one minute treadmill intervals, three ways.

by Janetha on August 22, 2010

in moves

hey everyone! hope you are all enjoying your weekend.

i did cardio three times this week. not going to lie, it has been a doozy for me to get back into regular cardio routines.

i already hate cardio as it is, but i know it is essential for me to stay healthy.  cardiovascular health is not something to take lightly.. we’ve only got one heart.  we want it to be strong and healthy!



plus, what if i have to out-run a grizzly bear? i need to be in tip-top shape.

i read somewhere that when you take time off from regular exercise, the first thing to go is your cardiovascular endurance.  well, i can confirm (through personal experience) that what i read is true.  to put it bluntly.. getting back on the cardio wagon was a bitch.

however, what i have noticed is my endurance has also come back quite quickly.  the three routines i have to share with you today gradually get more difficult.  if you have been slacking off on your cardio like i was, do these three workouts in order, every other day, and you will be back to you speedy gonzalez self in no time!

another thing to mention about these workouts.. like i said earlier—i hate cardio. i love the feeling i get after a nice cardio session.. but the workout itself?  i just don’t like it. it is boring. even if i am running outside.. i just get so bored. weight lifting is fun and exciting for me. i love switching up the moves every couple minutes and working different muscles. but cardio? it is just minute after minute of repetitive hell.

when i am on the treadmill, i feel like this guy:



kill me.

SO.. i do minute intervals for two reasons:

  1. doing your cardio with intervals allows you to get a better workout in less time. 20 minutes of tough intervals will serve a better purpose than 40-60 minutes of jogging at a steady pace.
  2. i am WAY to A.D.D. to not mess with the treadmill controls every minute. it keeps me entertained.

with that said, here are the three treadmill workouts!  remember, the first one is easy and they gradually get tougher. 

if you are not sure what “RPE” means, you can read my post about it here.  “RPE” stands for “rate of perceived exertion” and it is a scale from 1 to 10.  a 1 is sitting on the couch. a 10 is running from a grizzly bear.  you can gauge the speeds in these workouts according to your fitness level.  i have noted the RPE for each minute on the workouts below.  this will tell you how hard you should be working.

workout #1: 7 minute sets with increasing speed 

this is a 30 minute workout that starts out at a moderate pace, builds up to a quick speed and then allows you to recover for one minute.  with each set, you actually start out faster than the set prior.  if this is too hard, you can keep every set at the same speeds as the first set when doing intervals, recovery time is key. you want your heart rate all over the place to get the most bang for your cardio buck.

minute # speed (MPH) RPE
1 5.0 4
2 5.5 5
3 6.0 6
4 6.5 6
5 7.0 7
6 7.5 8
7 3.0 3
8 5.5 5
9 6.0 6
10 6.5 7
11 7.0 7
12 7.5 8
13 8.0 8
14 3.0 3
15 6.0 5
16 6.5 6
17 7.0 7
18 7.5 8
19 8.0 8
20 8.5 9
21 3.0 3
22 6.5 5
23 7.0 6
24 7.5 7
25 8.0 8
26 8.5 9
27 9.0 10
28 3.0 3
29 3.0 3
30 3.0 3

if you feel like you need longer to recover from the final set, feel free to stay on the treadmill until you are breathing comfortably.  you want to let your heart rate slow before stopping movement all together.

workout #2: 5 minute sets with increasing gaps

this is a 20 minute routine that follows the body-for-life high intensity interval training format.  the change i have made is i make each set increasingly harder because the gap between the speed increase each minutes gets larger and larger as the sets progress.  after a two minute warmup, the sets start.  you will always start the set at 6.0 miles per hour.  during the first set, you increase your speed by 0.5 each minute. the second set, you increase your speed by 0.6 each minute, and so on. you finish off the workout with one extra minute, running as fast as your little heart will allow.

minute # speed (MPH) RPE
1 5.0 3
2 5.5 4
3 6.0 5
4 6.5 6
5 7.0 7
6 7.5 8
7 6.0 5
8 6.6 6
9 7.2 7
10 7.8 8
11 6.0 5
12 6.7 6
13 7.4 7
14 8.1 8-9
15 6.0 5
16 6.8 6
17 7.6 7
18 8.4 8-9
19 9.5 (or as fast as you can handle) 10
20 2.0 3

you can stretch this workout into 30 minutes if you prefer, but you really will get a kick-butt cardio session in just the 20 minutes.

workout #3: ramp it up with incline intervals

i didn’t incorporate an incline in the two routines prior, but the truth is.. that little “incline” button can really transform your workout! even a small incline increase makes a big difference on the intensity of your workout.  don’t be afraid to ramp it up! for this 30 minute routine, i increased not only the speed but also the incline with each minute.  having that fifth minute each set at a 3% incline while running at 8 MPH really made my heart work.  i sometimes wanted to give up, but i just kept saying things like “only 20 more seconds and you can go back to 6 MPH and 1% incline!” 

