Training For Your Goal Race on a Treadmill

While some runners feel strongly about running outside no matter the circumstance, weather or time of day, for some runners that simply is not possible. Can you successfully complete a training cycle with all treadmill running? Can you do marathon training on a treadmill? Are there benefits to running on a treadmill? Downfalls?

Are there certain distances that are more conducive to treadmill workouts? Are there limits? How do you focus your training?

Quality Runs

A treadmill is a great tool for getting in quality runs. An excellent tool for progression runs or fartleks, the time will go much faster than you would expect for this type of activity.

training on a treadmill
Fit Formula Wellness

Since running on a treadmill for a long period of time can be mind-numbing, a progression ladder can keep your brain occupied. One way to achieve this is to pick up the pace at regularly prescribed intervals.

For example, if you are planning to run for sixty minutes, warm up for 10 minutes at an easy pace. Increase the speed by a predetermined amount every quarter mile. This is a very effective way to train for a 10K. The hard work you do on tired legs will make race day feel easier and, hopefully, produce negative splits!

Speed Work

A treadmill is an excellent tool for speedwork! Sure, a track is handy. But what do you do if you live in the north in the dead of winter? What if you have small children at home? Or if you have a short amount of time and don’t want to leave the office, but have a gym at your disposal? For these, and many other, reasons a treadmill can be an integral component to your training!

speedwork on a treadmill
Irish Times

Speed pyramids are a great tool for building speed. Start out with an easy workout then create a pyramid for yourself. For a pyramid, think to work your way up then down the pyramid. For the base do longer intervals (either distance or time) at an easier pace, then your times (or distances) get shorter and your speed gets faster. Excellent for 5K training, this works on fast twitch movement.

Another way to train is to build your own ladder. An example of that:

Speed Ladder

When attempting a ladder-like this one think effort when you are laddering up, then try to match the speed you hit when you ladder back down. So if you are aiming for mile pace or 90-95% effort for the 400, hit that same pace on the way back down. Again, the work you do on tired legs translates to excellent times on race day!

  • 800 warm up
  • 400 m
  • 800 m
  • 1200 m
  • 1600 m
  • 1200 m
  • 800 m
  • 400 m
  • 800 cool down

Tips for Going the Long Haul

If you’re training for a distance race, say a half or full marathon, what does that look like for a treadmill runner? Can you survive super long runs on a treadmill? The consensus is yes. Some tips for running long distances on the treadmill include:

Cover the Readout – Sometimes you’re better off NOT seeing how far or long you have run.

Find Something to Focus On – If you are just looking for time on feet, consider popping in a movie. If you can zone out and just put it into autopilot, that may help.

Show Up With a Plan – If you hit the treadmill with a workout plan, time flies.

Music – A great motivator, music can also keep your brain busy. Consider the trick of three up-tempo songs followed by one easy song. Change your tempo based on your running music.

Audiobooks – Another great way to keep your brain busy is to

Comfort Zone for Self Proclaimed Gym Rats

For people who enjoy spending time at their local gym, a treadmill seems a natural fit. Some athletes simply enjoy the convenience of completing all of their workouts in the same space whether it is weight lifting, cross-training or running.

Perks of Treadmill Training

When pressed with the task of enumerating perks of treadmill training, the running community does not disappoint.

Average Joe Speaks Out!

Laura Ryan Foley
Foley – March 2019

Laura Ryan Foley – “For five years, I traveled the world as I trained, doing virtual “runs” everywhere from Hawaii to Paris to Cape Town to Tokyo. Planning my runs became a sub-hobby to running itself.” The downside? Foley states that training on the treadmill, “can get you 80-90% to your goal. I had the speed, I had the incline, but I did not have the terrain. One of my half-marathons was on a trail of loose, sandy gravel that shredded my legs because I had not trained on it.”

Kelly Rogers
Rogers – Thanksgiving 10K (date unknown)

Kelly Rogers, “After the second set of twins were born, I have been training almost exclusively on a treadmill. I love being able to dial in on my pace for whatever heart rate zone I am targeting and knowing it is going to be consistent without having to constantly check my watch. Other pros include access to the bathroom, not needing child care, not having to worry about my husband’s crazy schedule. I don’t have to worry about running alone as a female and feeling safe, plus I save on laundry by running in a bra and shorts! Negatives are that my kids are always there pestering me and time on the treadmill gets boring, but it is good mental training! Another disadvantage is it is less of an escape than running outside would be.”

Ilanit Helfand – “You get to watch TV, don’t have to hold your own water and you can control your speed without constantly checking a watch!”

Michael Osburn

Michael Osburn – “I work from home and do 90% of my training indoors. The biggest bonus is I can get a run in between meetings when I can find 25-30 free minutes!”

The Verdict

The verdict is that you can, indeed, train for a race of any distance, including a marathon, on a treadmill. The question is, ‘Do you want to?’.

There are many reasons people find themselves gravitating toward a treadmill: convenience, weather, childcare issues, among others. True, there are some negatives, but if you really want to train and the treadmill is your best option, the general consensus states that it is an excellent option.

Whether you are training for a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon or 26.2, athletes find a treadmill to be a handy tool that helps them to get the job done.


Six Professional Tips on Making Treadmill Training More Bearable
Eight Tips for Running Long Distance on a Treadmill

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