Can I Train For A Half Marathon On A Treadmill?

Running a half marathon is challenging. Training for a half marathon is even more taxing, especially if you’re a beginner runner. If you live in a cold place, it’s challenging to train outside. A treadmill is not just a great addition to your home gym; it is also a good alternative.

While most people can train for a half marathon on a treadmill, you also need to take into consideration how long you’ve been running and the surface you’ll be running on for the race. I recommend that runners only run 60-80% of their runs on a treadmill and save the long run of the week for an outside run.

Here are some tips you can use to train using a treadmill successfully.

1. Follow a schedule

Ensure that you have a regular schedule to follow when you are training. You need to try and track the system you have in place. It will make it much easier for you to prepare to run 13.1 miles (21 KM) on race day. Just like choosing to run in the morning, ensure that you keep the same running routine when you are using a treadmill.

To make sure you’ll follow your training schedule, secure the training schedule on the wall next to your treadmill (if you have a treadmill at home). Place the program next to your meal plan because it is also necessary to feed your body the correct nutrition for runs and recovery.

If you need a free 12-week half marathon training schedule click here.

2. Add an incline

Remember that the treadmill terrain will be different than the actual surface you will be running your race on. Your racecourse will have slight inclines, declines, and hills. Running on a flat treadmill will serve no purpose to mocking your race-day course. You need to condition your body to be ready for variable racecourse conditions so that your half marathon isn’t a big surprise.

The surface you will run the half marathon on is not all flat. You should have some practice with inclines. You do not want to surprise your body on your half marathon day. You might get tired and lose the motivation to finish the run.

Start slow, with a slight incline for your first couple of weeks of training. Slightly increase the incline at least once a week. You can get to a steeper slope much more easily if you adjust the incline ever-so-slightly.

3. Simulate race day temperature

What will the temperature be like fo your half marathon race day? Will it be super hot or bitter cold? Make sure you determine what the average temperature will come race day. You can adjust your thermostats to the temperature required.

Your body will adapt to the temperature you train in so the closer you can mimic race day temperatures your body will be better adjusted for your race day.

Put your body in the same situation and environment of the half marathon. You need to be sure that you can endure the weather conditions on race day. Do not let yourself get blindsided on the day of the half marathon. If you can survive the run and the temperature without passing out, then you are sure that you can endure the real deal.

4. Use visual aids

Although training for a half marathon is convenient, some people complain that training on a treadmill is boring. It doesn’t have to be.

If you find yourself dreading the treading then you need to find ways to either trick your mind into running or find some visual cue motivators. You need a motivation boost every time you train.

When you train outside you have the advantage of different sceneries to help boost your motivation. While, training on a treadmill, you have to look forward or possibly watch a TV.

If you have the luxury of training on a treadmill you can play videos or run on natural trail paths that simulate you being outside.

Physically moving the location of the treadmill so that it faces a window could easily add a hint of motivation to your lengthy-long runs.

For a decently priced Nordic Track treadmill, check out my recommendations page.  The XXX Nordic track treadmill has a long history of being a durable treadmill. This one is also easily folded up and stored in a convenient location.

5. Work on your speed

The one area that treadmills excel at is devising interval, tempo, hill workouts to improve your speed. Most treadmills have a built-in interval and tempo training workout that allows for easy speed adjustments. You can go fast or slow according to your current fitness level. You can also push yourself to any limit you want. It makes it easy for you to train your body to run fast or slow. You can also keep your tempo consistent when you are using a treadmill. Most runners keep a steady speed and increase towards the end of the race.

All of your workouts need to be based on your own physical perceived effort. Check out these charts to determine your own perceived effort and apply it to your speed workouts below.

RPEDifficultyTalk TestPace
10All-out - Max Effort (Sprints/Strides)Can't talk, out of breath
9Extremely hard (Speedwork)one or two words at a time
7-8Medium to Hard Effort (Interval/Speedwork)Can speak in small sentences
4-6Moderate Effort (Endurance)can have a conversation
2-3Light Effort (walking)No problem talking
1No Effort (Sitting/Standing)No problem talking

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) - EXAMPLE

This shows a possible example for a new runner's paces based on RPE. Once you know your RPE you can determine approximately what your interval pace should be. In this example, the runner's RPE of 7-8 comes at pace of 10:00 minutes/mile. Therfore the high interval training should be performed at 10:00 minutes/mile.
RPEDifficultyTalk TestPace
10All-out - Max EffortCan't talk, out of breath8:00
9Extremely hardone or two words at a time8:30
7-8Medium to Hard Effort (Interval)Can speak in small sentences10:00
4-6Moderate Effort (Endurance)can have a conversation12:00
2-3Light Effort (walking)No problem talking15:00
1No Effort (Sitting/Standing)No problem talking0:00

