Can You Train For A Marathon On A Treadmill?

Kristen NelsonKristen Nelson

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So, you’re training for a marathon but only have access to a treadmill? Don’t sweat! You can train mostly on a treadmill or even complete all your training on one. Treadmills provide convenience and flexibility for you to train whenever works best for you.

If your schedule only allows you to run while the sun is down, or if you live in areas where heat and humidity or cold weather and ice are issues, or if you simply have limited access to areas where you can run, you’ll benefit from a treadmill. If you want a treadmill at home, check out our Best Treadmill List to find the right one for your training.

Treadmill Marathon Training

Leave the excuses outside, hop on your treadmill inside and turn your focus to running 26.2 miles. Maybe even go for a PR! Before diving into your treadmill training though, there are some things to keep in mind.

Training For A Marathon On A Treadmill Vs. Outside

First, you should understand the advantages and disadvantages to using a treadmill to train for a marathon.

Pros of running on a treadmill vs. outside

  • Less impact on joints than running outside on concrete
  • Can help give more structure to your training plan and allow for more specific training days like interval runs
  • Can help increase overall marathon pace
  • No interruptions with weather or worrying about your route
  • Complete focus on mile times
  • You can program your inclines and set your pace so you’ll always have a successful training session
  • Lets you train anytime of day to fit your schedule

Cons of running on a treadmill vs. outside:

  • You engage less muscles running on a treadmill because of the lack of turns, curbs, cars, people, animals, and other obstacles you might encounter when running outdoors
  • The treadmill doesn’t prepare you for some weather conditions you might experience during your marathon
  • Some treadmills are limited to the amount they can incline, so you might not be able to train for steep hills if your marathon route includes them
  • Most treadmills don’t decline which won’t prepare you for going downhill

Things To Consider While Training For A Marathon On A Treadmill

You’ll need to check your form. Running on a treadmill can cause you to shorten your stride, so be sure you are running naturally. You need to be looking ahead rather than down at your console as well. This will ensure you maintain good posture, and when you run your marathon, you’ll need to see where you’re going!

Also, only use the handrails when you are stopping and starting your runs. You won’t have handrails outside and they can hinder your balance and form if you use them too often. You may also want to incline your treadmill by 1% to help resemble the feeling of running against the wind outside.

Another aspect to think about is the type of treadmill you’re using. If you are using a treadmill in a gym, the time you are allowed to run on the treadmill might be shorter than what you need to complete your long runs.

You might also prefer a manual treadmill where you move the belt with your legs, rather than an automatic where you can program your speed. With a manual treadmill you won’t get any aid like you do from an electrically powered belt. On the other hand however, when you program the speed on an automatic treadmill, you can use it to push into a faster pace which will shorten your marathon time.

Nordictrack x32i incline trainer 40% incline

The NordicTrack X32i rated Best Treadmill by our team.

As mentioned above, many treadmills incline to 15%, so you might be limited if your marathon location has lots of steep hills or if you want to train on higher inclines. For home use, NordicTrack has incline treadmills that incline up to 40% and also decline to 6%, which could help with this and make you feel more prepared for larger hills. Check out the NordicTrack x32i, here.

Hill training, interval training, and tempo training are all typically used when training for a marathon. Plus, they will help improve your running and cardio capacity overall.

Now, what are you waiting for? Hop on the treadmill and get training for that marathon!
Happy running!

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