Treadmill Incline Versus Speed


As you may know, my Mom is a Diabetic as well, so her and I have long talks about our diagnosis and what we are doing to help reverse its effects.

Half Marathon Challenge

Recently I was telling my Mom about my new exercise patterns and how I was building up to a half marathon event. As part of my workout pattern, I like to burn calories to help reduce my weight further than the change in eating habits has already done. During that discussion, I mentioned that while doing a 5K, I can burn as much as 1000 calories.

My Mom was amazed at this number and wanted to know my secret. At the time, I didn’t consider it much of a secret, but more of how I was working out. From this discussion, my Mom and I began to compare notes on how we worked out and what factors had the largest impact.

Incline Versus Pace Challenge

After this discussion, I decided to put my thoughts about what I felt was the difference to the test and started the treadmill incline versus speed challenge. My quest was to figure out which factor (incline or speed) would give me the best workout from a caloric and stamina perspectives.

Over the last few weeks, I have been working out at three 5K workouts a week, and two 10K workouts a week, where I do two 5K in one workout to make a 10K. (NOTE: the treadmills at my gym only allow me to workout for 60 minutes at a time and since it takes me about 40-45 minutes to complete a 5K, I have to break up a 10K workout).

So I am doing seven 5K workouts a week. I figured this was enough 5K workouts to experiment with incline versus speed.

The Results

First I looked at the incline. I like to incline the treadmill up to 15 (the maximum) and then set a comfortable pace. I usually start around 4.0 MPH and then move up to about 4.2 MPH as the workout progresses. I have found that the incline really makes a big difference for me. In one of my more recent workouts, I was able to complete a 5K workout at 46:25 at an incline of 15. When I crossed the 3.1-mile mark I had burned 1005 calories given my age and weight. This seemed really good, but how does it compare to increasing the speed?

For the second 5K that I was going to complete for the day, I decided to change things up. I placed the treadmill down to an incline of 0 (zero, the lowest setting), and increased the speed to 6.0 MPH. Now I have to admit, I don’t have a ton of stamina. I can run at this pace for about a quarter mile, then I need a quarter mile to walk at a pace of about 4.0 MPH then back up to 6.0 MPH. I did this for another 5K, alternating speed, but leaving the incline alone. At the end of the workout, I had burned 444 calories in 42:33. I was almost 4 minutes faster but burned less than 50% of the calories.


Get your incline on. Increasing the incline on the treadmill makes a huge difference. Essentially you are walking/running uphill which requires more effort and thus burns more calories.

What have you found to be better for you, incline or speed? Share your comments below.

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