck on the treadmill the last three days and don’t love it. 


Most gym treadmills can be adjusted. You can raise the incline from 2% to 4% to Mount Everest simply by manipulating whatever buttons the machine offers.

You can do an interval workout by ignoring the pace numbers being thrown at you and simply raise the incline from 0% to 4% (or whatever the number of degrees), hold for one minute or two minutes or any prescribed length of time for your fast repeats, then lower back to 0% for an interval of recovery. (That’s where interval training gets its name: from the intervals between the fast reps.) Go from easy to hard to easy for whatever number of repeats prescribed for your program.

If your workout is to do a long run of any distance, from short to long, you can “invent” the size and length of your hills by manipulating the buttons. Some high-tech ‘mills even allow you to run downhill as well as up. This is the age of running technology with ‘mills even taking the decision out of your hands, programming variations to mimic running a hilly course outdoors.

For workouts where I have prescribed distance, if you concentrate on the time you are up on the ‘mill rather than distance covered, I think you will be all right.

Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for'Runner's World'and author of 34 books, including the best-selling'Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that more than a quarter million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks.Hal uses'TrainingPeaks'to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans.'Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here'or on'his website.