Last week I was able to run on a treadmill for 2 miles at a constant speed of 6.0 (which is a 10 minute mile pace) at an avg elevation of 3 (I started at 4 and dropped as I got more and and more fatigued).

Today I was able to run 2 miles at constant 6.0 and avg 4.0 (I started at 4.0 and kept at 4.0 elevation).

So that means all else constant (i.e. same amount of flexibility, strength and cardio vascular endurance) that I gained only muscular endurance (in my quads) right?

More importantly I pose this question as when it comes to running I only am aware of runners who wish to increase their speed or distance. Do runners ever try to specifically increase their incline/vertical distance? Is there any particular reason or benefit for this?

The only reason that comes to mind is if someone is trying to jog up a large hill or mountain (that's not too steep).

Note: I added cycling as a tag as I'm equally interested and the question is identical. Normally cyclist try to increase speed or distance. Any reason why a cyclist would specifically train for incline (e.g. on a machine a cyclist would up the gear but keep pace and distance fixed). And would there even be any difference or is the answer to cyclist increasing elevation identical to runner increasing elevation. I'm interested in both as I like to use the treadmill and machine bicycle as well, although more-so I use the treadmill.

  • Ah, I wasn't aware of such a community.
    – Rashad
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 12:30
  • hillrunner.com/training/tmillchart.php Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 16:01
  • Ah cool. So as @Erhann said more incline can mean more speed but ^ has how much faster per incline increase.
    – Rashad
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 16:43

1 Answer 1


I think you should dissociate the muscular and the cardio-vascular endurance.

Analyzing your perfomance

First of all, I will assume that you are somewhat new to running (since 2 miles is a relatively short distance). In that regard, you are listing two of you latest perfomances stating that there is a small improvement between those.

Pace aside (I don't know if you ran faster the second time), I would say that this (small) difference could be due to several things :

  • You simply felt better that day. As silly as it sounds, it is something that happens a lot for runners. Some days you feel good, some others you don't.
  • Your cardiovascular capacities went up. This could be a reasonnable explanation if you are a beginner.
  • You put on some muscle on (quads mostly)

Let's not forget that these last two explanations won't probably be visible in less that a few weeks, except for a complete beginner. It takes up to months to see an actual and significant improvement in performances.

Increasing elevation

2 good things about elevation :

  • It builds some muscle. Ever noticed how thin runners legs are ? Well, running is not a good way of adding mass. Running uphill is a solution and it clearly strengthen your legs. You should obviously have a decent diet (protein intake especially) if you actually want to capitalize on your trainings.
  • It makes your training harder ! Rule of thumb is, for every 100m of elevation, you could add 500m to 1km to your total distance on a flat circuit. This would be the equivalent of running faster, on a cardiovascular standpoint.

That being said, a good training is not a exhausting one. You should spend around 60-80% of your total amount of training at a comfortable pace. Not only is this true for beginners, but also for experienced runners.

While muscle mass is a nice thing to have for runners, it is not what matters the most. Cardiovascular endurance prevails in most cases, and it is most likely where most of the improvements are going to be made.

As for cyclists, this is even more critical. Their performance is tightly linked to their overall strengh, and the power they are able to deliver. Getting stronger through elevation training is obviously a very nice way to get better.

  • Thanks for the answer. In HS I did cross country my best 3 mile being a 24min (so not the best CC runner out there) and the most we ran (during summer practices) was 10 miles. Throughout my HS and now (2nd year in college) I've been weight training or playing other sports. But since HS I havn't done any heavy running. So my goal is just to be able to run 5 miles again within 45 min. Basically I'm not entirely new to running, but relatively new (i.e. I havn't run rigorously in the last 2 years). Just pointing this out in case you may change some of your points noting this information.
    – Rashad
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 15:43

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