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The ultimate guide to running on a treadmill + 5 treadmill workouts

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Many runners have a love/hate relationship with running on a treadmill.

For some, it’s hard to beat a run in the great outdoors on a sunny day, but there are times when running on a treadmill is necessary as an alternative to running outdoors. 

Whether you prefer to run outdoors or on a treadmill (unaffectionately called the ‘dreadmill’ by some in the running community), each mode of running has its own pros, cons and benefits. 

In this guide, we’ll explore:

  • 8 benefits of running on a treadmill
  • How to start running on a treadmill
  • How to run safely on a treadmill
  • How to use a treadmill
  • Treadmill vs outside running
  • Why is running on a treadmill easier?
  • Treadmill pace chart
  • 5 treadmill workouts for runners

Are you ready?

Let’s go!

running on a treadmill

What are the benefits of running on a treadmill?

Running on a treadmill has many benefits compared to running outdoors. 

Here are 8 benefits of running on a treadmill:

#1 Reduces impact forces

When you run outdoors on a hard surface, every time you take a step you feel the impact forces of your foot hitting the ground, especially if you’re running fast. 

Over time this can cause strain, stress and injury on your muscles and joints, especially if you’re not wearing the right running shoes or if you adopt a heel foot strike when you run. 

Running on a treadmill mitigates these risks by providing a softer surface on which to run, therefore lessening the impact of your run.

#2 Allows you to control the workout

Running on a treadmill means you can control all aspects of your run, including your pace, incline and speed. 

Whether you want a gentle jog or a fast speed workout, you are able to control this from the treadmill.

In fact, many experienced runners opt to do speed workouts like interval training and hill repeats on a treadmill as it’s much easier to control the workout this way.

#3 Offers easy and convenient access to exercise

Many runners opt to run on a treadmill because it offers easy and convenient access to exercise.

Whilst it’s easy enough to put on your running shoes and head out for a run outdoors, there may be times when the weather, safety concerns or your schedule get in the way of doing this.

The pandemic saw a huge boom in people buying a treadmill for their home as they couldn’t get out for a run. 

#4 Offers time effective workouts

One of the biggest benefits of running on a treadmill is that it offers a time effective workout.

If you’re short on time or want to fit a run into a busy schedule, then simply set the timer to 20 or 30 minutes or less then off you go.

You can customise your workouts to make sure you get the most out of your run and hitting your fitness goals. 

#5 Allows you to track your progress

Most modern running treadmills nowadays offer a number of ways to track your progress, including your pace, cadence, heart rate and calories burned. 

Whilst you can technically do this on an outdoor run using a sportwatch or running app, not everyone has access to this type of technology on a run.

#6 Better for recovery from an injury

Running on a treadmill provides a softer surface for running which means it’s great for anyone returning to running from an injury and looking to reduce the impact of outdoor running.

By running on a treadmill, you can gently re-introduce running into your training plan without having to contend with external factors like the weather and uneven terrain.

#7 Better for safety

Many runners opt to run on a treadmill because it offers a safer alternative to running outdoors. 

Going for a run, especially at night, can present safety concerns, so running on a treadmill offers a safe and private space in which to enjoy your run.

#8 Helps with weight loss

Various studies have shown that high intensity workouts like interval training and hill repeats, which can be performed on a treadmill, are better for burning calories.

According to a 2012 report on the clinical benefits of high intensity exercise, high intensity interval training has been shown to significantly reduce subcutaneous fat, especially abdominal fat, as well as total body mass, and to improve VO2 max (a marker of physical fitness).

This is because high intensity exercise has been shown to increase your muscles’ stimulus, therefore achieving a greater effect in the same amount of time as opposed to low intensity exercise.

Additionally, your muscles require a lot of energy after high intensity exercise to recover and repair which creates an ‘after burn’ effect, meaning you continue to burn calories even after the exercise has ended.

running on a treadmill

How to start running on a treadmill

If you can’t always get outside for a run, or if you simply prefer running indoors for safety reasons, then running on a treadmill offers a great alternative to running outdoors.

One of the best ways to start running on a treadmill is to start walking on it so you become familiar with the treadmill and how it feels under your feet. 

Slowly build up the speed of your walking until you transition into a slow jog. 

You may even decide to do intervals of walking intermixed with light jogging before progressing into a continuous run. For example, a 60 second walk followed by a 60 second run and repeat 5 times. 

The important thing is that you feel comfortable and safe on the treadmill before increasing your pace and speed.

And always remember to warm up before each run to reduce the risk of injury. 

How to run safely on a treadmill

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), treadmills cause more injuries than any other type of exercise equipment.

The CPSC estimates there were 24,000 treadmill-related injuries that required an emergency department visit between 2003 and 2012.

To help you conduct your training session safely, here are my top tips for running on a treadmill so you can make the most out of your session:

  • Don’t hold the handrail or console when you run. 
  • Try and adopt a natural stride with arms swinging by your sides. You are more likely to adopt a shorter stride when you run on a treadmill.
  • Keep your body upright. If you find yourself leaning forward too much, you’re probably running too fast. 
  • Look straight forward. Pick a spot in front of you and keep your gaze on it. Don’t look down at your feet or at the console.
  • Don’t step on or off the treadmill when it’s moving.
  • Don’t set the incline too steep.

