You have probably heard runners complain about “dreadmills” and “insteadmills”. I don’t have patience for either term – treadmills are fantastic tools and should be embraced! I get that it’s cool to hate on the treadmill, but it’s even cooler to embrace it. Even the pros use treadmills from time to time.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s a controlled environment – rain, snow and crazy heat/humidity can’t affect your run indoors
  2. It is easier on your knees than pavement
  3. Easier to maintain a brisk and unfamiliar pace if you’re training with a specific time goal
  4. You can watch tv!
  5. You always have water and a towel handy without having to strap it to your body
  6. You always have a toilet nearby without having to poop or pee in a stranger’s yard then deal with the cops
  7. Two Words: Steam Bath!!!!!!
  8. Two more Words: HOT TUB!!!!!
  9. When it’s icy outside, do you really want to risk running on pavement and wiping out? A fall could cause serious injury and set your training back several weeks.
  10. When it’s stupid hot outside, do you really want to risk running in 95+ degree heat and dehydrating or getting heat stroke? Recovery requires 2 nights in the hospital, and complete recovery time after that is two months to a year. TWO MONTHS TO A YEAR. That’s longer than my wildest training plans.
  11. If you have an iPad, there are apps that replicate amazing trails and marathon courses. These can be so much more interesting than your usual routes!!

Attitude is everything. I hear you, it’s more fun to run with friends, more scenic to run outside, and a better workout that uses different muscles to run on the road. Replacing all outdoor runs with treadmill runs isn’t ideal, but if you are training for a race you need to embrace all the training tools at your disposal. Treadmill or even elliptical running is unquestionably better than sitting on the couch or recovering in the ICU after heatstroke or a nasty fall on the ice.

Coach MK’s Tips for Optimal Use

  1. At zero incline, the treadmill replicates running downhill. If your indoor session is one-off it doesn’t really matter, but if you’re going to be indoors for several weeks let’s get into the habit of setting it to 1%.
  2. Beyond 2.5% incline, you cannot maintain pace without hurting your knees. Slow down.
  3. Anything beyond 4% incline is very, very rare in road marathon situations and should be avoided on a treadmill. (There are exceptions; if you are training for Western States your coach will likely throw in all kinds of vert!)
  4. If you MUST play with the incline, either because today is hill day or because you get *that* bored, keep it between 1-2.5%.

There are worse things than being on treadmills! Try to avoid the collective complaining runners enjoy about treadmills. Attitude is everything, and if you don’t respect the tools of training you won’t respect much less trust the work you do when using these tools. Don’t knock the hustle before it begins!