that is the nice thing about 1 minute intervals. they kick your butt, but they don’t last long!

i have included a 5 minute warmup and a 5 minute cooldown.  the interval sets are 5 minutes and i chose to do four sets.  you can make the workout longer by adding more sets, but why would you want to do that to yourself?

minute # speed (MPH) incline (%) RPE
1-5 5.0 0 3-4
6 6.0 1.0 5
7 6.5 1.5 6
8 7.0 2.0 7
9 7.5 2.5 8
10 8.0 3.0 9
11 6.0 1.0 5
12 6.5 1.5 6
13 7.0 2.0 7
14 7.5 2.5 8
15 8.0 3.0 9
16 6.0 1.0 5
17 6.5 1.5 6
18 7.0 2.0 7
19 7.5 2.5 8
20 8.0 3.0 9
21 6.0 1.0 5
22 6.5 1.5 6
23 7.0 2.0 7
24 7.5 2.5 8
25 8.0 3.0 9
26-30 5.0 0 3-4

if this workout was too easy for you, try starting the sets at 2.0 incline instead of 1.0.  or, alternatively, you can increase the incline by a full 1% every minute instead of 0.5%

well, there you have it! three killer cardio workouts that are quick (but not easy!)  i hope this has given you some ideas and you try the routines out.

you probably should.

i mean, you never know when you are going to have to out-run this guy:



and for the record, he can run about 40 MPH.


1. how do you feel about cardio? love? hate? wishy washy? i’m sure my feelings are clear.

2. what is your *favorite* form of cardio? does snowboarding count? because that is probably the only kind i actually enjoy. wait, i know, i like to hike and bike as well!

xo. janetha g.

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jodie August 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I love cardio. My fav is running.

Amanda (Two Boos Who Eat) August 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

If this makes any sense….I love cardio but only when it’s over. I feel great afterwards. Before and during, I am miserable! Now that I can’t run (I hurt myself!) I miss it so much!

Rachael August 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Running away from grizzly bears is a very valid reason to up one’s cardio – ever since I lived in Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming and had one in my garbage (fresh from the city, I was, and not schooled in good bear behavior) I’ve had a healthy fear of the critters.
By the hardest, I’ve learned to like cardio – still feel like a hamster on a wheel sometimes, but I’m making peace with machines in the gym.

Lauren August 22, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Haha, aww love you always make me laugh. I have a love/hate relationship with cardio. Most days, I love it, but other days, I hate it. I usually find that once I start, my hate turns to tolerate, to like and then I LOVE the way I feel afterwards. It’s a complicated relationship but we managed to work it out.

Hope the weekend was awesome for you my dear!

andrea August 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm

my favorite is Zumba…i could never do 8 or 9 on the treadmill i wish i could!!!

Erica August 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I get very bored on the treadmill. I do it if necessary, but much prefer group fitness or running outside!! I do run before I teach pump to warm up. Maybe I will try your interval approach!

Leda August 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Im obsessed with trail running. All the twists and turns in the trails and the rocks and roots give me something I have to pay attention to other than the fact that I’m working out. Staring at pavement is just way too boring. And you get to be in the woods with nature and have much prettier views than running on the sidewalk! Th fact that wolves, cougars and bears have been spotted in my home area also puts a little added addrenaline in me to help me run faster. (luckly I haven’t seen any yet!)

thedelicateplace August 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm

i used to be a chronic cardio monster but then i’d just wind up so dang haaangry all the time. i now only do 20-30 mins 3x a week and i do a hike or ashtanga yoga 2-3x weekly now. it’s funny because i’m the thinnest i’ve ever been and 10lbs less than my days. ironic? maybe but i’d much rather do less and see more results by making my abs in the kitchen :)

kbwood August 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm

i do love cardio!! but not LONG cardio- i LOVE intervals!!!! weight training is DA JAM!!!

homecookedem August 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I actually love cardio!! My favorite form of cardio is most definitely running. I haven’t really been able to run since being pregnant (hurts when the boobies go up and down, sorry TMI!), but I’m hoping to be able to get back into it when I’m cleared by my doctor post-baby in the spring. For now I’m doing walking for cardio workouts and believe me, walking is a GOOD cardio workout for me right now – I get winded so easily now! ;)

Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble) August 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I have a love/hate relationship with cardio. I LOVE running…outside. But inside? Definitely feel like a hamster trapped on a wheel. I love being active, but much prefer running/walking/biking/hiking outside to anything inside.

I do love HIIT workouts to mix it up if I’m inside, though- these are great!

Favorite form is running outside, by far! :)


Naomi(onefitfoodie) August 22, 2010 at 6:31 pm

looove these! you KNOW I am a huge HIIT fan and anything that doesn’t keep me on the machine as long and i am all for it! :) thank you for writing those out..that BFL one is BRUTALLLL

I also have been doing intervals sprinting uphill and walking uphill (1 min each at about 5% grade btwn 3.5 speed and 6.5 speed) its killer!


my fav cardio recently is this BOSU workout I have been doing wowza its kick butt!

lindsay August 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm

well, I love cardio but feel like a whimp without my weights or intervals. I love cardio outside like trail running. These intervals on the treadmill look awesome. Definitely going to try them.

