Tag Archives: treadmill intervals

The Bill Phillips Body For Life Inspired 10 Minute Warmup

A bit over 20 years ago, I bought the famous Bill Phillips book Body For Life. I won’t go too much into the premise of the book, its historical context at the time or its many flaws (including in-book product promotion). At the time, I found the template for fitness and diet interesting, so I bought it and followed the plan.

The book’s training method had you aggressively strength-train several days a week and follow some simple diet principles. For “cardio”, it had you do 20 minutes of effort-based high intensity intervals, which you can do in any aerobic-based way you desired, three days per week. I always used the treadmill. Back then I wasn’t the focused runner I am now, nor was I active beyond walking or cycling to commute, but I had enough fitness to run hard for some distance.

In short, the Cardio:

  • You start at a 5 out of 10 effort, whatever you feel that means
  • After two minutes you increase to 6 out of 10.
  • Each minute thereafter you again increase effort by 1, until you do a minute at 9 out of 10.
  • Then you scale back to 6 out of 10 for a minute, once again ramping each minute until at 9 out of 10, then falling back to 6 and repeating the process.
  • Once you get to 9 out of 10 for the 4th time, instead of dropping back to 6 you increase to 10 out of 10 and hold that for a full minute.
  • Then drop back to 5 and cool off for the final couple of minutes at 5 out of 10 to end the workout.

This workout always kicked me around, but I was always able to get it done. It was the only running I did, and you did it every 2-3 days so I had plenty of time to recover before the next one. I followed the Body For Life plan for a little while and then left it behind, probably in part because I lost gym access around that time.

In any case, this interval sequence resided in the back of my mind pretty much all this time. I still have the book but haven’t cracked it in a long while. The strength workouts I’ve forgotten as they’ve long since been replaced by far superior approaches.

But during recovery from my injury problems, as I started using the treadmill again, this approach came to mind as a warmup. It’s very similar to the 10 minute progressive treadmill warmup Lifetime Fitness taught me during my VO2max testing a while back. In that warmup, you jog for 2 minutes, and speed up by 0.4mph each 2 minutes before ending at a speed that is somewhat fast for you.

I realized that’s quite similar to how I did the Body For Life intervals. For 5/10 I would start at a 3.0mph walk. Then my 6 would be a fast 4.0mph walk. My 7 would be a 5.0mph slow jog. My 8 would be a 6.0mph steady run. My 9 would be a 7.0mph hard run. And the 10 out of 10 would be a nearly all-out (… well, at the time) 8.0mph run.

While the top intervals were harder than anything in the Lifetime warmup, the bottom intervals were of course much easier on me and allowed me to recover. The Lifetime warmup was harder to do because it required 10 straight minutes of progressively harder running (though, at least it was done after the fastest interval).

I realized doing an adjusted 10 minute version of the old Phillips workout as a warmup would be an easier and possibly more effective warmup, since I’d hit a faster top speed with a shorter duration, then have a walking period to cool off before re-trying.

I tried it recently and it not only felt better as expected, but I found it did a much better job getting my body ready to run at a higher intensity. So now that’s what I do as a warmup before any key indoor workouts (and you’ll notice I adjusted from the above paces a bit).

  1. I start at a 3.0mph walk for 1 minute.
  2. Increase to a 4.0mph power walk for 1 minute.
  3. Increase to a 5.0mph very easy jog for 1 minute. If too easy (e.g. I’m running into the front of the treadmill), I increase to 5.3mph, a more typical jog/recovery pace for me.
  4. Increase to 6.0mph steady run for 1 minute. If feeling comfortable after a few seconds I’ll often increase to 6.2mph.
  5. Increase to a brisk, somewhat demanding 7.0mph for 1 minute. If feeling comfortable after a few seconds I’ll often increase to 7.3mph.
  6. Drop back down to 3.0mph for 1 minute, and repeat the sequence.
  7. After the 10th minute, shut it down and go dynamic-stretch before the workout.

