Treadmill Tip of the Week: The Rule of 5

With our tips and tricks running nowhere will get you everywhere.  (Photo credit: maHidoodi)

I like the number 5. I was born in the 5th month. Some numerology b.s. says I’m a 5. My favorite posts are Friday 5’s. When it comes to treadmill runs, this number comes in very handy, very handy indeed! You see, if you follow my rule of 5 your treadmill run will fly by. Seriously! An hour on the mill will be over … just like that!

And how could that be? Because the run is broken down into 5:00 chunks. “But Salty,” I imagine you complaining, “even 5:00 can drag on a treadmill.” Ah yes! That is true. But I have that covered! Read on!

So here is my treadmill rule of 5:

To make a treadmill run less tedious, break the run into 5 minute segments. Within each five minute segment, change the pace or incline at the 2:00 mark and then change it again at the 5:00 mark.

That’s it!

I use this trick for both hard runs and easy ones. Here are two of my favorite treadmill workouts using this method: the first a slow, easy or recovery version and the second is a progression run.

Jackson 5 - Michael Jackson
5 is the magic number. (Photo credit: Michael Jacksonfan)

Easy Rule of 5 Workout

For this workout, I like to keep it really easy for the easy segments. It really flies by when the easy segments are something you look a little forward to. To explain the workout, I will use my typical paces. All you need to do for you is adjust the pace up or down to where the paces are comfortable for you.

This workout is broken up into the 5:00 chunks with 2:00 and 3:00 subsegments. It is further broken down in 15:00 larger segments. This allows the pace progression over the course of the workout to be very mild and to mimic what happens on an outside run, where you start slow and ease yourself into a slightly faster pace over the course of the run. It starts at one pace for 2:00 and then jumps .5 mph for 3:00 and then back down .4 mph for 2:00 and then back up .5 mph. Then once you reach 15:00, you drop back .6 mph. Here is how it works for an hour.

5:00 segment 2:00 pace 3:00 pace
0 – 5:00 6.7 (8:57) 7.2 (8:20)
5:00 – 10:00 6.8  7.3 
10:00 – 15:00 6.9 7.4
15:00 – 20:00 6.8 7.3
20:00 – 25:00 6.9 7.4
25:00 – 30:00 7.0 (8:34) 7.5 (8:00)
30:00 – 35:00 6.9 7.4
35:00 – 40:00 7.0 7.5
40:00 – 45:00 7.1 7.6
45:00 – 50:00 7.0 7.5
50:00 – 55:00 7.1 7.6
55:00 – 60:00 7.2 (8:20) 7.7 (7:48)
1 hour Average: ~8:20


You can do a shorter version or extend it longer. Sometimes, I’ll do hills for every 4th five minute segment. When I do this for an hour, my overall pace tends to average right around my first faster segment. This really is amazing. When I get to 45:00, I don’t think “ARGH! I have 15 more minutes” or “Crud! Almost 2 more miles!” I think, “Oh wow! Only 3 segments left and I’m done!” I’ve been doing this workout for years and it still does the trick for passing the time.

Rule of 5 Treadmill Progression Run

This is my favorite harder run to do now that I’m not training-training. It’s hard, but not crazy hard and it’s actually fun. It eases you into the faster pace much more than a traditional tempo, which I like. The middle is definitely the hardest part. By the time I get to the last 15 minutes, the endorphins are pumping like crazy and I feel invincible! Plus, it’s nice when 6:44 feels like a break!

I will explain this workout using my paces again. Just plug and chug paces that would work for you. For this workout, I start super duper easy for the first 2:00 and then just like in the easy workout, I bump up the pace .5 mph. Then at 5:00, I drop back down .3 mph and then back up .5 mph for 3:00 and repeat this pattern for the entire run. I start around 9:00 pace and end a little faster than 6:30 pace!

5:00 segment 2:00 pace 3:00 pace
0 – 5:00 6.7 (8:57) 7.2 (8:20)
5:00 – 10:00 6.9 7.4
10:00 – 15:00 7.1 7.6
15:00 – 20:00 7.3 7.8
20:00 – 25:00 7.5 8.0
25:00 – 30:00 7.7 (7:48) 8.2 (7:19)
30:00 – 35:00 7.9 8.4
35:00 – 40:00 8.1 8.6
40:00 – 45:00 8.3 8.8
45:00 – 50:00 8.5 9.0
50:00 – 55:00 8.7 9.2
55:00 – 60:00 8.9 (6:44) 9.4 (6:28)
1 hour Average: ~7:25


Just like with the easy workout, you can change this up any way you want. You can do a break segment if you need to catch your breath. Sometimes I only drop back .2 mph in between 5:00 chunks instead of .3 if I’m doing a shorter run and want to get in a warm-up, but also get the pace down.

Do you have a pace/incline trick to make the time pace more quickly on the treadmill?

For more Treadmill Tips of the Week, go here.

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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    1. Yes! That does get so tedious! I have been doing these 5:00 chunk workouts for so long I’m not sure I could run without touching the pace or incline for the entire run 🙂 If you try this, let me know how it goes!

  1. I swear by the rule of 5 when having to do long workouts or runs on the tm. My favorite is 5*5 mins tempo w 2 mins rest. When I want to start bumping up my mileage to get back into running shape and increase the miles slowly and have to do it on the tm–I also do the 5 min progression. Last night, I ran for 45 mins on the mill starting at 6.9 and increasing the speed every 5 mins. I averaged right around 8:30 pace for the entire run, and it just felt good and not taxing.

    And just to note about 5s, this morning in Boulder, it was -5, so my workout today was on the tm. Ironic!

  2. These are great – I normally do a minute by minute progression. My favorite is to start out with a warm-up pace for 5-10 minutes then increase the speed by .1 every minute until I’ve reached a tempo pace. The progression means the speed doesn’t feel as hard and by the end of the workout, I’m sweating. Changing things up is a must for me to make the workouts go by faster, which is why I am dreading the long runs this winter.

  3. I’m a die-hard anti-treadmiller and have been a long time, but when I tried this for a hard workout (my paces were a but slower than Salty’s of course) I have to say I really liked it! I couldn’t believe I was breezing through a 7:20 pace at the end. It wasn’t easy, but it felt great! I felt like such a badass with my “easy” pace at 7:50, when usually 8 minute miles are tough for me to hit even at the peak of my workout.

  4. Good ideas–I’ll have to try these out. I have good luck messing with my incline to pass the time. I’ll start with a high incline, and reduce it by 1 every min. Simultaneously, I begin at a slow speed and increase it every 30 sec. It keeps my mind busy, rewards me, and works me.