Treadmill: From Dreadmill to Training Tool

So many people despise the treadmill.  Of course, there are so many things about running outside that are wonderful.  There’s the fresh air, varied terrain, and opportunities to mix up your route.  But there are plenty of downsides to outdoor running and many ways you can benefit from hitting the treadmill.


At the end of my pregnancy I arrived home from a run and announced that I was done running outside and would only run at the gym until the baby was born.  I got sick and tired of crossing intersections where drivers were texting or only looked in one direction before turning on one way streets.  I’ve crashed into the back of a car that rolled through a stop sign and just this past week I was yelled at by a woman who turned at a red light where it was illegal.  She was mad at me for crossing the street when I had the green light.  It is times like these when you can appreciate the safety that a treadmill offers.



We had some slippery ice last week that made running outside unsafe.   The treadmill allows you to run in any weather and not have to worry about your step.  This also helps in the fall when leaves cover the sidewalks and hide potholes and uneven ground.


Sometimes it is nice to just turn on iTunes or some trashy TV and not have to think about anything.  Just crank up the pace and go.  Or crank down the pace.  It’s totally up to you.  Being able to catch up on your favorite shows also keeps you from making excuses to get your run in.

Speed work:

I love to do speed work on the treadmill.  So many people talk about how boring this machine is and I am here to tell you that it does not have to be that way.  At all!

When I hit the mill, I like to do pyramid runs or intervals.  It helps pass the time, cranks up my metabolism, and makes me a stronger and faster runner.  During the winter months, it would be unsafe to do my speed work on icy sidewalks or trudging through snow.  The treadmill offers a great place to get these training sessions in and be able to effectively monitor my pace.

Try starting at a slow pace and building up every minute until you hit your max.  Then gradually take it back down to your slow pace.  Continue this building up and fall back until you have finished your goal time or distance.  Or start with a slow jog for a few minutes and then enjoy intervals of 2 minutes at a fast pace followed by 1 minute at your preferred slow pace.  Try doing this for 20 minutes and finish with an easy mile at jogging pace.  You will love how fast your workout goes by.


The Rules:

The rules have changed for the treadmill.  Gone are the days where it is recommended that you run at an incline.  Keep it nice and flat and you will still gain benefits.

Treadmill pacing is often different from your usual pacing and all treadmills are a bit different.  While you might enjoy running an 8:00min/mile outside, that might feel super speedy on the mill.  Find what your preferred “fast” pace is on the treadmill and roll with it.  Keep in mind that while 8:30 on one treadmill feels right for you, it might feel hard on another.  Certain brands of exercise equipment feel different than others.  Trust your body and find what feels comfortable for you and stick with it.

Winter running can be difficult and the treadmill can become a helpful tool to get through these next few months.  Take advantage of your music and TV options.  Switching it up for a few months will make your return to the outdoors even more fun in the spring.

How do you survive winter running?

41 thoughts on “Treadmill: From Dreadmill to Training Tool

  1. I’m so with you on most of this – especially the safety of not being around cars – but I get so scared running fast on a treadmill! I always envision tripping and flying off that back!!

  2. I just keep running outside, and last year scheduled rest days around the two -30 mornings, but ran outside even at -25F. Ugh … I am an idiot. But I really love running outside …

    That said, it is absolutely APPALLING how many people – not just kids, either – drive with their phones in their hands, or doing what I call the ‘fascinating crotch pose’, where the have their phone on their lap so it isn’t visible, but are constantly looking down.

    I run early mornings, and live in a ‘sleepy suburb’ area, so people who leave for work around 5AM are not used to much traffic, so they drift through stop signs and so on … I REALLY have to use caution, wear reflective gear and lights.

    I think that running while pregnant only amplifies those natural concerns … I know that parenting in general has done that to me for various things through the years, I can only imagine how it is actually having the baby with you! 🙂

    • Oh I know that crotch pose. I don’t know who they are fooling. I can tell they are doing it when I am sitting at a light behind them. I wrote a post about this but I will say it again, I just don’t think any text or phone call can possibly be that important. How many times have you received a phone call while in the car that was so important you HAD to answer and deal with it right then and didn’t have time to pull over? I actually don’t mind running in the cold and have done just what you did in the past. I ran in -20 one evening and couldn’t feel my upper legs by the end. I just don’t want to risk slipping anymore. I need to be on my feet!

  3. One of my friends calls the treadmill “Satan’s Sidewalk”. I think running outside is the best option, but the treadmill can definitely be a good training tool. I really can’t stand it when people say they never run on them- the treadmill beats not running at all and running outside in the rain or cold does not make anyone a “better runner” than someone who chooses the treadmill.

