Runners Share Tips on Using Treadmills

Todd Shatynski

Running on the treadmill is more “different” than worse. The foot strike is different than the road which isn’t great and the variability in stride is less so it taxes less variety than if you were to run over a course on a road or trail. That being said, it is safer because of no cars or dogs, more reliable with less ice and snow banks, no darkness or temperature swings. Surface being softer is nice as well. I think it can be a nice complement to all around training. Be sure to vary the speed and elevation. Do intervals or fartlek. I never bring the elevation down under a hill of 1% so it helps the foot strike issue some.  I don’t run much in treadmills.  Personally I think a snow run is pretty and serene.

Lisa D

Ah, “dreadmill” running.   While running outdoors is the best option, there are times when doing so is just plain dangerous (like in sub-zero temps). Treadmill running can also be so darn boring, but to shake things up, I incorporate a workout so I’m frequently changing speeds. I’ll also download some new tunes to give me something to look forward to while running the hamster track. Boredom aside, I always check in with myself while running on the mill. How are my foot falls? Am I swinging my arms enough? Are my arms at a 90 degree angle? How is my posture? Should I really be slumping my head to watch my favorite TV program on the little screen? Am I hinging at the ankles, with a slight tilt? In other words, as much as possible, try to mimic your outdoor running form, so as not to compromise you form and risk injury. Almost every time I run on the mill, I see at least one runner holding onto the front of the treadmill for dear life. Either they’re running faster than they can handle, or they’re worried about flying off the back. Either way, this is the worst possible way to run on a treadmill!! I see strained muscles galore, not to mention the harsh foot falls (because of the compromised form, all you can hear is rapid foot smacking)! If you’re scared of falling off, I suggest staring directly in front of you, towards the top of the treadmill, so you can always gauge your positioning. If you’re running so fast that you are hanging on for dear life, slow down!!!! Something to think about - I find treadmill running has been a great way to transition back to running after an injury. I’ve used easy, steady treadmill runs plenty of times while nursing some injuries. Hope this helps!

Russell Lauer

I've come to establish a love/hate relationship with the treadmill! Although the treadmill may prove to be a valuable resource when the weather conditions are either unbearable or unsafe, I feel there is no substitute for the feeling of feet meeting the pavement. Lately, most of my workouts have been on the treadmill en route to the Boston Marathon--mostly out of necessity. It is difficult to do speed workouts outside during the winter when snow, ice, cold temperatures, darkness and traffic create hazards to runners. Personally, I don't mind the treadmill experience, but I feel there has to be a percentage of time on the roads to get one's legs used to running on the surface to be raced on. I caution runners who train extensively for long periods of time on the treadmill and suddenly emerge to do a hard workout or race on the roads. Most experienced runners know of the pitfalls of any abrupt changes to their training routine, which can lead to a running injury, I'm speaking of increasing mileage when your body is not prepared for it, increasing the speed or an intensity of a workout too soon, and many other training errors that happen when runners want to step up their game too quickly. My approach to training on a treadmill is to be mindful that the treadmill is not a substitute for actual road miles, because it is a different surface. My senses also tell me that keeping the incline at zero is not the same level of effort as running on a flat road. For that reason, I have started to put the incline at 1.0 to make up for this---when workouts would otherwise be run on flat surfaces, such as speed workouts and tempo runs.  Other things about running on the treadmill...I see many folks try to deal with the doldrums of treadmill running by tuning out and listening to music on headphones or watching TV with headphones on...Personally, I find it difficult to concentrate on my form and breathing when I am wearing headphones, so I don't practice this. I just try to key in on my heart rate, strides, breathing and overall form to make the most out of the workout. My plan is to get outside as much as possible this winter in quest of the Boston Marathon. If it is light enough to be seen and at least 25 degrees, I will make the effort to run outside. Otherwise, the treadmill is my friend in the interim. Good luck!

Mat Nark

Although we know that outdoor running is preferred to the treadmill, sometimes we must stay inside.  There are some benefits of the TM and we can benefit from them when used correctly.

1.  Soft surface that gives us a break from the pounding of the roads

2.  Controlled pacing that allows for precision in our workouts

3.  Fueling and hydration are very controllable because of fixed location

4.  The TM keeps you home with the family while you run

5.  Consistent environment eliminates most safety concerns

6.  The TM allows you to run next to someone that you may not normally be able to run with

7.  You can add in hill reps or terrain whenever you want

8.  You have many volume options because you can get on and off as needed

9.  Heart rate tracking made easy on many models

10. The TM can allow you to watch your own form if you run with the assistance of a mirror

Anthony Guiliano

The treadmill is a great tool to use in the winter months, if the temperature is under 20 degrees or the roads and sidewalks are icy, I opt for the treadmill.  December through March I try to get outside when I can but since it’s usually dark by the time I get out of work, jumping on the treadmill at the gym helps me get a more productive workout.  Most of my treadmill workouts are a variation of increasing pace by every 5min/10min, or per mile.  Another tip is to take a day off. December through March is a good time to take some time off since there are hardly any important races until April.  As I get older I feel like I need some time to recover from the season of racing and get motivated for the next upcoming season.

Bob Irwin

My thoughts on the treadmill are to vary the elevation often so you are not stressing the same points all the time.  In order to make the time pass by I tend to do my up tempo efforts on there. Most fast running I do in the winter is on the treadmill.  For example I did a 7mile marathon paced run sandwiched between 3 easy miles.