Types of treadmill speed workouts:

  • Intervals – You can program the treadmill to run for 4 minutes with a medium perceived effort of 8 and then run for 2 minutes at a perceived effort of 2.
  • Strides – Are like mini sprints but you don’t hold out the peak effort for long ( maybe a few seconds). Basically slowly build you’re running up to a 9 or 10 perceived effort over a range of 30 seconds. The last couple of seconds should be at your most difficult perceived effort.
  • Hill Repeats – Just like intervals but your treadmill is programmed to climb to a certain height to simulate running up a hill. The treadmill then lowers itself so that you can rest for two minutes on a flat surface. For more training information that you can adapt to a treadmill check out – Run Hill Repeats to Increase Performance.

You can set your time and check on how long it might take you to finish the half marathon. You can then increase speed gradually according to your current physical fitness level.

Although speed workouts are awesome to perform on treadmills if this is your first half marathon do you really need to include speedwork during your 12-week half marathon training?

6. Eat healthy meals

Every runner needs to attempt to eat healthy meals. Ensure that you eat healthy meals regularly so that you can stay fit.

A proper diet will give you the energy you need to train. Drink lots of fluid so that you can get enough electrolytes and avoid smoking altogether.

A runner’s diet needs to place a larger portion of their daily caloric intake into carbs. Your body burns glycogen stores first which are filled with carbohydrates.

“Fueling an endurance athlete through training and racing requires about 2.5-4.5 grams per pound of body weight, or 55-65% total diet from carbohydrate (compared to 2.5-3.0 grams/pound for moderate exercisers and more than 4.5 grams/pound for ultra endurance athletes).” (3 things runners need to know about carbohydrates, Lizzie Kasparek, 2018)

When you take good care of your body, you will see how easy it is to train for any half marathon or marathon. Figure out the plan that works best for you.

7. Don’t buy cheap shoes

When you are training for a half marathon, you need the correct type of shoes. The right kind of shoes will help you minimize injuries and make your training much smoother. If you’re wondering what type of running shoe you need, check out this detailed post about –what type of running shoe are you?

8. Determine your pace

Treadmills are great for determining your pace especially if you don’t have any prior race history under your belt. You can adjust the treadmill to an easy pace. This easy pace needs to be at a speed where you could have a conversation with someone while running.

You can use pace predictors to determine your pace by looking at your previous 5K or 10K race, however, if the last time you’ve raced was over 6 months ago, you need to start from scratch. I’ve put together an extensive post here on how to determine your half marathon pace for a successful race – How Long Should It Take To Run A Half Marathon?

9. Is your race a virtual half marathon?

If so you’re in luck because most virtual half marathons allow you to run the race on a treadmill! This means that your body won’t have to adjust to a different running surface that could easily bring on fatigue in your muscles much sooner. If you’ve never heard of a virtual half marathon and it sounds interesting, check out – What is a virtual half marathon?

I’ve also put together 17 great tips that can help boost your motivation for a virtual half marathon race.

Can I Train For A Half Marathon on a treadmill
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When training for a half marathon, you need a plan that will work effectively. You must continuously test yourself and determine what training schedule fits your current lifestyle and location. These are some advantages of using a treadmill to train for a half marathon.

The speed is adjustable

You can adjust the speed and get the best pace. Increase and reduce the rate according to how your body feels. When you are using a treadmill, you can keep a consistent speed.

Most half marathon runners keep a consistent pace for the majority of their race. Towards the latter part of the race, some runners will speed up to finish their race strong.

During your half marathon race, some runners will pass you, this isn’t the time to chase the other runner, especially if this is your first half marathon.

For more half marathon racing and training tips, check out this extensive post: 102 half marathon tips for beginners.

Your running buddy can hang right next to you

If your running buddy is faster than you, it doesn’t matter – because the treadmills will keep you in the same location. One drawback that might crawl underneath your skin – is if your friend is faster – they will be done with their training quicker than you.

Minimizes injuries

Injuries will be minimal when you are using a treadmill to train for a half marathon. Since the treadmill is softer it is less likely to cause you serious injury.

Trail running can be dangerous so if you’re serious about running a non-trail paved half marathon race – stay off the trails. You need to keep your body healthy and strong for your half marathon race day.  If you’re overtraining or training when you’re tired you can add additional risks that could cause you injuries and possibly missing out on your half marathon race.

