Essential Guide to Marathon Training on Treadmill

Yes, you can do it! While it might be tough to set a new personal best, marathon training on a treadmill is definitely possible.

In this guide, we’ll provide simple but powerful tips and information to help you make the most of your treadmill training. Whether it’s bad weather outside or you just prefer running indoors, we’ve got you covered. Let’s explore how you can prepare for your marathon on a treadmill, step by step.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Training for a Marathon on a Treadmill

Let’s start by talking about the pros and cons of doing your training on a treadmill, so you can know what to expect:

Benefits of Training for a Marathon on a Treadmill:

  • Weather-Proof: You can run any time, no matter if it’s raining, snowing, or really hot outside.

  • Control: You can easily control your pace and incline. This helps you follow your training plan precisely.

  • Safety: Running indoors can be safer, especially if you’re running early in the morning or late at night.

  • Convenience: A treadmill is right there whenever you’re ready to train, saving you time on traveling to a running track or other location.

  • Data Tracking: Most treadmills show your speed, time, incline, and sometimes heart rate, which helps you track your progress.

Disadvantages of Training for a Marathon on a Treadmill:

  • Monotony: Running in place can get boring compared to the changing scenery outdoors.

  • Different Feel: Running on a treadmill feels different from running on the road. This can affect how well your training translates to actual marathon conditions.

  • Limited Space: Treadmills constrain your movement, which can make your running form a bit different than it would be outdoors.

  • Less Challenge: You might miss out on natural challenges like wind and varying terrain that you would face in a marathon.

  • Social Aspect: If you enjoy running with a group or in nature, treadmill running can feel isolating.

Marathon Training on Treadmill

Best Types of Treadmills for Marathon Training

When picking a treadmill for marathon training, it’s crucial to choose one that suits your needs.

Here are the main characteristics to consider:

Motor Strength: Look for a treadmill with a strong motor. A motor with at least 2.5 to 3.0 continuous horsepower (CHP) is good for running. A strong motor ensures the treadmill can handle long runs without overheating.

Belt Size: The belt should be big enough for your stride. Most runners recommend a belt that’s at least 20 inches wide and 55 inches long.

Cushioning: Good cushioning reduces the impact on your joints. This is especially important for marathon training, as you’ll be running long distances.

Incline Options: A treadmill that can incline mimics marathon training outdoors conditions better, helping you prepare for varied terrains. Most treadmills go up to 12° uphill, and some even have downhill training.

Speed Range: Ensure the treadmill can reach speeds that align with your training speeds. A maximum speed of 10 to 12 mph is usually enough.

Console Features: Look for a treadmill with a user-friendly console. Features like heart rate monitoring, preset training programs, and progress tracking can be beneficial.

Space and Storage: Consider the size of the treadmill and if it fits in your space. Some treadmills can be folded, which is great if you’re limited on space.

Durability and Warranty: A durable treadmill is important for extensive training. Check the warranty, especially for the motor and frame, to ensure it’s a good investment.

Heart Rate Training

Training for a marathon using heart rate monitoring is particularly effective on a treadmill. When you use heart rate training, you’re aiming to run at the right intensity levels to achieve specific goals, like improving endurance and speed or practicing your goal marathon pace.

A treadmill is an excellent tool for this type of training because it offers a steady and controlled environment. Unlike running outside, where weather and terrain can impact your heart rate, the treadmill keeps these factors constant, allowing for more consistent training.

On a treadmill, you can easily adjust the speed and incline to maintain your desired heart rate zone. This is a significant advantage because it lets you make quick and precise adjustments to stay on track with your training plan. Additionally, most treadmills offer real-time heart rate feedback, usually through hand sensors or by connecting to a chest strap. This immediate data allows you to monitor your heart rate continuously and adjust your workout intensity as needed.

Practice Good Treadmill Running Technique

Practicing good treadmill running technique is crucial, as it can differ slightly from running outdoors. Here are some tips to ensure you’re running effectively on a treadmill:

Posture: Keep your body upright and look straight ahead, not down at your feet or the treadmill console. This helps maintain a natural running form and reduces neck and shoulder strain.

Arm Movement: Swing your arms naturally as you would outdoors, but be mindful not to let them drift too far side to side. This helps maintain balance and momentum.

