Building a Treadmill Exercise Program: Find Information on What Goes Into Building an Exercise Program.

Building a Treadmill Exercise Program:  Find Information on What Goes Into Building an Exercise Program.
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Elements of Program Design

When developing an exercise program, there are many factors that need to be considered. First off, what are your particular goals? Are you trying to burn calories and shed body fat or are you trying to build strength and muscle? What is your timeline of when you want to reach your goals? Do you have any health issues that might come into play? There are many questions such as these that need to be answered and evaluated before starting any exercise program. It would also be wise to consult with your doctor to see if he or she has any concerns about your taking part in an exercise regimen. Obviously, most of these things should be done before stepping into a gym and committing to any kind of exercise program. There are also other factors in regards to the actual program design that need to be addressed as well, and this is the F.I.T.T. principle.

What is the F.I.T.T. Principle?

The F.I.T.T. principle is the basic elements of program design that need to be considered when developing any program. The letters stand for Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type and without addressing these elements, the program would be seriously lacking in many areas. The next few paragraphs will look at each of these factors individually and apply them to a program that focuses on using the treadmill.


Frequency stands for how many days or times you plan on performing your exercise program each week. Will you be using the treadmill on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday’s only or will you be doing a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday routine? You could also do a treadmill program Monday through Friday and take the weekends off or do the program every day of the week (which isn’t recommended). Figuring out how often you are going to commit to a given program should be based on your goals, your schedule, and your experience level. If your goal is to maintain or build muscle mass, you might want to limit yourself to only a few days on the treadmill a week compared to someone wanting to lose weight who would want to do more. Based on your schedule, can you commit to 30 minutes to an hour straight or will you have to break your session up at different times throughout the day? If you are just starting out, it isn’t recommended to be doing more than 3 days a week as you could easily burn yourself out and fall off track whereas a more experienced exerciser may do more to challenge themselves further.


Intensity refers to how challenging the program is going to be. If you are just beginning, you will want to start off slow and work your way up on the treadmill. You may want to start off around 3.0 mph and walk for 20 – 30 minutes until you get more comfortable with the machine. Once you get accustomed to working with the treadmill, you can start to crank up the speed and even incorporate some incline. Both speed and incline are great ways to increase the intensity of a treadmill program in order to continually challenge your body to burn more calories during the program. As you get used to walking, try jogging a little bit. Once the jogging gets easier, start to run a little bit and get faster and faster as you go. The greater the intensity the more calories your body will burn through, but remember to progress at a slow and realistic pace. Doing too much too quickly can be dangerous.


Time is pretty self-explanatory. It basically refers to how long you will perform your treadmill program each time you go to the gym (or home if you own one). Will you be doing 30 minutes or will you be going for an hour? If you are just starting out, 20 to 30 minutes is generally recommended until you become more conditioned. You can increase up to 45 minutes to an hour if you want to as you progress, but it would be more ideal and save you time to stick with 30 minutes and increase the intensity as the program becomes easier. If you get to an hour and it starts to get too easy, drop down to either 30 or 45 minutes and switch up the intensity level to challenge you further until you can do a full hour easily again. Continue to cycle through time and intensity to continuously challenge your body further. The human body does a great job adapting to various stimuli and the more you perform the same routine, the easier it will get for your body to handle the work load. That’s great from a conditioning standpoint but bad as far as fat loss and burning calories go. You will begin to see diminishing returns until you increase the time and/or intensity.


There are many types of programs to choose from when deciding to develop an exercise program on a treadmill. Luckily, most treadmills come with preprogrammed exercise routines so most of the time all you have to do is pick your favorite one and go at it. You can choose from interval training, hills, heart rate, or just a custom workout.

Interval training has gained a lot of popularity because it does a great job of burning calories and taxing your energy systems. The basic premise of interval training is to cycle from a low intensity (ex. 3.0 mph) for 2 or 3 minutes to a high intensity (ex. 5.0 mph) for 1 or 2 minutes. This is repeated for the desired length of time (ex. 30 minutes).

Hills cycles from either high to low speed or incline as it goes up and down changing up every few minutes until the desired time is reached.

Heart Rate has you put in a desired heart rate that you want to achieve and will increase speed and/or intensity until you get to your desired heart rate. You will need to hold on to the heart rate handle bars while doing the routine. It will keep adjusting to try to maintain that heart rate throughout the duration of the program. This is great for people who have been told by their doctors or coaches to train at a certain heart rate level.

Custom is pretty much what it says it is. You have control over the intensity as far as speed and incline go. You are free to switch it up as you see fit throughout the program.

Another option would be to do a circuit training routine where you mix in treadmill work with resistance training. Typically when performing a circuit, you shuffle from one exercise to the next for one set each while targeting each muscle group. At the end of the resistance training portion, you can jump on the treadmill for a short time period and then start the cycle all over again. This is normally repeated 3 times. Another way would be to jump on the treadmill for a minute or two between each exercise in the circuit. Circuit training is a great way to keep the intensity level and calorie burn high.

Sources (2011, February 19). The Best Treadmill Pre-Programmed Workouts. Retrieved from (2011, February 19). Treadmill Workouts - Treadmill Exercises, Workouts & Routines for Weight Loss. Retrieved from