Fitness / Running

How to Pace on a Treadmill Versus Running Outdoors?

How to adjust your running speed for both types of workouts

Spring is in the air, and for many of us, that means making the much-desired transition from a treadmill routine to outdoor workouts. Aaptiv has both of those workouts in the app.

Whether you’re interested in treadmill workouts for beginners, or you’re a seasoned runner looking to improve your treadmill speeds for running an outside race this season, we’ve got tips to help you utilize both types of running to your advantage when it comes to speed work and pacing.

We sat down with fitness expert Ben Green to get his take on the topic; check out his answers below.

Running on a treadmill versus running outside: is there really a difference?

“Yes. First, you need to consider temperature and climate. It could be windy outside, for instance, which will change things if you’ve been running at a 0% incline on a treadmill all winter long.

Also, the treadmill (this is a popular at home option) is much more forgiving than concrete or blacktop.

You’re not going to get any bounce or reduced impact outside, and that can affect your pace. (Looking to calculate your what your race pace should be? Check out our running pace calculator).

And remember, your body handles various temperatures differently; your running will change at 72 degrees inside a gym versus 55 degrees outside.”

How should you run on a treadmill to accommodate for outdoor running?

“It’s best to always have 0.5 or 1% incline for your treadmill workout to simulate running outside. With my clients and for myself, I typically suggest a 1% incline as part of your treadmill cardio workout to accommodate the conditions you might experience on an outdoor run.”

How are treadmill speeds different than outdoor speeds?

“In my experience, there’s kind of a 30-second difference in pace. I’d recommend giving yourself a 30-second buffer, whether that number is a little slower or faster, to compensate for the difference.”

Can I become a faster runner on the treadmill?

“Absolutely! If you want to become faster, plug in a pace you don’t typically choose for your treadmill running workouts. Start out with a half mile one week at a pace that seems unachievable, and then build up in half-mile increments. Eventually, push yourself enough to run one mile at the pace you want to achieve. It’s much easier to do this type of speed work with treadmill exercises versus running outside because you can tackle it in small segments.”

Should I be using those preset treadmill workouts to improve my speed?

“Personally, I use these for a treadmill workout plan if I need a little structure on a given day. I put in my height and weight, and let’s say I want to run 4 miles, but I also want to keep myself honest, so I select a “rolling hills” run. That way, the treadmill is going to do all the work. It’ll change the terrain and challenge me, but all I have to do is keep running without worrying about what’s next or making manual adjustments.”

If I’m training for a race, and I only train on a treadmill, how will that impact race day performance?

“Well, people call the treadmill the “dreadmill” for a reason! Most people do not like to run on the treadmill, and I get it. They just do it because they have to. But in terms of a race, it kind of depends on your goal. If you’re training for a race with a big goal like a marathon in another country, as a coach, I am adamant about using a treadmill to focus on pace. If you’re doing a fun run and only have the time or access to treadmill workouts, then try to add 1-2 outdoor runs once in awhile and you’ll be fine.”

How can treadmill runs improve speed work overall?

“I 100 percent love the treadmill for speed work. Put in a good treadmill pace you want to run but can’t maintain a certain mileage. Use the speed of a treadmill to start slow, explore treadmill interval training, and then eventually build up to the results you want.”

What’s the best way to mix treadmill runs and outdoor runs in general?

“Mix it up. Running indoors or outdoors with an effective training plan can improve both your speed work and endurance.”

If I’m brand new to running, should I start outside with my runs or on a treadmill first?

“Both are fine. If you’ve got a busy schedule or kids at home, then you can use a treadmill to squeeze in shorter workouts versus taking the time to jog outside. I learn toward encouraging beginner runners to start outdoors first, and then slowly introduce themselves to the treadmill later. But you can also start with the treadmill and then go outside. It’s really up to the runner. Just make sure you know what’s it’s like to run up an actual hill, you know?”

As a trainer, how do you help runners stay motivated?

“Pick a race, sign up for it, pay for it, even if you’re not sure if you can do it. This is my number one rule, because people are more committed to following through with their running if they invest time and money. It helps you stay focused. Also, remember your goals. Get a coach and ask for testing every 6-8 week to see improvement, to know your hard work is paying off. And this might be a little vain, but let life events motivate you—summer weddings or beach trips—use anything that motivates you to look and feel your best.”

Aaptiv has trainers guiding you through each running workout keeping you motivated. See the newest classes that were added today.

Fitness Running


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