Since many of my treadmill sessions cruised around 5.5-6.5 mph, this whole sequence made that range feel very sustainable over a long period of time, suitably warming me up for a workout like that.

I not only do this warmup before treadmill runs but also do it before other cross training sessions, to ensure I’m at and can reach a suitable heart rate training range for a maximum training stimulus and benefit.

If I run near my gym, I could also do this warmup in the gym, then go outside and run. Sure, it can be awkward walking out of the gym 15 minutes after arriving, then back in the gym 45-75 minutes later.

I could also, with some discipline and adjustment, do the warmup outdoors by feel. That makes some sense after all, since the workout was originally intended to be done by effort rather than set parameters. I had an outdoor run yesterday that didn’t go great and had to be cut short. While not certain, perhaps it could have gone better had I thought to do an outdoor warmup like this.

You could follow the above sequence, with your own pace and parameters. Whatever a 5 out of 10 feels like or a 9 out of 10 feels like is up to you to determine (notice I don’t ever go to 10 out of 10, by the way; I stop at 9).

You could walk for 4 minutes and run just for 1. You could start at an easy run and just have it be all running. You could do it all on a spin bike or a rowing machine or elliptical. It’s up to you.

But I found this to be a great 10 minute aerobic warmup sequence, and it might work for you as well.

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Checking In 10/2/2021

There won’t be an outdoor run today. The weather was fine, but I clearly needed to sleep in quite a bit, which for me is until about 6:30am, and at that point it’s far too late in the morning to get to starting a long run and not end up in too hot conditions for the run to go fine.

So the plan today and tomorrow is to work on the treadmill at easy pace to marathon pace, by swinging two workouts. Plan A was to do a long run of about 16-18 miles today and an hour of running tomorrow, and in each I’d stop and walk after 2 miles for fluid and fuel, as I will when I run Indy.

Workout 1 is an easy interval style long run, running most of it at an easy, slow pace where every 10 minutes I’d briefly surge to marathon pace, then dial back to easy pace. I’d pause every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel, then resume. Obviously the gym treadmills stop at one hour, so that break would be a bit longer, but I’d restart and get right back at it until I’ve done three hours.

However, if not feeling like death, the 3rd hour would increase 15 minutes in from easy pace running to marathon pace running, with 30 second surges to Easy Interval pace every 10 minutes. Again, I’d stop every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel as before.

Workout 2 is a marathon pace workout that should take about 80-90 minutes, and basically practices the mechanics of race day. I start with marathon pace, then slow to a walk at 2 miles to take fluid and fuel. Once situated I get back to marathon pace until I get to 4 miles, then stop the treadmill outright for fluid and fuel in a more extended break. Once ready, I restart the treadmill and repeat the process, ultimately doing four long marathon intervals of about 2 miles each. The reason I don’t do a full hour ending with a runout is I want to simulate the true mechanics of running between the Indy aid stations, and ending each hour with a shorter run-out screws that up.

I could start on the treadmill today and find it won’t work for my body to go 3 hours today, so then I could pivot to Workout 2 and only do an hour, maybe only do three 2-mile intervals since I’ll have been running a bit by that point, then take it easy the rest of the day and go for the long Workout 1 tomorrow.

However, Workout 1 today and Workout 2 tomorrow is the plan for now, and I believe that can work just fine. If I get through this weekend with both completed as planned, I’m in very good shape for Indy given where I was a month ago.

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Checking In 10/1/2021

Yesterday’s treadmill workout ended up being a total success. Who knew.

I had briefly considered running outside at the park after work, as it was somewhat cool for Vegas outside, but when I got off work the sun turned out a bit too hot for that, so I went with Plan A and headed to the gym.

Plan A turned out just fine, even though the workout ended up taking after 7pm to finish, around 90 minutes of total time at the gym.

