The treadmill is a place where walking and running go to die. At the highest levels of performance, athletes spend the majority of their time fine-tuning every facet of how they run. Most of us ignore this completely. We all ask the same questions: Can I run for an hour at 6.5 mph, can I run 10 miles, can I run a 5k in less than 20 minutes? These aren't the right questions. As evidenced by the minimalist/barefoot movement, some runners are looking at their form rather than time and distance. But the change doesn't have to be extreme; fixing your form doesn't require a sea change that takes months or years – try eight days.
The workout is simple: Every day, you will start walking at 1.3 mph and run at an increasing speed with the goal of running as fast as possible with an effortless stride. That's it. And bring your iPad and fire up YouTube – you are walking, after all. Watch the great runners, Lolo Jones, Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson. See how laid-back they are. When Bolt is running full speed, he's more relaxed than your walk.
Walk for 33 minutes at 1.3 mph; run for 1 minute at the speed you typically run at, or, if you are new to treadmill running, then 6 mph is a good place to start.
Walk 33 minutes at 1.3 mph; run for 1 minute, increasing your speed as much as 1 mph from the previous day, but no more.
Walk 32 minutes at 1.3 mph; run for 2 minutes and increase the speed by .1 mph.
Walk 31 minutes at 1.3 mph, then run for 3 minutes and increase the speed again.
Walk 29 minutes walking at 1.3 mph, then run 5 minutes, increasing the speed.
Walk 26 minutes at 1.3 mph, then run 8 minutes.
Walk for 21 minutes at 1.3 mph, followed by 13 minutes of running at the same speed you ran at on Day 6.
Walk for 13 minutes at 1.3 mph, then run for 21 minutes at the same speed as Day 6 and Day 7.
Rest at least 5 days before starting the cycle over again using your Day 8 speed as your new beginning speed. You can do these runs every day, 8 days in a row – or just do them when you can get to the gym, always picking up where you left off.
The running is actually the easy part. As you speed up, consciously remove anything extra from your stride that is not serving you. Simplify, economize. If you haven't been shot off the back of the mill, then you know what you are doing is right. And if it feels good, joyful, and right, then be sure to keep doing that.
For the walking, set the treadmill at 1.3 mph. It is frustratingly slow. It is also challenging in the same way that meditating is challenging. It is slow enough where you have to let go of all that which doesn't serve you. With each footfall, consciously move your body. Stop hurrying from step to step and pay attention to your body.