Treadmill Running

Treadmill Running

In these uncertain times we find ourselves many of us are having to find alternative ways of exercising, if you are lucky enough to have a Treadmill at home, in this article we’ll be looking at the advantages and disadvantages as well as some training tips to help you along.

For health, fitness and weight loss purposes, there are really no disadvantages to treadmill training. A calorie burned on a treadmill is the same as a calorie burned during any other activity. Cardiovascular fitness is improved at a similar rate whether you run on a treadmill or outside on the road or track. The treadmill provides many added benefits including injury prevention, safety, and convenience.

There are some disadvantages for competitive runners. These disadvantages are related to the lack of specificity when training for a race. There is a rule of training called the “rule of specificity” that says training should closely mimic the activity you are training for. There are very definite differences between treadmill running and free range running that violate this rule.

Here is a list of the Advantages and Disadvantages associated with treadmill running.


Self-isolation – If you find yourself in a position of self-isolation treadmill running is a way of maintaining fitness and well being. You can perform any of your training runs in the safety and comfort of your own home. You can always jump on your treadmill and do nearly any session that you could have done outdoors.

Speed Work / Interval Training – successful interval training depends upon running the repeats at a fairly precise speed and at a precise distance.

When doing interval training on a treadmill, you can set the pace and be assured that you are running at that speed throughout the repeat. The treadmill does not allow you to slow down or speed up. It forces you to maintain your target pace throughout the repeat or session.

Consistent Pacing – when you begin to tire during your training runs, you will slow down. You do not realise that you are slowing down because you feel like you are running at the same rate of perceived exertion. In other words, you still believe that you are running at your target pace.

The treadmill will force you to maintain the pace that you had planned for the session. The only way to slow down is to intentionally reduce the speed of the treadmill. This consistent pacing benefit can actually make treadmill training a higher quality session than track or road training.

Easy Runs – you cannot run hard and fast all of the time. Your muscles need time to rest and recover. Without that recovery time, you will not be able to complete your harder sessions and consequently you will not improve. Easy runs are necessary to allow your muscles to recover from hard, intense or long running sessions. It can be very difficult to run at a pace easy enough to allow for muscle recovery. It can feel very slow and therefore many runners have a tendency to perform their easy runs at too fast a pace.

Novice runners can also benefit by using the treadmill for easy runs. It is important for a new runner to strengthen unused tendons and muscles gradually before doing any intense or fast training. Setting the treadmill at an easy pace will help avoid any tendency to run faster than they should.

Hill Training – hill running is one of the best and most efficient training methods for building running strength, running economy and improving race performance. The problem is that many runners live in areas that have few hills, if any. So, what do you do if you l have no hills around you? Easy, just get on your treadmill. Most treadmills will elevate from 1 percent to 12 percent.

Injury Prevention / Rehabilitation – running on concrete and tarmac day in and day out places a lot of stress on the connective tissues in your legs. This can lead to potential overuse injuries.

High quality treadmills that are produced today give you a stable, but more forgiving surface to run on

Great For Novices – the treadmill is ideal for Novice  runners. Many new runners feel a bit intimidated by the sport and by more experienced runners. There is no reason for them to feel this way, but many do none the less. The treadmill gives novices a great place to start and to gain confidence in themselves so that feeling of intimidation melts away. Most new runners start with walking. The treadmill is a great tool for incorporating those first running steps into a training program.

Heart Rate Training

Training by heart rate is a currently popular method of monitoring running intensity. Many mid and top level treadmills have built in heart rate monitoring capabilities. Some monitor heart rate by the use of a belt that wraps around your chest and others use monitoring pads on the treadmill handle grips. You can get more information on Heart rate elsewhere on this site together with information on Polar Heart Rate monitors.

Variety of Training Sessions

Treadmill workouts have an unlimited number of possible combinations of speed, distance and incline. You are able to design a run that will provide you with the exact training that you desire. There is no outside training area that can give you everything you want in a session Only the treadmill gives you this kind of flexibility. This is an advantage to runners of all abilities from a novice to an elite runner.


The treadmill provides many benefits. But, as with everything, it is not perfect. Along with its many advantages, the treadmill does have some disadvantages:.


One of the “laws” of training, is the law of specificity.This simply means that your training should be as specific as possible to your training goal. In other words, your training should match your goal as closely as possible. You are training to run outside on the road, trail or track and run races, not to run on a treadmill. There are physical differences, which include lack of wind resistance, lack of changing terrain, running on a moving belt, bio-mechanical differences and psychological differences.

Lack of Wind Resistance

When running on the treadmill, you are obviously running in a stationary .position. You are not running through the air. When you run outside you are running through the air, which creates resistance. The faster you run, the more of an effect the air resistance has on you. You can compensate for the wind resistance by elevating the treadmill, one or two percent.

Running Bio-Mechanics

In addition to the wind resistance problem, there is some evidence that running bio-mechanics are different when running on the treadmill. Here is a brief summary of the reported running mechanics problems that have been associated with treadmill running.

Stride Length –The more experienced runners tend to have a longer stride on the treadmill than when free running. The less experienced were found to be the opposite; their stride length tended to be shorter

Less Forward Lean – Some studies have determined that some athletes run with less of a forward lean when running on the treadmill. This can cause more energy being wasted on up and down motion and less energy focused on forward momentum.

Running Surface

The even and soft surface of the treadmill is an advantage in many ways, but it does present one major disadvantage. When running outside you encounter a variety of uneven surfaces; stones, soft areas, hard areas, dry areas, wet areas and various combinations of these surfaces. The challenge of running over these surfaces improves your propreoception or the ability of your neuromuscular system to recognise the effect these types of surfaces have on your muscles and the position of your body parts and joints. This is very important to runners because it effects balance, power and running economy. Running on the treadmill removes this very important part of training.

Psychological Differences – Psychology plays a large role in the performance of runners. Treadmill running has several psychological factors that can affect the benefits of treadmill training.

Lack of Visual Awareness – When running outside you are moving past trees, buildings, cars and other people.When you are on the treadmill, you are not moving so you do not have those visual cues that signify movement.

Running in a Confined Space – A correctly fitted treadmill gives you more that sufficient room for even the longest running strides. However, the limited size of the running surface of the treadmill can give the impression that you may either “run off” the machine or“fall off” the back. This commonly leads to a shortened and/or more vertical stride. Claustrophobia is also a feeling that can occur when running in an tight enclosed space.

Lack of Confidence –This is quite common for runners who have spent all their running life outdoors and are not used to what some would say the “artificial” running on the treadmill.

Boredom– This is the biggest of all the mental barriers of treadmill training. Running “on the spot” can be boring and tedious.

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