Foot Strike: Aim for a mid-foot strike, just as you would outside. Avoid landing too heavily on your heels or toes, as this can lead to inefficient running form and potential injury.

Stride: Don’t overstride. On a treadmill, the belt can pull your feet back, leading to longer strides. Focus on keeping your stride length consistent with your regular running form.

Don’t Hold On: Resist the urge to hold onto the handrails. It might be tempting, especially as you get tired, but it can throw off your form and reduce the effectiveness of your workout.

Stay Centered: Keep yourself centered on the belt to avoid running too close to the front or back, which can lead to altered stride and focus.

Transition Gradually: If you’re new to treadmill running, start with shorter runs to get used to the different feel. Gradually increase your duration as you become more comfortable.

Best Treadmill Settings to Simulate Running Outside

To get the most out of your treadmill runs and make them feel more like running outside, you’ll need to tweak your treadmill settings. Here’s how you can adjust your treadmill to better simulate the outdoor running experience:

Start by setting your treadmill’s incline to 1% to 2%. This small adjustment is a good way to replicate the natural resistance you’d encounter when running outdoors, such as wind resistance or the slight inclines on a typical road.

But don’t just set the incline and forget it. To truly mimic outside conditions, you should vary the incline throughout your workout. This approach simulates the ups and downs you’d face on outdoor paths. Many treadmills offer programs that automatically change the incline to simulate hills, which can be a great feature to use.

Pace variation is another key aspect. When you run outside, your speed naturally fluctuates. To emulate this on a treadmill, change your pace at different intervals. You could speed up for a few minutes and then slow down, mimicking the pace changes you would experience on an outdoor run.

While you can’t recreate actual wind resistance indoors, using a fan and maintaining that slight incline can help account for it. It’s a small detail, but it adds to the overall effort to make your treadmill run more realistic.

If you’re preparing for a specific race, try to simulate the course’s terrain to do a practice run. Adjust the treadmill’s incline to match the race’s profile, preparing your body for similar conditions on race day.

Lastly, some treadmills offer virtual running environments or scenery, which can make your indoor run feel more like an outdoor adventure. If your treadmill has this feature, it’s a great way to add some visual interest to your runs.

By fine-tuning these settings, you can make your indoor running sessions more reflective of outdoor conditions, which is particularly beneficial for marathon training.

Tips to Combat Boredom on a Treadmill

Running on a treadmill can sometimes feel repetitive, leading to boredom. Here are some practical tips to keep your treadmill runs engaging and fight off monotony:

  • Listen to Music or Podcasts: Create a playlist of your favorite songs or catch up on podcasts. This can be a great way to keep your mind engaged while your body works out.

  • Watch TV or Movies: Position your treadmill in front of a TV or use a tablet to watch shows or movies. This can make longer runs feel quicker and more enjoyable.

  • Vary Your Workouts: Don’t stick to the same routine. Mix up your workouts by changing the speed, incline, or trying different running programs available on your treadmill. This variety can keep each run fresh and challenging.

  • Set Goals: Having specific goals for each treadmill session can keep you motivated. Whether it’s beating your best time, running a longer distance, or burning a certain number of calories, goals give you something to work towards.

  • Use Visualizations: Imagine you’re running in your favorite outdoor location or visualize competing in a race. This mental trick can make your treadmill run more engaging and less tedious.

  • Run with Others: If possible, schedule your treadmill run at the same time as a friend or join a virtual running group. Knowing others are sharing in your workout can boost your motivation.

  • Track Your Progress: Use apps or the treadmill’s built-in features to track your performance over time. Seeing improvements can be a significant motivational boost.

Treadmill Speed Workouts for Marathon Training

Speed workouts on a treadmill are an excellent way to build speed and endurance for your marathon training.

One effective treadmill speed workout is interval training.

After your warm-up, increase the treadmill’s speed to a challenging pace, one where you’re running hard but can maintain control and form. Hold this pace for a set amount of time, say 1 to 3 minutes, depending on your fitness level. Then, reduce the speed to a light jog or brisk walk to recover. Repeat these intervals for the duration of your workout. For example, you might do 5 to 10 repetitions depending on your training level and goals.

Another workout is the tempo run.