Set your own distance or time on the treadmill

You can easily adjust your runs so that your running against a clock, running at a consistent pace, or running a specific distance.

Allows you to multitask

If you don’t have the time to train for your half marathon you can easily adjust the time you train on your treadmill. While some gyms are open 24 hours a day, sometimes you can’t find the time to go and get your training runs in at 12 AM.

If you have your treadmill at home, you can more easily sneak away and get five miles logged in for the day while the kids take a nap. Having easy access to running equipment will allow you more flexible time in your schedule and hopefully less stress.

You are not affected by the weather

The weather is always favorable when you are training on a treadmill. You can train when it’s raining, snowing, or even when it’s too windy outside.

Not leaving your home gives you more safety

There is a higher risk of anything happening to you while out on your run. There are no cars, wild animals, or people wandering inside your house while you train on your treadmill (unless you consider your pets or kids wild animals).

Route planning is not required

You do not need to map out your running route if you’re training for a half marathon on a treadmill. You also do not need any extra gizmos and tech gadgets to track how long you have been running (Although I still track it on my Garmin Forerunner 235 – check out my recommendations page for a low-cost effective training watch).

You also don’t have to worry about getting lost on an unfamiliar trail and need to find your way back home.

You can stop at any time

With a treadmill, it is easy for you to get off and rest when you are too tired or take a short break.  It might not be as easy to relax when you are on the road or on a trail. You can also stop when you feel like you cannot continue anymore.

Related: Is Running On A Treadmill Physically Bad For You?

How to make training on a treadmill fun

It’s very easy to get bored when you are not outside. Most people feel like the open road is a much better place to train. Here are some things you can do to make your training indoors more fun:

  • Watch some TV/Netflix/Prime/Hulu shows while training
  • Load up on your favorite songs –Spotify works great for playlist sharing
  • Listen to an audiobook

Related: 10 Tips For Making Treadmill Running Easier?

Disadvantages of half marathon training on a treadmill

No power = no training

While most of us have power all the time, there are occasional power outages. If the power goes out you can wait until the power comes back on or simply hit the road.

Might lose speed during your half marathon race

If most of your training is done on a treadmill there is a slight chance that you could lose some speed on race day. Your muscles won’t be as conditioned to running on harder surfaces, thus requiring your hamstring to work harder. Treadmills tend to propel you forward a little bit easier than when on a ground surface. The only way to avoid this is to include speed work at least once per week on the treadmill.

Leg muscles aren’t exposed to varying running surfaces

Running on pavement, asphalt, trail running, or the grass helps engage and build different muscles because your foot is striking down on uneven surfaces. These uneven surfaces help to make your leg muscles stronger by engaging those muscle groups more often than on a treadmill.

A treadmill tends to be a softer surface to run on which does allow for reduced injuries because you’re not pounding the pavement all of the time.

For a detailed post about which sruface is better for your muscles, outdoor or treadmill running, check out: Outdoor Vs. Treadmill Running

Don’t forget to cool down after training on the treadmill

Just like training outside, take time to warm up before your run. Anyone needs to take measures so that you can reduce injuries and soreness. You do not want to be too sore to train the next day. Ensure that you properly cool down by gradually reducing your speed to a walk. If you need to work out some tightness in any of your muscles engage your muscles with a foam roller or massage trigger point ball (check out my favorite trigger point massage ball – trigger point massage ball).

Are You Considering A Full Marathon Race?

If you’ve recently completed your first half marathon and you’re considering a full marathon race, it’s going to take you roughly another 8 weeks to be able to run the full marathon, at a minimum. I ran my first half marathon race and then immediately started training for my first marathon race which was 12 weeks later.

One way to line up your first half marathon race while training for a  marathon race is to treat your first half marathon race as simply one of your upper long runs of 13.1 miles. Run at an easy pace and simply complete the half marathon race. You will have completed two tasks with one run: 1) finished a half marathon race and 2) completed a long run in your marathon training schedule.

For a full post on transitioning from a half marathon to a marathon race check out: From Half To Full: 10 Ways To Transition To A Full Marathon.

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Coach Scott's Credentials:
  • Published Author
  • RRCA Certified Running Coach (Level 2)
  • RRCA Certified Youth Running Coach
  • NASM CPT (Certified Personal Trainer).
  • NASM CNC (Certified Nutrition Coach)
  • NASM WLS (Weight Loss Specialist)
  • ACE SFC (Stretching and Flexibility Coach)
  • ACE GFI (Group Fitness Instructor)
He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 22nd half marathon race. 

 To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor CLICK HERE.

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