Episode 311 – How to Pick Your Treadmill Running Speed

Written by Jonathan

I have a client that I’ve been training for a few years now and just this past summer she’s taken up running and she’s improved a lot, at the beginning of the summer she was doing 2 or 3 minutes of running then 1 to 2 minutes of walking to complete 5km, but with her hard work and consistent training she was or is I guess able to run 5km in a row without stopping. However the weather is starting to become a little less pleasant, so she’s started running on the treadmill, which was going really well the first few times she did it she was getting comfortable with her pace and being on the machine and on her last run she was feeling so good she bumped her speed up .5mph which at first was very manageable, but she soon realized it was way too fast for her and instead of slowing down she felt so dejected she stopped and didn’t run again until our next session together when she said this to me –

I don’t understand why it was so hard it was only .5 mph faster than I had been doing before

I understand her frustration after spending all summer improving her endurance and speed after a couple of times on the treadmill she wasn’t able to go as fast as she could, fortunately I was there and had her feeling like a million bucks by the end here’s how.

.5 mph does not sound like a lot, but when it comes to running it is, let’s do some quick math and take a look at the numbers, let’s say for simplicity sake my client (we’ll call her Speedy Suzie) typically runs 5km or 3.2 miles in 30 minutes, this is an average pace of 6.4 mph, now she was on her treadmill and went from 6.4 mph to 6.9 which means her 5k or 3.2 mile time just became, 27:50. Suzie would have shaved 2:10 off her time if she were able to complete that much faster pace. Now any of you that have trained for any kind of running event or have just followed a running plan for a few months will know this, when you first start a running program it’s not uncommon to shave anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes off a distance like a 5k run in the first few weeks when you’re first starting out learning your pace and building up that initial base of aerobic endurance, however once you’re relatively well trained it takes months, years and may even be impossible to shave 2 plus minutes off a distance as short as 5km, but without realizing it that’s what Suzie tried to do, she just thought well .5 isn’t very much more so I will just do that.

I know that many of you listening to the show enjoy running or have started some kind of a running plan, but now that the weather is starting to be less nice there will be days with snow, ice and incredibly uneven and slippery surfaces running outside isn’t going to be a realistic option and you’ll look to the treadmill to help maintain and grow your endurance for the winter. I just want you to keep this story in mind for running on the treadmill and when you feel good or days when you think you can push it a little harder, push it harder, but only increase the speed incrementally .1 or .2 mph at a time and this way you’ll get your run in a little bit faster and you won’t increase your speed so much that you become discouraged or want to stop like my client did because that is by far the worst thing you can do, especially if you’ve made substantial progress over the summer.

Before you take off today I have 4 more tips for your treadmill runs:

  1. Always run on at least a .5 incline otherwise it’s a bit like running downhill
  2. Start slow and incrementally increase until you find your pace, most people try and go too fast when first starting on the treadmill, even relatively experienced runners.
  3. Pre-load some tunes, put a t.v in front of you or do both of those, just staring at a wall can get pretty boring, but listening to heavy rock and watching hockey fights can really pump you up.
  4. Always wear the safety clip, a lesson my 16 year old self learned when I split my chin open on the treadmill in front of the most attractive 18 year old girl I had ever seen.




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