Jessica Northan

Vary the elevation and pace because if you constantly repeat the same stride, you are more susceptible to injury. Some treadmills have downhill settings and this is great if training for Boston.  Indoor running in a gym is hot. Make a snow angel afterward to cool yourself down

Some people put their treadmill in the garage or basement or somewhere colder but still without the wind and snow.

George Berg

1) Warm up at 0 to 1 percent incline for 20 minutes at a pace that is completely aerobic. After the warm-up, run four repeats that are five minutes in length. Jog an easy two minutes between each running interval. Put the treadmill speed at your best 10K pace from last season. Run the first four minutes at zero incline, the second repeat at 1 percent, the third at 2 percent and the fourth at 3 percent. Cool down with easy jogging for the remaining time to total 45 minutes. 4 x 5 minutes (2 minute RI) at 0%, 1%, 2% and finish with 3% incline.

2) 15 minute 15% incline challenge: how far can you run in 15 minutes @ at 15% incline? My PR is 1.91 miles.  This should be done once a month to test your fitness.

3) 1 mile warm up, 45 seconds at 12 mph, 45 seconds off, repeat for a cycle of 10 reps, 800 yard easy run in between the three sets.  Yes, that’s a total of 30 - 45 second 12mph repeats ( 5 min Mile).


Ben Heller

Hmm. I'd say try to tune out the mind. It's funny on our team we have a variety of opinions on treadmills.  George Berg loves them and wants us to use it while others like Michelle and Dallas would rather freeze then run on one.

I think it would be cool to divide the article into camps. (Editor’s Note: I took his advice!!!)

Brad Lewis

I don’t run on treadmills at all ever.

Dick Vincent

I do have a treadmill.  I have used it once this year.  My advice is that it is a good way to get sustained hill work in if people live in an area where there isn’t access to hills.  If they live in a city, it is a good place to get faster running in when the ground is icy.  There is a lot that can be written on treadmill training, they have their place.  I prefer to run outside but there are times when quality running outside is a challenge depending on where people live.

Dallas Devries

A group of about 5 of us try to avoid treadmill unless it’s the worst of the worst (high winds and single digits).  I’m not anti treadmill in general I just prefer outdoors personally and usually I’m not freezing...  It’s all about the gear, how your body reacts to the cold and the situation. Some people can’t run alone at night or easily around their neighborhoods or are just more affected by cold than others.

Ricardo Estremara

Well, if it is an easy run I go almost all the time outside, the same with long runs. If I have a workout I usually try to go outside also, unless it’s too cold or too much snow and ice outside. Usually I like to do tempos in the treadmills. Because I can’t do speed work. I just try to keep myself in decent shape and healthy. Because is very hard to do quality workouts without an indoor 200m track.

Eric MacKnight

I just started listening to podcasts and it makes the miles fly by. I'm not usually doing heavy mileage or workouts during the winter months so I don't worry about pace too much. The only thing I recommend is to go on the conservative side for pace. I do not own a treadmill

It's only if it's negative degrees or low single digits that puts me on the treadmill!

Michelle Davis

When running on the treadmill I find it helpful to have a very motivational playlist, songs that get me pumped up. Also, intervals help. Whether it's hills or speed breaking up the miles helps.

Nick Webster

Distract yourself from the fact that you're on the treadmill as much as you can. Listen to music and watch a TV show you enjoy. Vary the speed and elevation to keep things interesting.

Scott Mindel

Set the incline between 1-2% to best simulate running on a flat surface. Try varying pace to make it less mundane. Have some music or TV/movies/podcasts ready for the run.

Aaron Lozier

I got a treadmill at my house I got a TV mounted on the wall in front of it. Typically watch shows/movies my wife has no interest in on amazon/Netflix.

AlterG's product looks like a bounce house for your lower body. To use it, you put on a pair of tight neoprene shorts. The shorts have a sort of skirt attached, and the skirt is lined with zipper teeth. You step onto the treadmill, inside a hole in its plastic casing, and zipper yourself in so that, from the waist down, you're encased in an airtight plastic bag. As you stand there, the treadmill measures your weight, and you tell it how intense you want your workout to be. The machine uses "unweighting technology" to make you feel up to 80 percent lighter—so if you weigh 100 pounds, you could feel as light as 20 pounds on the treadmill. The terms "anti-gravity" and "unweighting technology" are enthusiastic descriptions for what the machine actually does, which is inflate the plastic bag around your lower body to lift you off the surface of the treadmill.

Despite its perhaps overhyped name, the anti-gravity treadmill seems to be doing good things in physical rehab clinics, because it allows patients to exercise without exacerbating an injury. Here's NASA's glowing review of the anti-gravity treadmill:

Professional and college sports teams across the United States feature the AlterG treadmill in their training facilities. Injured soldiers walk and run with the technology’s assistance at military hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Seniors get essential exercise using the support the machine provides, as do people with bariatric weight issues who cannot normally support their own weight. The treadmill has been a proven option for neurological uses as well, including helping patients re-learn proper balance and gait and transition to independent movement after traumatic brain injury.

A variety of peer-reviewed studies also suggest it helps people get back on their feet again.

If you are interested in seeing this treadmill, contact Corey Kruse at Repsher and Associates Physical Therapy, 121 Everett Rd., Albany, phone 518-489-2524 or email him at: .

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