Treadmill Training For Outdoor Performance



With the change in season and cooler temps comes the inevitable debate of continuing your pursuits outdoors or transitioning to indoor training. There are many benefits to training outside as long as you can tolerate the weather, but when does treadmill training take precedent, and how can you structure indoor training to meet the demands of the road or trail.


You're shielded from the elements by running on the treadmill, especially if your training exposes you to extreme temperatures or severe weather. Treadmill training also takes stress off the major joints required for running and easily allows you to have hydration and fuel within reach. The workout's pace, elevation, and intensity can be managed with the touch of a button, and there's little risk of injury or fall. That being said, the body is dynamic. Running outside exposes you to headwinds, terrain changes, and other constant variables. It's not hard to mimic this variability on a treadmill. Still, it's essential to be mindful when training on the treadmill to avoid impacting and potentially limiting fitness levels on race day.


How Mimic Outdoor Training On The Treadmill


Many runners and coaches advise you to set the treadmill at 1% grade to simulate typical headwind resistance and terrain outdoors. While this is a helpful first step, this does not go far enough to prepare you for outdoor training and racing. While training on the treadmill, try adjusting the pace and grade every 10 - 15 minutes following your warmup.


Try the 60-minute workout below next time you need to complete a run on the treadmill. As you begin the incline portions of the training, drop the speed slightly to mirror the effort when outdoors. Once you drop the incline, increase the speed again to your usual easy pace.

Time

Incline

Warmup

10 minutes

0%

Run

15 minutes

2%

Run

10 minutes

0%

Run

15 minutes

1%

Run

5 minutes

2%

Cool Down

5 minutes

0%

It's imperative to think dynamically when running on the treadmill. Our goal with every training session is to build upon fitness for race day. Below we highlight some of the main benefits and setbacks from treadmill training.


Benefit

  • Controlled speed - Unless you’re experienced runner, it can be challenging to run at a consistent effort. Pacing is an art that will take time to master. The treadmill can help find and maintain a specific pace.

  • Easy on your joints - The added cushion the treadmill provides can reduce the stress placed on your legs from the increased mileage. This may aid in your ability to complete more weekly miles with less needed recovery.

  • Optimal year-round running climate - You can avoid running in sub-freezing temps or the July heat by moving your run indoors. Running in extreme weather, if not acclimated properly, can zap your progress. This may increase the number of rest days needed to bounce back between workouts.


Potential Setbacks

  • Your ability to maintain pace over varying terrain may suffer - Finding your pace is one thing, being able to maintain this throughout a race is much different. If you don’t incorporate road miles into your training, you will have a difficult time staying consistent throughout a race.

  • You lose agility by running on the treadmill - Turns in the road, navigating curbs, and avoiding potholes are variables you won’t experience on the treadmill. During a race, you may come across split-second decisions that can spell injury. Incorporate miles on the road to avoid disaster.

  • Too much cushion - We said before that the added cushioning is good for your joints, but too much cushioning or running on cushioned surfaces may negatively affect your running. It’s important to let your body adjust to the type of terrain you plan to race.


The bottom line. The treadmill can be a great supplement to your training program. When used in moderation, and in conjunction with outdoor training, you can expect to have mostly positive impacts on performance. It also provides the flexibility when you are crunched for time to grab a few miles with ease.