The treadmill vs the pavement

04 Feb


“I can run 4 miles on the treadmill but only 2 when I hit the pavement. What gives?”

I was asked a question similar to this the other day and thought I’d do some research and share my own personal experience.

When I started running, I started on a treadmill. It seemed like running was smooth, easy on my knees, and my heart rate stayed pretty consistent. When I started training for the half-marathon our first 4-mile run was outside, in a neighborhood called “Rolling Hills.” I was in for a rude awakening. I barely got through 2 miles before I had to quit. Why? Well, I quickly learned that (duh) a treadmill (unless you manual do this, or set the program) would stay a flat road and at a consistent speed until you finish. On the road, you are fighting the wind, the temperature, and the not so even road.

When you run outside you experience different slants, inclines, bumps, and terrains. Leaving the treadmill and heading for the pavement means remembering proper form (running tall), proper breathing (deep, from the diaphragm), and most importantly, preparing for the changing terrain. Since we are still in freezing temps and you feel the treadmill is your best bet, then by all means it is not hurting you by running on the treadmill until weather permits. But, I recommend using the “hill” option, or at least manually adjusting your incline and speed every so often.  Research shows that when you program the treadmill at a 1-2% incline, it will mimic outdoor running.

For example: 3 miles on the treadmill

For .5 mile                              0.0 incline

.5-1.0 mile                  1.0 incline

1.0-1.5 mile                2.0 incline

1.5-2.0 mile                1.5 incline

2.0-2.5 mile                2.0 incline

2.5-3.0 mile                1.0 incline

As you build up you can adjust the incline to fit your run, but this is a good guide to start with.  Also, it’s helpful when transitioning from the treadmill to the road to keep short runs outside, and longer runs on the treadmill. That way you can slowly build up and not get discouraged if the road is more challenging than you expected. Hopefully you won’t be on the treadmill much longer!

Come on warm weather! Happy running!

-For treadmill pace conversions check out:

-If you’re looking for places to run in Memphis check out:


Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Tips and links


2 responses to “The treadmill vs the pavement

  1. Cheryl

    February 4, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks Nicole!! I’ll do this tonight.. 🙂 You are da bomb

  2. Betsy

    February 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Good Idea!! I was just thinking that it was FREEZING outside!
    I’ll try this out! LOVE YOU!


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