Are Treadmills Good for Marathon Training?

Last Updated On January 11th, 2019

It’s the track and field event that separates the casual runners from the serious ones: the marathon. It’s 26.2 miles of just you and the road, and if you’re lucky, you’ll cross the finish line with all of your toenails intact. Training for a marathon can be a long and arduous process, full of elevation exercises and long runs and well-timed rest days. For most runners, that training takes place on outdoors, on the sidewalk or a track or even along the side of the road. However, with the popularity of treadmills, especially in cooler climes, many runners have wondered: are treadmills good for marathon training?

The answer may surprise you. While the thought of running in excess of 26 miles on the human equivalent of a hamster wheel may seem like torture, the truth is that a good, sturdy treadmill is an excellent marathon training device. Read on to find out how your long race preparation might benefit from some indoor running time.

More Than Just Distance

The most common metric for measuring race training is distance; everyone wants to know, “How far did you run today?” However, there are other factors when it comes to marathon training, and if you’re running on a treadmill, you can specifically focus on and track those.

For example, there’s elevation, which you’ll need to practice if your marathon will include hills. If your treadmill is a good one, there should be a way to increase the incline. Unfortunately, there’s no way to go downhill on a treadmill, but you can still get your elevation training in.

Additionally, runners can do interval training with sprints to build up their stamina. You can do a mile to warm up at a fairly slow pace, then increase the speed of the belt for several miles, and then do a mile or two cool down. Or, you can include sprints to really push yourself; try two minutes at a fast clip, then one minute slower to cool down, then another fast two minutes, and so on.

Safer in Icy Weather

While some runners genuinely enjoy running in the cold, wintery precipitation can make outdoor runs dangerous. It takes extra energy to avoid the snow and ice on the ground, and you might even slip and fall, suffering an injury that could sideline you for weeks and possibly cause you to miss your marathon altogether.

Extremely cold air temperatures can also make proper breathing difficult for many runners. Additionally, the cold can cause uncomfortable dry skin and, in severe instances, frostbite on uncovered extremities. When the temperatures dip below freezing, and especially when the ground is wet, slippery, and frozen, running indoors on a treadmill is always a safer option.

The Answer Is Yes!

You might not want to run 26, or even 20, or even 10 miles on a treadmill, but for certain running-based workouts, especially during the winter months, a treadmill is a great piece of equipment to have if you’re training for a marathon. Paired with longer runs outdoors, a treadmill can help you build up strength and stamina for a successful race — and you can even watch a movie while you’re using it.

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