You might have to resort to the treadmill or "dreadmill" (as many call it) while we all navigate our way through the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). And, while there's nothing like breathing in fresh air, and listening to the sound of your feet pounding the pavement or trails as you clock you kilometers, a treadmill is a really useful piece of equipment to have during times of restrictions or limitations, or when the weather isn't ideal for outdoor running.

There's no doubt that treadmills are ultimately a means to an en and bit restrictive in nature, but they allow you to keep your fitness levels up as you incorporate treadmill running with other with other forms of cross training too.

May people avoid the treadmill, because it can be tedious and boring. However, if your goals are big and specific enough, then every session suddenly becomes that much easier.

For instance, knowing that you are due for a lung busting 3 km dash, means you need to have your racing cap on so that when that last 700 - 800m shows up, you're fired up and ready to make it happen!

T​ips to cure the boredom on the treadmill

  • Watching your favourite series or listening to a podcast while you run
  • Compiling a few running playlists on your phone to play during each session
  • Using training music videos on YouTube to keep your motivation high or settle into an E-book for some mindless downtime

It's also a good idea to include as much variety as you can in each session such as a series of fast, flat sprints, plus some undulating hills, a few longer tempo sessions followed by recovery time. Not only does this help to beat boredom, it also ensures no niggles or setbacks due to repetition or overuse.

Benefits of Treadmill Running Include:

  • The treadmill is a relatively simple piece of exercise equipment and easy to use.
  • It has a more predictable, forgiving surface than pounding the tarmac, pavement or trails so there's less jarring on the bones and joints, and less risk of tripping or rolling ankles.
  • It allows for careful monitoring of both heart rate and blood pressure especially for those who hae health concerns.
  • Coming out of injury, the treadmill allows you to stop at any stage without being kilometers away from home.
  • Training at an exact pace is a lot easier than similar sessions done outside. Similar control also applies to warm-up and cool-down periods, as well as gradient.
  • It's easier to stick to the intensity you want. Sometimes, when you hit a hard hill on the road or trails, you automatically want to slow right down or walk.

Disadvantages to Using a Treadmill to Keep in Mind

  • Some treadmills have a rebound effect that may well increase impact and negate the softer materials they're manufactured with, creating jarring of a different kind.
  • They can take up a lot of space and more advanced treadmills generally don't fold up.
  • Treadmill sessions tend to be monotonous and boring in comparison with outdoor sessions.
  • Some machines are loud and invasive with regards to other activities and service and maintenance requires the expertise of a professional

How to Optimize Your Treadmill Training​

If your training is exclusively on the treadmill, it's important to include different pacing strategies to optimize your training time, just like you would on the road or trails. Unless you're only running for 30 minutes three times a week, there's a real risk of overdoing things, especially if you're running too much, too fast or too soon. These are classic culprits for overuse injuries, which is the last thing you want.

The ratio of faster to easier sessions on the treadmill will depend on your current level of training, as well as the phase of training you're in. So, for beginners and fitness enthusiasts, 80% of your treadmill runs should be controlled and easy.

For more seasoned runners who run daily, your training might look something like this:

  • Two short, easy runs
  • A medium long run of 75 - 90 minutes
  • A long run of 90 minutes or longer
  • Plus and interval session, a tempo session and a "combo"session or time trial.

No Matter how strong and fit you feel, it's important to warm up properly, and set attainable goals for yourself. Your session might well be over before you've even started if you set yourself some unattainable goals such as 8 x 400m hills for your first session.

A good treadmill program is generally categorized into four sections:


Aerobic Training

Easy runs at talking pace (60 - 70% of max heart rate) and the purpose is to keep fitness levels topped up or recovery purposes after faster sessions. Aerobic runs could be anything from 30 minutes to a long run of 90 minutes or longer and could be flat or over rolling hills to make it a bit more interesting.


Tempo Running

These are fast but controlled run at around 80 - 85% intensity, with the objective of increasing efficiency at threshold levels and getting accustomed to racing longer distance races.


Interval Training

Fast running but for shorter periods, e.g. 8 x 1 min at 90% of maximum heart rate with 3 minutes easy recovery running in between. The purpose is to challenge anaerobic efficiency and the ability to tolerate lactic acid at ever increasing levels.


Hill Repeats

Running a variety of inclines from 4 - 8% focusing at good running posture, strong arm drive and powerful leg action for anything from 60 - 90 seconds at a time. There are a lot of variations within "hill-training" but the benefits include leg speed development, strength development, as well as a fair dose of "vasbyt" preparing you for those final few kilometers in a 5 or 10 km race!

One of the best benefits of using a treadmill, is that you can control the pace. So, for the purpose of improving running speed this could become a very useful feature! Becoming a faster runner doesn't happen overnight. If it did, then we would all be doing sub 40-minute 10 km efforts!

It's a well-know fact that treadmill running is easier than running on the road. Maximum heart rate is quite possibly around 5 - 10% lower on a treadmill compared to that on the road. As a general measure, set the treadmill on a gradient of one to simulate a flat and easy run outside. And if you're doing like-for-like sessions on the treadmill versus the road or trails, and you're after comparable heart rate levels, work on increasing speed and gradient in each run.

Focus on your running technique and posture

Hill training is a great way of working on running biomechanics while ticking a few other boxes at the same time. As for other sprint workouts the coaching cues are very similar:

Run tall, lean slightly forward from the ankles all the way to the chest. Drive forward with a powerful arm action with your hands up to your chest or even your chin, with a full extension of your back legs and nice high lift.  Then push off with your front leg. If you're not used to this, start with a few shorter hill sprints.

Here are some treadmill sessions to get you started



Treadmill pacing is not always hard and fast as it might well vary between different machines but this chart will help you get an idea of how to control the speed based on your current 10 km time and using speed settings (km/hr) or training intensities (e.g. easy runs, threshold, fast, etc.)