How to use a treadmill

All treadmills come with a range of features that can be accessed via a console at the front of the treadmill.

This console can be easily viewed when running and it shows the key stats and metrics from your run. 

The stats that you want to look out for are:

  • Speed
  • Incline
  • Distance
  • Time

Speed refers to how fast you are running. This is normally displayed at miles per hour on most treadmills. 

Incline is essentially the slope of the treadmill. The higher the incline, the more intense the workout will be. 

Distance is what it says on the tin – it is how far you’ve run. 

Time is how long you have been running for. Most treadmills allow you to use a countdown timer so you can time your workouts.

Although some treadmills offer a metric on calories burned, this is not always accurate. 

running on a treadmill

Treadmill vs outside running

Both modes of running have their own pros, cons and benefits. 

In the majority of cases, it will come down to your own personal preference as to whether or not you run on a treadmill or run outdoors.

In some cases, you may be forced to use a treadmill if you are returning to running following an injury or you don’t want to run outdoors because of severe weather. 

Outside running

  • More suited to a natural gait cycle (you are more likely to shorten your stride on a treadmill)
  • Activates more muscle groups
  • Higher ground reaction forces 

Treadmill running

  • Easier to maintain a steady pace
  • Allows you to control incline, intervals and recovery
  • Great for those returning to running following an injury
  • Lower ground reaction forces

Why is running on a treadmill easier?

Running on a treadmill is easier for a range of reasons, some of which have been explained above. 

One of the main reasons running on a treadmill is easier is because the treadmill assists with leg turnover, making it easier to run.

It is for this reason that many runners notice their pace on a treadmill doesn’t match their road pace.

Running on a treadmill also provides a controlled environment. You don’t have to battle the weather, terrain, traffic, pedestrians and other obstacles when running on a treadmill.

You also have greater control of your speed, pace and incline on a treadmill which makes the run easier as opposed to running outdoors. 

Treadmill pace chart

Pace per mile by % incline

*Note because of lack of wind resistance while running on a treadmill, the effort of running at a 0% incline is less than running on a road at the same pace. 

MPH settingPace per mile0% incline*1% incline2% incline3% incline
5.012:0012:3111:4411:0510:32
5.610:4311:1010:3210:0009:33
6.010:0010:2609:5209:2409:00
6.609:0509:2909:0108:3708:16
7.008:3408:5608:3208:1007:51
7.607:5408:1407:5307:3407:18
8.007:3007:4907:3007:1306:58
8.606:5907:1607:0006:4506:32
9.006:4006:5706:4206:2806:16
9.606:1906:3106:1806:0605:55
10.006:0006:1506:0305:5205:42
10.605:4005:5405:4305:3305:24
11.005:2705:4105:3105:2205:13
11.605:1005:2405:1405:0604:58
12.005:0005:1305:0404:5604:49
running on a treadmill

5 treadmill workouts for runners

Now you know all about running on a treadmill, here are 5 sample treadmill workouts.

Remember to warm up for 15-20 minutes before each of these workouts. 

#1 Walk/jog intervals

This is a great workout for beginners as it uses walking and jogging intervals. 

You can either repeat the intervals 10 times, or for a period of time like 10, 20 or 30 minutes depending on your fitness levels. 

  • 1 minute walk
  • 1 minute jog
  • Repeat 10 times

#2 Jog/sprint intervals

A great workout for raising your heart rate and getting you used to running at different speeds, jog/sprint intervals are great for adding variety into your training plan.

This particular workout uses a 1:2 workout ratio, but you can adapt this ratio to suit your own preferences and fitness levels. 

  • 30 second sprint
  • 60 second jog
  • Repeat 10 times

#3 Incline workout

One of the best things about running on a treadmill is the incline feature. 

The incline is basically the slope of the treadmill, and the higher the incline, the more intense the workout will be.

This workout uses intervals at an incline to get you used to running uphill.

  • 1 minute jog at 0% incline
  • 1 minute jog at 1-2% incline
  • Repeat 10 times

#4 HIIT workout

As mentioned earlier in this guide, high intensity exercise has a range of benefits including increasing muscle strength and burning calories. 

This HIIT workout is a high intensity workout that is designed to get your heart pumping by using a range of different effort levels. 

  • 1 minute jog at effort level 0 
  • 2 minute jog at effort level 4
  • 1 minute jog at effort level 0
  • 3 minute jog at effort level 6
  • 1 minute jog at effort level 0
  • 4 minute jog at effort level 8
  • 4 minute walk at effort level 0
  • 3 minute jog at effort level 6
  • 1 minute jog at effort level 0
  • 2 minute jog at effort level 4
  • 1 minute jog at effort level 0

#5 Tempo workout

The treadmill is one of the best ways to do tempo workouts as they can be done in a completely controlled environment.

This workout uses a range of different paces and effort levels, including conversational pace which you may already be familiar with. 

  • 5 minute jog at a conversational pace
  • 10 minute run at a challenging pace (think 7 out of 10 on the effort scale)
  • 5 minute jog at a conversational pace
  • 5 minute run at a challenging pace (think 8.5 out of 10 on the effort scale)
  • 5 minute jog at a conversational pace
  • 10 minute run at a challenging pace (think 7 out of 10 on the effort scale)

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