The treadmill doesn’t have to be synonymous with the dreadmill, especially when icy roads, heavy snow and extreme cold threaten to wreak havoc on your winter training. For many competitive runners, the treadmill can be a valuable training tool when the harsh realities of winter threaten to compromise the quality of your key workouts.

Inserting a little variety into your treadmill workouts not only helps break up the boredom of running in place, it will also catapult you into kick-ass shape when running outside isn’t an advisable option.

“My advice is to vary the incline and speed on your treadmill runs,” writes coach Greg McMillan. “Don’t just set the pace and leave it. Run up some hills—some small and some large. Visualize your outdoor routes and mimic their terrain on the treadmill. And adjust your pace from time to time.”

Keeping that expert advice in mind, use the following three workouts as inspiration to burn a little rubber this winter and improve your speed, strength and stamina heading into the spring racing season.

Alternating Quarters

The warmup: 1-2 miles of easy running, followed by 6 x 20-second strides 

The workout: Alternate running 0.25 miles at your 5K-10K race pace with 0.25 miles at 10 seconds per mile slower than your 5K-10K race pace. Repeat this sequence for as long as possible until you can no longer maintain the target paces. “This is a workout you could do every week of the year and have it be the right workout at the right time. You get some specific work but the faster rests prevent it from becoming so anaerobic that it is dangerous in the base phase,” explains Nate Jenkins, the seventh-place finisher at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon who represented the U.S. at the 2009 world championships.

The cooldown: 1-2 miles of easy running

Progression Session

The warmup: 1-3 miles of easy running

The workout: Following your 2-3-mile warmup, run 2 miles at your current marathon race pace, then, for each of the next 4 miles, increase your speed by 10 seconds per mile. So, for example, if you run your 2 marathon-pace miles at 8:00, your next 4 miles would be run 7:50, 7:40, 7:30, 7:20. This roughly equates to progressing from marathon pace down to 10K pace over the course of 6 miles—a challenging task that will keep you on your toes. “A progression run allows the body to thoroughly warm up at a slower pace before speeding up to a pace that requires more muscle power, greater hip extension and more agile movements,” writes elite coach Brad Hudson of Boulder, Colo.

The cooldown: 1-3 miles of easy running

Hill Climbs

The warmup: 1-3 miles of easy running, followed by 6 x 20-second strides

The workout: After warming up, increase the incline on your treadmill to a 6-8 percent grade and perform 6-8 half-mile “climbs” at your 10K race pace with 3-4 minutes of easy, flat running between reps. Three-time Mount Washington Road Race winner Eric Blake does many hill workouts on the treadmill to simulate the demanding inclines of the 7.6-mile all-uphill route. You don’t have to go quite as steep as the 10-12 percent grades he tries to replicate, but hitting some long hill repeats on the treadmill over the winter will keep you from getting bored and help build a solid foundation of strength to power you through your spring speed workouts.

The cooldown: 1-3 miles of easy running