    I don’t treadmill much. Usually when I can’t run outside, I opt for the Arc Trainer, lift weights, or do yoga, but I live in South Carolina and it’s generally warm and safe to run here. I did run on the treadmill this week due to rain, and I did a speed workout. You are so right- if you adjust the speeds the workout does not get boring and it goes by quickly. I write out the workout on a post-it, with which minutes to change the speed, and post it on the mill and go. Works out well for me!

  4. Last winter I ran pretty much exclusively on the treadmill, for all of the above reasons and more. This year I will try to mix in more outdoor running too, but I usually do all my speed workouts on the treadmill.

  5. good tips, esp since i’m one of those “don’t use the treadmill unless i absolutely have to” (aka really dark and cold/snowy/unsafe or just don’t have enough time in the morning to get outside for a good run) gals. i do agree w/ you on the mill being good for speed work, though, so i’ll give it that. 🙂

  6. I live in Southern CA so “winter running” isn’t really an issue. I do sometimes use the treadmill if I want to work on consistent pacing, or do speed work.

  7. I hate running on the treadmill for just an easy run, but don’t mind it for speed work or tempo work. I still always prefer outside but it is a great tool for certain days – days where I don’t know how I feel about a workout or the weather is crappy. Great post!!

  8. You know I love you Sarah, but we are going to have to agree to disagree! The Dreadmill will always be the Dreadmill to me! I understand there is a time and a place for the treadmill (with safety issues and weather being chief among them), but I’ll take my chances or take a day off before I get on the treadmill again! 🙂

    • LOL….I totally understand. On the other hand, you are saying that from sunny and warm Florida. Try living in this icy hell all winter and I might be able to convince you to come to the dark side 😉

      • Hehehe. If I moved back to the icy hell, I don’t know I’d do! (Gaining 20 lbs and starting from scratch in the spring would be a definite possibility thought…)

  9. My husband says that if you think running on a treadmill is boring, then you’re not running hard enough. LOL!

    I love doing speed work on a treadmill simply because I set the pace and then go! If I need to do longer tempo runs, then I run a hard mile, “easy” quarter mile, hard mile, “easy” quarter mile, etc until I get the distance. The quarter mile “breaks” break up the monotony for me.

  10. Look at you! ; ) I had a couple of close calls a couple of weeks ago. People suck. Or are sucky drivers at least. I rarely run on a treadmill anymore but if I do, I typically do some sort of speed play to keep it interesting!

  11. LOL… How do (did) I survive winter running? I moved out of the city. I could run a half marathon without ever seeing a stop light. 😉

    Stay safe, it’s easier when we expect everyone to be stupid and inconsiderate.

  12. Treadmills are a necessary evil here too in the PNW…we have one that you can program your workout online and then download it to the treadmill which is kinda cool but most times I just increase the speed manually anyway. Like most have mentioned, I also try to limit it to speed/interval workouts and it works well for that purpose though I feel like I’m gonna fall off at the higher speeds. Interesting that you suggested the incline is not necessary, I always have it set to at least 1% based on what I have read before.

    • Ah, last year there were some great reports that have debunked the 1% incline theory. But if you don’t mind it, I am sure you are gaining additional benefits. Your treadmill sounds pretty awesome!

      • Great information, thanks for sharing…amazing how much I’ve learned since participating in the run blogging community!! Guess, I’ve been overachieving with my 1% treadmill workouts…I’ll take it 🙂

  13. 1st off… You are the cutest pregnant lady!! Love that picture of you running on the treadmill pregnant. I am one of those that dread the treadmill. I don’t know why but I do! I would rather go out in below freezing weather… But I do have one (just in case). 🙂

  14. I did a lot of my training for my spring half this year on the treadmill and hoped that my paces matched to appropriate road paces. Calibrating those suckers is so tricky! I’m a big treadmill supporter for the winter, because safety is key.

  15. While a prefer running outside, I don’t mind the treadmill for many of the reasons you state. I have also been almost hit by distracted drivers and drivers who only look ONE way. I usually always just go around them b/c I assume they’re not gonna look my way any way. Once though recently, I thought she had seen me and I ran across her (it was green for me) and she started moving! She screamed at coming close to hitting me and started apologizing. I told her I was fine but to please look both ways!

  16. I’m a treadmill convert! I didn’t like them for the longest time but I got fed up of hearing myself make excuses not to run outside because of bad weather – I live in England where the weather’s never good! So I decided to get a treadmill and I’ve been loving it – watching trashy TV while doing a leisurely run has become my Sunday pastime of choice! 🙂

    • The trashy TV is definitely a big bonus for the treadmill. Last winter was so awful here that I announced I was done running outside. I now have a gym membership and I swear that once we own a home, the first big purchase is a treadmill!

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