On the treadmill I ran a kilometer (I set the machine to show me kilometers instead of miles) at a pace defined according to my projected 10K effort by charts in Klaas Lok’s Easy interval Method (between 5.9 and 6.3 mph), then stopped for water and then jogged an easy kilometer at a much slower recovery pace. I repeated this process four times for 8K total, then finished with a “run-out” where I ran above the top pace (6.4mph) until I got to 60 total minutes of running. It turned out the run-out was a 5th kilometer interval, as I got to 9K right before the hour was up.

The workout while tiring felt good and none of the intervals were any sort of agony, never felt like I wanted them to be over. I got great practice at faster paces but not so fast that I couldn’t be sure if I could finish the workout. I guess this workout is a keeper!

On my recovery intervals I experimented with what I project to be my marathon pace, holding it for about 200-300 meters before fading back to recovery pace, as it wasn’t too much faster than the recovery pace (it’s certainly below the interval paces). This wasn’t at all difficult, so that’s a good sign.

The next treadmill workout will probably be extended marathon pace intervals, to simulate the rhythm of race day at Indy next month. I plan to run station to station, and then slow to a walk for fluid and fuel at each aid station. This will require about 10-20 minutes of running between the stations, then about 30 seconds of walking.

So for marathon intervals I run 20 minute intervals (simulating only the longest distances between stations will make the shorter ones feel easier) with 30 second walk breaks to take in water and fuel.

This can be an easier, more aerobic workout, while the easy intervals are more of a strength-endurance workout. These can be alternated during midweek. If I need to bring a long workout indoors, at this point it makes the most sense to do the marathon intervals in multiple hour-long chunks and try to at least get to 17 miles.

Today is a full rest day, and tomorrow I’d like to attempt an early morning outdoor long run. But if anything goes awry or it gets too late to start the workout, I could move it indoor and give the multi-hour intervals a shot then.

Overall, it feels great to be doing some serious run training once again, and Indy feels within reach as of now. Even though the long workouts will tell me how close I am to ready, I’m liking my chances.

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Checking In 9/28/2021

Yesterday the wildfire smoke blowing into Vegas got real hazy, and so I scuttled yesterday’s running plans (though I had already run a couple miles outside on work breaks). I also had left some gear at home so I couldn’t directly go to the gym after work. Once I got there I only did 20 minutes on the rowing machine and strength training to avoid running late. Which is fine, even though that now means three fairly easy days in a row (though I burned over 1000 calories in exercise yesterday).

The smoke is still here, and despite my misgivings about using the treadmill (I suspect both of my hamstring problems are related to its use), I want to try and incorporate some walk-to-run intervals on them tonight. If it works, I have an easy way to get 5-7 miles a day.

The plan is to warm up over 20 minutes with buildup intervals similar to Bill Phillips’ old Body For Life plan: Start at a walk and each minute step up the pace until by the 5th minute I’m running fast… then take it back down to a walk and repeat the sequence until done.

Then, after some dynamic stretching and some water, I’ll get on and run a kilometer at easy-interval pace, which is somewhere a tad faster than what people would consider “marathon pace”. It’s a moderate, steady effort. From trialing this out in past runs this is actually somewhat easy to maintain.

After a kilometer, I slow the machine to a walk to catch breath, then go to an easy jog until about 11.5 minutes in, where I’ll slow to a walk again, check in, then speed back up to mod pace at 12 minutes and repeat the process.

I’d do this 5 times for a total of one hour, then cool down as desired. This hour should net a total of about 5-5.5 miles, while the warmup will be about 1.5-1.7 miles.

Presuming I feel good tonight after work, I intend to give this a shot and see how it goes. If it works, it’ll be a safer use of the treadmill than I had done in the past, as I’ll have built in rest periods as well as faster running. (Obviously if not feeling right for any reason I won’t do it tonight and will just ride the elliptical as I’ve been doing)

I had booked travel for this weekend, but if the workout goes well, I may cancel it and try to do a long workout with a similar format on the treadmill this Saturday. We’ll see.

This is all worth a shot with the smoke continuing to be an issue in Vegas.

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