After warming up, increase the treadmill’s speed to a “comfortably hard” pace, where you’re pushing yourself but not sprinting. Maintain this pace for a set duration, like 20 to 30 minutes, before cooling down with a slower jog. Tempo runs improve your lactate threshold, which is crucial for marathon running.

Hill repeats can also be simulated on a treadmill.

Increase the incline to simulate running uphill and adjust the speed to a challenging but sustainable pace. Maintain this for a few minutes before lowering the incline and pace for a recovery period. Repeat this cycle several times.

Don’t forget to cool down after your speed work. A 10 to 15-minute slow jog or walk at the end helps your body recover and prevents stiffness.

It’s essential to incorporate these speed workouts into your treadmill routine gradually, especially if you’re new to speed training. Start with shorter, less intense sessions and gradually increase the intensity and duration as your fitness improves. This approach helps you gain speed and endurance without risking burnout or injury.

Marathon Training on Treadmill

Best Treadmill Workouts to Try

Here are three specific treadmill workouts that you can incorporate into your marathon training regimen. A running coach can also help you create specific race pace workouts to try.

Each workout serves a different purpose and will help you build endurance, speed, and strength.

1. Progressive Run:

The progressive run starts at a comfortable pace and gradually increases in speed, helping you build endurance and teaching your body to push harder as you tire.

Start with a 10-minute warm-up at a comfortable jog.

After warming up, increase your speed slightly every 5 minutes. For example, if you start at 6 mph, increase to 6.2 mph, then 6.4 mph, and so on.

Continue this pattern until you’ve reached a challenging but sustainable pace. Hold this pace for the last 10 to 15 minutes of your run.

Finish with a 10-minute cool-down at a slow jog or brisk walk.

2. Interval Training:

Interval training boosts your speed and cardiovascular fitness by alternating between high-intensity bursts and recovery periods.

Warm up for 10 minutes with a light jog.

Increase the speed to a fast pace (about 80-90% of your max effort) for 1 minute.

Then, reduce the speed to a comfortable jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover.

Repeat this cycle 6 to 10 times, depending on your fitness level.

Conclude with a 10-minute cool-down.

3. Hill Workout:

Hill workouts on a treadmill build strength in your leg muscles, improve your running economy, and increase your aerobic capacity.

Begin with a 10-minute warm-up at a flat incline.

Increase the incline to a challenging level (around 4-6%) while maintaining a steady pace for 2 minutes.

Lower the incline to 0-1% and jog for 2 minutes to recover.

Repeat the hill intervals for 20-30 minutes.

Finish with a 10-minute cool-down on a flat incline.

Each of these workouts can be adjusted based on your current fitness level and marathon training goals. They offer variety to your training, keep you engaged, and help you develop different aspects of your running performance.

Marathon Training on Treadmill

How To Make Treadmill Training a Success

When training for a marathon on a treadmill, it’s essential to have the right gear, starting with a good pair of treadmill running shoes that offer the right balance of support and cushioning.

Following a marathon training plan that includes a variety of types of training runs is crucial for success. This plan should feature long marathon training runs on the treadmill, where you can adjust incline settings to simulate outdoor conditions, alongside recovery runs that allow your muscles to heal and strengthen. Speed and hill workouts, like interval training and hill training, enhance your stamina and power, which is crucial for those challenging parts of the marathon.

Creating a sample treadmill marathon training plan should encompass long run progression, which gradually increases your endurance, and manual adjustments to the treadmill’s speed and incline to mimic the race course’s terrain.

Incorporating interval training and hill workouts can boost your cardiovascular fitness and leg strength, respectively. Understanding how long it takes to train for a marathon is fundamental, with most plans spanning from 16 to 20 weeks, allowing for a gradual build-up to avoid injury.

Finally, remember that training for a marathon on a treadmill requires patience and consistency, but with the right approach, including varied workouts and proper recovery runs, you’ll be well-prepared for your race day.

However, we suggest including at least one outdoor run each week to work out different muscles and test your pace and effort before race day.

Diego Alcubierre, a passionate runner and coach, started his journey at 26 with a 10k time of 1:06:23 and has since slashed 30 minutes off his personal record. With five running and coaching certifications, Diego is committed to sharing his expertise and proven strategies to help runners of all levels enhance their performance, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of running. At Bannister, he simplifies complex training concepts, empowering you to achieve your running goals.