It’s not always fun to use, but a treadmill can go a long way toward keeping you on track with your training. There’s a reason treadmill classes like Mile High and Heartbreak Studio are so popular. A treadmill not only gives you a chance to run when the weather is bad, it also allows you to hit your workout paces and times precisely, without having to worry about anything else but your running. As much as we may dislike them, treadmills (or “dreadmills” as they’re affectionately known) can take all the guesswork and uncertainty out of the equation when it comes to your running training.

You may have already found yourself on one of them this year. Or perhaps you’re getting ready to do your first run on one, or even your first workout. In addition to the precision of a treadmill, there are many ways to use it in your everyday running training; easy runs, tempo runs, interval workouts, even long runs can all be done on a treadmill. Yes, long runs!! I’ve heard about it and seen it done!

When running on a treadmill, there are a few important things to consider. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your treadmill running experience:

1. Set the right incline.

If the treadmill is set at a 0% incline, running on it becomes less of an effort  than running on a flat road at the same pace. Essentially meaning that the treadmill is helping you along and while that seems like a good thing, it’s really not. I recommend running on at least a 1% incline no matter what type of run it is. There are various ways to adjust the incline and speed of a treadmill in order to mimic the effort required to run a certain pace outdoors on a level surface. This handy chart illustrates that very well.

2. Learn the controls.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the various controls in front of you, before you start your run. Although treadmills pretty much look the same, they vary by manufacturer* and some have more options or “bells and whistles” than others. Learn which controls you need, and how to use them BEFORE you get on, and eliminate this from becoming a distraction during your run.

3. Be aware of time limits.

Some treadmills automatically stop after a certain time has elapsed, for example 60 minutes in. This is meant to encourage you to get off so that someone else can get on, but it can also break your rhythm and interfere with your run. Be aware of it, or ask a staff member what to expect before you start.

4. Plan your workout ahead of time.

There are a variety of workouts you can do on a treadmill, and some machines even allow you to input your entire workout before you begin. This can be very convenient, but at the very least, write down your workout and bring it with you. It’s also a good idea to keep a stopwatch handy in case you need to measure any rest time in between intervals.

5. Be aware of people waiting to use it.

This goes a long way toward proper gym etiquette. Look for posted signs limiting the time on each machine, or look around to see if anyone is waiting. Or better yet, choose a time when the gym is relatively empty and go for as long as you like.

It’s true, we all hate the treadmill, but if the situation calls for it then don’t hesitate to use one. Make friends with the treadmill this year. It could become your best training partner yet!

* I recently took time to review some very thorough research done by the folks at, on different treadmill brands. Treadmills may essentially all look the same, especially if you are new to using them, but there are some important differences to consider, especially if you are in the market for one (I wish I was, there are some pretty neat ones out there!). As someone who has run on his share of treadmills over the years, there’s nothing worse than running on a shaky, narrow or just plain uncomfortable treadmill, or one that doesn’t do what you want it to. The team at compared nine of the top treadmills in the industry and focused on key factors such as:

  • Features & fitness programming

  • Belt surface area

  • Speed and incline

  • Ease of transport

  • Continuous horsepower…

You know, the things we as runners care about. They even logged some miles on them and really put them to the test. In the end, they identified four treadmills that they valued, ones that were built with ergonomics in mind, were comfortable and quiet, and had controls they could easily navigate while in motion. Check out their top picks for the best treadmills, including some timely tips on how to set up and care for yours when it arrives.

Run better. Run smarter. Run for life.

Coach Mwangi