*Andrea* August 22, 2010 at 8:39 pm

i love running but i am totally the same with treadmills… even if i am not doing a HIIT that’s planned i tend to play with the numbers and make games sort of in my head about when to change the speed etc. – makes the workout go by so much quicker ;)

i love yoga too – some classes really get my heart going surprisingly, with challenging poses

Runeatrepeat August 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I wish all I ever had to do is run. I only do anything else because I should.

Laura @ Starloz August 22, 2010 at 10:21 pm

I hate cardio but it’s what i do normally every session with my trainer!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) August 23, 2010 at 12:32 am

cardio..well i used to think that running was the only way. then i realized walking is fine too. then i discovered yoga and thought I was “done” with my fitness journey. 10 years went by. Then i found lifting. And realized i am only beginning :)

actorsdiet August 23, 2010 at 12:36 am

i. hate. cardio.

Kerry August 23, 2010 at 1:03 am

great post! i’ve saved all these workouts because i’m hoping when my routine of new work starts again, so will my workouts!

Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) August 23, 2010 at 4:13 am

I’m a cardio girl at heart! It’s the perfect time for me to zonk out and think. Especially in running and hiking.

Although kayaking and tennis are fun too. :D

MelissaNibbles August 23, 2010 at 6:25 am

I like cardio, it can be fun sometimes. My favorite form of cardio is sex. I especially like being on top.

Lisa August 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Loves ;)

Annabel @ August 23, 2010 at 8:16 am

Sweet! bookmarked this

LG August 23, 2010 at 8:52 am

I love cardio and I love the challenge of interval training, but right now we’re trying to conceive. Most of the research I’ve done on high speed or super high intensity workouts suggests that it isn’t great for fertility…something about the adrenaline your body produces. :0( So I’m trying to keep it to the 30 Day Shred and 30 minute medium pace runs. But those workouts look great and effective!

julie August 23, 2010 at 9:53 am

mmm that’s why i love spin! great music + intervals & leaving with sweat stains the size of my face always makes me feel MUCH better.

you’re a stud though for reals and i’m loving this inclination one!

lisaou11 August 23, 2010 at 10:39 am

I’d say I’m wishy washy. I go through major phases. Right now its a not so much on the cardio front–thats why I like Zumba–its so fun it doesnt feel like zumbaing!

and I think you can count snowboarding–its hard work! I wakeboarded this weekend for the first time and loved it!

GetHealthyWithHeather August 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

The only way for me to get through a treadmill run is with intervals. I love running outside but at times the ‘dreadmill’ comes in handy.

lowandbhold August 23, 2010 at 11:12 am

I love to run when I’m training for something and do cardio classes like Zumba and Spinning BUT when I’m not training or at a class, cardio sucks balls. Big ones.

Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary) August 23, 2010 at 11:12 am

Do I like cardio… *sigh* I try reaaaaaally hard to pretend like I do, but I don’t. If I could some how only life weights I would! HA! I will say, I loooove the way I feel AFTER cardio… so, does that mean I love it ? Hmmm, not sure. If I have music or a buddy, it helps.

My favorite form of cardio is riding my bike. I love that I can be outside (and usually with Brian) in the sunshine and fresh air. I actually love riding my bike, so I guess that means I like cardio ? Very complicated HAHA!

hundredtenpounds August 23, 2010 at 11:22 am

I am a Cardio-junkie. I love it. I prefer it to weight training–even though I know I should be doing more weights.

mom August 23, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Thanks! I will be using the easiest one tonight as I get back on my wagon to a healthier heart! While I was busy beating you at Boggle we forgot to get out my heart monitor, dust it off, and give me a tutorial!! I may be calling xoxo!!

I think the” hating cardio” is hereditary – I don’t like it either – would much rather be lifting. I guess making and eating cookies doesn’t count as an alternative cardio work out hahaha :)

Jen August 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I’m a cardio junky! I love Turbo Jam :)


Tamizn August 23, 2010 at 3:07 pm

I love cardio especially intervals x x

RunToTheFinish August 23, 2010 at 3:08 pm

yeahhh I totally agree with intervals and not getting bored on teh treadmill! I’m linking this up for my post tomorrow!

thehungryartist August 23, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Cool post – I will be referring to it when my ankle is healed (bad sprain and strain — going on three months now), because I will be so out of shape in turns of cardio on a treadmill by that point. I’ve been making do with elliptical and bike and swimming.

Hilarious pic of the hamster. It reminded me of something from my son’s Weird But True book: a hamster runs an average of 8 MILES a night on an exercise wheel!!

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