How Steep Should the Treadmill be for a Hill Workout?

How Steep Should the Treadmill be for a Hill Workout?

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 would like to do some of my hill training on a treadmill. How steep should the incline be, and what is the ideal distance for each “hill?”


There is no ideal distance, just a variety of distances, as is the case outdoors. I suggest that you set the treadmill at various degrees and see which settings are most comfortable and/or most challenging for you. Seek variety—again like you might encounter on real hills outdoors. Then forget “distance,” the number of miles the treadmill dials say you are running or walking. The treadmill numbers probably are reasonably accurate, but I would set my workout by time rather than distance. For example, you might mimic an interval workout done on a track. If it takes you 2 minutes to run each 400-meter repeat outdoors, pick that time for your hill/interval workout indoors, using the buttons to change speeds and inclines. For example: Run 2:00, walk 2:00, run 2:00, etc. If you are following one of my programs that includes speedwork, and I ask you to run 5 x 400 at 5-K pace, the workout is easily duplicated indoors. In short, experiment.

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.