When it comes to maintaining your running routine, life can sometimes throw obstacles your way, making it challenging to get outside for a run. Whether it’s inclement weather, safety concerns, or time constraints, you might wonder if running on a treadmill is a suitable substitute. The short answer is: Yes, treadmill running is significantly better than not running at all. 

Let’s delve into the benefits and best practices for treadmill running to ensure you get the most out of your indoor workouts.

The Benefits of Treadmill Running

1. Consistency and Convenience

Running on a treadmill allows you to maintain consistency in your training regardless of external conditions. Whether it’s too hot, too cold, or too dark outside, a treadmill provides a safe and controlled environment for your run. This consistency is crucial for building and maintaining your fitness levels.

2. Injury Prevention

Treadmills generally have softer surfaces compared to concrete or asphalt, which can reduce the impact on your joints and decrease the risk of injury. This is particularly beneficial for runners who are recovering from injuries or those prone to joint pain.

3.  Safety

For many, safety is a significant concern, especially when running in the dark or in unsafe neighborhoods. Treadmills provide a secure alternative that allows you to run without worrying about traffic, uneven surfaces, or personal safety.

4. Controlled Environment

Treadmills offer the ability to control your running environment precisely. You can adjust the incline, speed, and duration to match your training needs. This is particularly useful for structured workouts, such as interval training, where precise control over speed and incline is essential.

Optimizing Your Treadmill Workouts

To make the most out of your treadmill sessions, consider the following tips…

1. Adjust the Incline

Setting the treadmill incline to 1-2% can help mimic outdoor running conditions more closely. This slight incline compensates for the lack of wind resistance and variations in terrain that you encounter outdoors. However, be cautious not to always run at an incline, as this can place additional strain on your Achilles tendons and calves. Mix up your workouts by varying the incline.

2. Vary Your Workouts

Just as you would vary your runs outdoors, it’s important to vary your treadmill workouts. Incorporate intervals, tempo runs, and easy runs into your routine to keep your training balanced and to avoid overuse injuries. Some modern treadmills even offer downhill running options, which can help simulate outdoor conditions more effectively.

3. Mental Toughness

Running on a treadmill can be mentally challenging due to the monotony of running in place. However, this can also build mental toughness, a critical component of long-distance running. To keep yourself engaged, consider setting up entertainment options such as watching TV or listening to music or podcasts. This can make longer treadmill runs more bearable and even enjoyable.

Case Studies: Success Stories from Treadmill Training

Many successful runners have incorporated treadmill training into their routines with great results. For instance, Alberto Salazar, a renowned marathon runner, used treadmill training extensively and achieved significant success, including winning the Comrades Marathon. Similarly, a runner who struggled with injuries found that switching to treadmill training helped him achieve his goal of running a sub-7-hour Comrades Marathon by reducing the impact on his joints and allowing for more consistent training.

Practical Considerations For Training on a Treadmill

1. Equipment Quality

Investing in a good-quality treadmill can make a significant difference in your training experience. Look for treadmills with adjustable inclines, shock absorption features, and robust build quality to ensure a smooth and effective workout.

2. Safety Measures

Ensure that your treadmill is set up in a safe environment. Keep the area around the treadmill clear of obstacles, and make sure the treadmill is properly maintained to prevent accidents.

3. Hydration and Nutrition

Running indoors can sometimes lead to a lack of proper hydration and nutrition planning. Keep water and snacks within reach, just as you would for an outdoor run. Some runners set up a small table next to their treadmill with drinks and energy gels to simulate race conditions and practice fueling strategies.

Running on a treadmill is a highly effective alternative when outdoor running is not feasible. It provides a controlled, safe, and low-impact environment that allows you to maintain your training consistency and reduce the risk of injury. 

By optimizing your treadmill workouts and varying your training routine, you can achieve significant fitness gains and mental resilience. Remember, the best run is the one that fits your lifestyle and keeps you moving forward, whether it’s on the road, trail, or treadmill.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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