How Fast Should I Run On A Treadmill?
By Simon Gould
Treadmills are great for beginners because you can stop when you like and you're at the same place. Try doing that outside and you're a mile away from where you started from. I love treadmills and think they're best for beginners to get started running. But there is always a question among beginners.
One of the eternal treadmills questions is how fast to run on a treadmill. Maybe you're following a couch to 5k plan. Or you just want to get fit and healthy or lose weight. Maybe you can't go very far before getting exhausted. Either way what speed is best for walking, jogging and running?
It depends on many factors how fast you can go. If you're overweight and 40 years+. You're not going to be quicker than you once were. If you're young and slender, you should be able to run a lot faster and for longer. Your fitness level and experience also counts for a lot where speed is concerned.
As a beginner one thing that you will almost certainly be doing is walking. Walking is an exercise in itself especially if you're brisk walking. Many beginner plans call for a walk/run schedule. I certainly advocate that. But how fast should you walk?
Walking is something everyone does so how fast we should walk on a treadmill? Many beginners are unsure. The answer is not a set of numbers (we will provide some) but what you are comfortable with. You should be walking easily in a warm up and cool down but briskly as the walk in the walk/run part of your workout.
For some numbers as a guide since a treadmill will display your speed anyway. We would say a warm up and cool down walk should be less than 5 km/h (3 mph). Brisk walking as part of your workout should be 5 km/h to 7.2 km/h (3 mph to 4.5 mph). The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) agree that this speed is brisk walking pace and fits in with their moderate intensity physical activity plan.
Jogging could be what you're doing as part of the run of a walk/run plan and that's ok. Jogging speed can be fast for many people and get them breathing heavily. Jogging speeds are 7.2 km/h to 8.5 km/h (4.5 mph to 5.3 mph). This counts as vigorous activity by the CDC so I'm including it as jogging here.
The CDC says vigorous activity as beneficial to health if continued for 150 minutes per week. Going this fast they estimate you would burn 7 calories per minute. If this speed gets you breathing heavily and your heart beating hard then accept this as a run. Especially if you're not used to exercise.
We've established that the speed of jogging already puts that activity as vigorous exercise so do you need to go any faster? The answer is that if you find the jogging speed easy, then yes. Go faster and as fast as you can so as not to lose your breath or become so exhausted from a relatively short run.
Running too fast as though you're racing every time is not good training. This will only cause injuries, even on a treadmill. However if you can successfully run faster than jogging and you feel comfortable doing it. You clearly have a good fitness base already. Or you're built for this type of exercise.
So for a running speed it would be more than the jogging speed so 7.5 km/h (5.3 mph) and higher. You may see people running faster in a gym but they are likely to be experienced runners. Also you don't necessarily know how long they've been running at that pace for! If you're running at this pace you'll soon get past a couch to 5k if you needed to use one at all.
How fast should you go
If you're a beginner then despite everything said above about speed, how fast you should go depends on how you feel while running. A great way to tell is using your heart rate but since not everyone has heart rate monitors and the ones on treadmills aren't very accurate. You can tell by the rate you're breathing at and how much you could say while exercising.
If you can speak a sentence while exercising then you're comfortably running/jogging and you can stay at that pace. If you can only say a word or two before breathing again then you are probably going too fast. If you're exhausted after running only 10 or 20 minutes and you're not doing speed work or training for a race then you're going too fast.
Your speed can change as you get used to exercise. You will soon be breathing easier after completing a couch to 5k. Still use that speed button carefully. You can also increase your speed by doing speed work exercises which are good for treadmills. These are usually done by experienced runners and plans can be found online.
I am 44 and male. I used to able to run around 6.2 mph for over an hour if I was doing a long run in my 20's and 30's. I stopped running for a while and started again recently. I was shocked that I couldn't keep up the pace I was used to. I wanted to lose weight and get fit and healthy like I have been, I found a running speed hard to maintain.
I still regarded myself as experienced and that I would get my fitness back very quickly. But try as I could I couldn't hit my old speed consistently. I now go jogging speed and I'm happy to do that. I'm now at an ideal weight and I feel amazing. I'm saying all this to highlight the fact that speed is very personal and to not compete with people if you're not racing.
Also don't compete with your younger self! I now do what's recommended, 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week. I do this at 5.2 mph which gets my heart beating fast and I know I'm getting a good workout. Think about what you want to get out of your exercising. To lose weight go slow and long. Training for a race then consider speed work and think about the distance of the race.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? See my top 3 recommended treadmills for 2021