Can I Train For A Race On A Treadmill?

Treadmill Running

Branislav Nenin/

By Simon Gould

The aim for most runners is that at some point they will enter a race. Even beginners will look at the TV of people entering their local marathon and want to have a go. There are people in costumes running it and everyone seems like they're having a good time. These races often happen annually and are oversubscribed.

The aim of a race

Sure you want to enjoy it. You want to be another runner that's taking part in the race. To experience the camaraderie with all the other runners. Maybe you're running for charity and you've been sponsored to run. Maybe it's a cause that's really close to you and it will mean a lot to you to complete the run. But what is the aim of most runners when thy enter a race?

The aim is usually to run in the quickest time possible. Maybe a quick time for you is 5 hours for a marathon and to be that quick would be a great achievement. Everyone has their own times that they want to run in. For some even completing a marathon would be an achievement.

Even if finishing is the aim you would still want to know the time it took you. You may want to do better the next time you run the race. It's human nature to want to do better than before. The competitive streak in us all is something we're born with. But how do you train for a race on a treadmill when it takes place outside.

Training on a treadmill

There are many advantages of training on a treadmill over running outside. However when you're training for a race that occurs outside in the open air. Then it should be a percentage of your training that should be on a treadmill. Some very experienced athletes will use a treadmill for speed training.

Speed training is something the normal runner can try if they're looking to beat a time and treadmills are a great way of doing that. For some runners training on a treadmill might be a necessity due to weather conditions or other circumstances. A treadmill can almost replicate any hill with it's incline levels so that part of training is taken care of.

With a treadmill you can even simulate a race and it's hills. A treadmill can help you determine your race pace which will help you achieve a goal time you may have. You wouldn't use race pace much on a treadmill but it all helps you prepare for the race distance. Here I give you a guide to training for some different distances using a treadmill:

Those pages are written for experienced runners who need to train for a specific distance. If you're new to running and you have a 5k race then I have a couch to 5k walk/run schedule you can follow. This will build you up to the race distance in 9 weeks. It's been designed for the treadmill but can be done outside if needed.

Simulating race conditions on a treadmill

If there are hills then you can easily practise those on a treadmill using the incline. Running outside is supposed to be the equivalent of running at a 1% incline on a treadmill. However we wouldn't recommend running with that setting as part of your training. Stick to no incline for your treadmill runs.

You can practise taking some liquid in while treadmill running if your race has water stations. This will keep you from slowing down if you're worried about your time being affected. Simulating actual race conditions on a treadmill is not really possible, that's why we recommend doing almost 25%+ training runs outside. Where that's difficult try doing 1 a week if possible.


You can be very successful training for a race on a treadmill. Let's face it, you're doing the same exercise indoors instead of out. If you own a treadmill or are a member of a gym then it's good to get use out of your equipment rather than leave it idle.

One of the most important parts of entering a race is to enjoy it. Whether you are a beginner or not if you don't enjoy it, you won't stick at it and keep running. Whatever race you have entered make sure you plan well in advance especially for the longer races. And your training will give you your best time possible.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? See my top 3 recommended treadmills for 2021

Meet The Author

Simon Gould

I'm Simon Gould. I've been around treadmills my whole life. From running on them at an early age to working in treadmill dept's of national stores. I've run outside and I've run on treadmills and I prefer running on treadmills. I still run on one nearly every day and love it.

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