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Can you train for a road run using a treadmill?

(8 Posts)
lolcat Thu 29-Sep-11 15:54:47

As of last weekend I can finally run 5k on a treadmill (not continuously though, I had to take a 3 minute break at 3.5k to walk). I had the treadmill set at a 1% incline and ran it in just under 33 minutes (not including the walking break). I mostly only run once or twice a week (I do an hr long spinning class on one other day) so I am pretty happy with my progress although I intend to spend the next few weeks working on reducing the walking bit in the middle. Hopefully by the end of October I will be able to run 5k at the same speed without stopping and at a 2% incline.

I have only really dabbled at road running as it seems to give me knee problems but I have a little seed of an idea in the back of my mind that I would like to train for a 13k run next summer. The course is very hilly so I'm not sure if training on the treadmill will be adequate but also I don't know if my knees will hold out for weeks (or months) of road training. And will I be vewry disappointed by how little distance I can cover on the road compared to what I'm able to do on the treadmill?

Any advice most welcome.

AmINearlyThereYet Thu 29-Sep-11 17:05:38

You can certainly start training on a treadmill - as you already have - and you can intersperse training on the road with training on the treadmill (and using a cross-trainer). But I slightly doubt you would be able to train for a 13K run entirely on a treadmill. At the very least, it is likely to send you mad with boredom.

You need to have a bit more of an incline to compensate for the help which the treadmill gives you - say, 5%.

If you have problems with your knees, then I strongly recommend doing some work with weights to strengthen your thigh muscles. I used to do body pump classes and they were very helpful.

I don't think you will be disappointed by how far you can go on the road. The reverse is more likely: you will be amazed by how much more fun running outside is.


StrangewaysHereICome Thu 29-Sep-11 19:55:24

A friend of mine trained for the London Marathon entirely on a treadmill so it is possible. He completed but he did find it very hard (as you would running a marathon!), although I think the mental strength required for running on a treadmill must pay dividends. I think you'll be fine but maybe add in some running on grass just to mix it up a bit. Running repetitively in the same way can put strain on the same parts of your body, whereas running on different surfaces can strengthen your lower legs and protect against injury. Good advice from AmINearlyThereYet about strengthening your thighs to help support your knees.

lolcat Thu 29-Sep-11 22:03:28

Thank you both for the very helpful replies. I agree that boredom could be a problem. I do find the treadmill mind numbingly dull if I'm not in the mood for it. Thirty or so minutes is ok but I don't think I could spend double that amount of time on it regularly.

I will have to work up slowly to a 5% incline, I was hoping 2 or 3% would be enough for now. Can I leave the serious hill work until after I get my distance up?

My thighs are actually pretty strong from a lot of resistance work in spinning class but I will look into using weights to improve them further. Unfortunately there is no body pump class anywhere near me. But I will try running on different surfaces.

Strangeways, I am amazed that anyone could train for a marathon entirely on a treadmill. I wonder why he chose to do it that way.

I actually have no real idea how to go about training towards a goal or target, even though its still a long way off. I am the world's most unlikely runner. I pretty much spent my whole life dodging exercise, beginning in school, and I am not a sporty person at all. But a few months ago 5k seemed totally unachievable to me so I am spurred on by the thought that if I can reach that then I can take it a bit further. I am reading through lots of the other threads on this board for information but if anyone has any tips on how plan a training schedule they would be gratefully received.

Kandinsky Thu 29-Sep-11 22:35:55

Your real problem will be pace. My tendency when trying to run outside was to set off too fast and rapidly run out of steam.
Congratulations by the way. I am just starting the long haul to getting fit again. Oh it's hard.

lolcat Thu 29-Sep-11 22:45:42

Is it just from practise that you get the hang of pacing, or is there a knack to it. It's so easy on the treadmill where it's all taken care of. On the road I would probably do the same as you and start off too fast.

AmINearlyThereYet Fri 30-Sep-11 11:27:53

Go for it! If you can go from nothing to 5K, you can go from 5K to 13K or more.

There are loads of training schedules on the web (probably too many!). is a good site, but don’t be afraid to tweak their schedules to suit your situation. There are also lots of tips in the “advice” section of . The essential elements in any schedule are (1) one “long run” per week, which you increase in length gradually (as gradually as you need to) – if you can do 5K now, make that your starting distance, and build up week by week; (2) one run which is shorter but has tougher elements – eg. periods of going faster/ on a steeper gradient, then jogging or walking to recover; and (3) lots of rest days in between – don’t run on consecutive days. Your ability to pace will come from your “long run”. You can do this on the treadmill; just alter the treadmill speed to suit how you feel, rather than forcing yourself to run at a pre-set speed. The correct speed is one which allows you to carry on a conversation talking in complete sentences. If you are too out of breath to do this, you are going too fast. There is nothing wrong with taking walking breaks: plenty of people do the London Marathon by walking for 1min in every mile.

Is it only your knees which stops you from running outside, or are there other factors? Apart from strengthening your thighs and, as Strangeways says, running on different surfaces, you need to make sure you have a good pair of running shoes. Go to a specialist running shop, if possible, which will sell you a pair suitable for your running style (if your feet tend to roll inwards – mine do – you need a shoe with more support on the inside etc.).

Wheelybug Fri 30-Sep-11 19:06:59

I have been back running for 2 years now and have childcare needs have mean I have been running 2x week on a treadmill and 1 run outside. I have got up to 10 miles. I have done the longer runs outside and for the last 6 months have done 1 5 mile and 1 6 mile run on the tm.

Do you think your knees would stand up to 1 run a week outside to give you the experience of road running and a break from the treadmill which is duller than dull.

I use my tm sessions to do speed work because the variation relieves the boredom somewhat.

I actually find I run faster outside as well as further.

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