Treadmill running can add an extra dimension to your training and can help you train in a controlled environment when your conditions may not be optimal outside. For example, hill training can be very hard if you live in one of the plains states or along a coast line. And running an interval workout may not make sense on a hot summer day or with multiple layers of clothes that you need for the winter. Treadmills are also a convenient if you can’t leave your house while your child is napping, or for those that are confined to an isolated space. Treadmill running offers a solution to these training dilemmas so you won’t miss those important workouts.
If you are injured or coming back from an injury, treadmills offer a softer surface than roads. The shock of your feet pounding pavement can be partially absorbed from the mechanisms of the treadmill. Treadmill running can also give you a good controlled experiment to see how your training is coming along especially if there’s a heart rate monitor on the treadmill. By doing the same or progressive workouts and measuring your heart rate, you’ll be able to see if the workout is getting easier for you to do. My FitBit Surge also has a nice feature that records my treadmill workouts in the app's fitness log.
While I still prefer the outdoor running over running inside on a treadmill, the treadmill has helped me stay on track through some of the hardest parts of my training plan. I’ve run some of my best hill and interval workouts on a treadmill. Treadmills can force you to run your goal pace for intervals, but be very careful not to set too aggressive of a pace…as the treadmill can throw you off if you’re not careful.
For interval workouts, treadmill running can be a real advantage. When you start off, chose interval based on your goal race and time. For example, if my goal is to break 19 minutes in a 5k (sub 6-minute pace). I’ll want to run ¼ mile intervals at a slightly quicker pace than race pace or 1:20 per quarter. For the marathon, try doing 1-mile intervals using the same logic.
Road running offers some challenges that treadmill running can’t simulate…like rolling hills, turns, and uneven terrain. And while a treadmill is a great tool, it can not completely replace outdoor running if you’re training for an outdoor running race. To make up for this, I usually set the treadmill incline to 1.0% grade during interval running to account for some of these road-running challenges. Percent grade is a ratio of vertical to horizontal distance. For example, running at a 1.0% grade on a treadmill for a mile is equivalent to running a slow uphill of 52 feet over the course of 1 mile (5,280 feet). Setting a low uphill grade is a good way to add some more benefit to a treadmill running workout.
If you’re setting out to run an interval routine, here’s a guide to help you convert from miles per hour to the pace you want to run a mile or ¼ mile interval:
|Pace (mph)||Mile Pace||1/4 Mile Pace|
If the weather’s got you out of your routine, try treadmill running for some quality workouts. And while the above discussion addresses mostly interval workouts, a good treadmill can also be used for heart rate training, hill workouts, or even a nice long run. Make sure you stage some water bottles in the cup holders and if you have access to a fan that can also make the workout a bit more bearable. You can a helpful hints and treadmill equipment reviews on the treadmill buying tips page. Good luck and happy running!