I often hear people say they incline their treadmill at least 1% if not more when running indoors.  Does this sound like you?  They quote that the reason they do this is because if the treadmill is not inclined then it is not like running outside.  In my opinion this is one of those ‘running myths’ that continues to get perpetuated for no good reason. 

Running on a treadmill is NOT like running outside in any way shape or form, so it is my firm belief that in order to avoid injuries you should not treat it as thus or try to make it like running outside.  This is why you will see me distinguish between tempo runs outside and treadmill tempos, a timed mile on a track and a treadmill mile, and so on and so forth.

I don’t hate on the treadmill.  Why?  Because with out my treadmill this mom of three would have never have been able to train for and run numerous races, including marathons.  My treadmill, though not as fun as running outside, is one of the most important tools in my training routine.  On most days it is either the treadmill or no run at all.  This makes it very important for me to make sure I avoid any injuries typically associated with treadmill overuse.

In my opinion you should not incline the treadmill and keep it at a level zero percent grade. If you want to make the workout harder then I would attempt a faster pace than you typically run outside. Running with your treadmill on an incline, even a small one, is associated with overuse injuries. Typically I hear people complain about pain in their Achilles, this is from overstretching on every stride.

Well if I do not incline my treadmill then I will not be able to run fast outside, correct? No, not true. It will feel different to run outside, but this does not mean you will automatically be slower. Since getting my treadmill I have recorded my 4 fastest marathons to date. Running distances up to 20 miles on it during each training cycle. Do I think it is as effective as running outside, no, but it can get you into great shape if you treat each run on it as a treadmill run and do not attempt to make it like a run you would do outdoors.


  1. mojamala2 says:

    I def do not hate on the treadmill. I run on it alot. Mostly, because we have crazy Cleveland weather where it has been snowy or raining for 9 months out of the year. THe other 3 months it will get into the 80s and everyone thinks they are dying. I rarely incline the treadmill. But I try to get a good mix of outside and inside running on my legs because it does feel different

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Dorothy,

    I just recently discovered your blog and really enjoy reading your posts. I love how you focus on the content and not randomly put in millions of pictures.:)
    As a new runner who (due to this crazy crowded city I live in) has to use the treadmill frequently, this post came at the right time for me.

    Oh and also I think you're a real inspiration for every runner, seeing how you juggle 3 kids and still achieve awesomeness on the course!!Definitely shows that bit of determination that I'm lacking sometimes. :)


  3. David H. says:

    I haven't ran on a treadmill in a while, but when I did I rarely increased the incline. I focused on doing more interval or tempo runs. As much as I don't like running on the treadmill, I'm actually looking forward to my new place of work that has them. They're great for speed work.

  4. I love that you don't hate on the mill!!!!! :) YAY!

    I always run at 2-2.5% then when I get outside I feel like I'm flying. I said "feel". 😉

  5. Allison says:

    Good to know! I try to AVOID the dreadmill as much as humanly possible. SOOOO not a fan. I start feeling like a hamster on a wheel. I need to actually GO somewhere on my runs. Thank goodness I live in the desert and am able to run outside year-round.

    Today I'm going to bust out a whopping 2 miles on it before I lift weights though. And I'll be doing it at a 0% incline. Thanks for the tip!

  6. It's been years since I ran on a treadmill (no kids to keep me indoors) but this is great advice, and I'm sure in the future I'll bring back the treadmill and be glad I read it.

  7. Hi there, new reader and so glad I found your blog. I'm a running mom with 3 children and a full-time job. It is hard for us folks to get in the training time, I couldn't have done it without my early morning treadmill runs and MY HUSBAND! I'm running my first marathon next weekend. I was so relieved when I read on your blog yesterday how you said you felt 3 weeks out from a race, out of shape…..thats me. Lots of soreness, but my nerves are probably my biggest challenge.

  8. Hi Dorothy! Good post on treadmill training. I never run on treadmill incline. Personally, I think treadmills are harder- even without it on incline. I definitely prefer to be outside but like you, that is not always possible with little ones. I am so glad I found this blog! Looking forward to your section on Marathon training!

  9. S Elliewood says:

    Thanks so much for this informative post. I tend to pump up the incline on the treadmill in order to get a "good workout" and it hurts!!

  10. Annette@(running)In the Right Direction says:

    Love when someone debunks the myths…I've heard that so many times! Always thought about it when running on no incline lol. I use the treadmill for training also…not all the time though.

  11. Shellyrm ~ just a country runner says:

    I do incline my treadmill sometimes. I do run on it completely flat, fast. I have to use my mill now that I am back to little ones that can't all be pushed anymore (9yr old), won't cooperate to get in the jogger for hrs on end, and honestly sometimes I don't want to run the hills in which I live. After my ultras a flat treadmill was an amazing thing. Used correctly mills can be a useful training tool. thanks for the great information as always!

  12. With my job and my daughter at home, I have to use a treadmill all the time to get my runs in during the week. I have many 11pm runs. I generally do not incline my treadmill, most (90% plus) of my runs are with no incline.

    What I try to do is use a heart rate monitor. So if I'm doing an easy run, I know what my max hr should be. If I do a tempo run I know where I want my max hr. So I think I can get my workout to fit the purpose of the run without worrying so much about the pace. By watching my max hr, I can run off that and not my pace.

  13. Allison says:

    I don't think I've ever inclined a treadmill. For some reason I've never actually been concerned that I was doing myself a disservice by running at 0%. Based on what you say about overuse injuries, I guess that's a good thing!

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Agree 100%. Before I even started racing, I had a boss who was a runner who mentioned that he never inclined the treadmill because he thought he'd get injured. So I only have ever inclined the treadmill for like 1:00 at a time to change things up a bit. But I totally disagree with the 1% thing. Great post!!!

  15. I am so freaking glad you posted this!!!!
    I trained on a treadmill a lot this winter due to having a toddler and living in New England 😉
    Well I did just fine during my first half marathon and I keep doing well during races. I have no choice some days I have to run on a treadmill and although it is not ideal it is a good way to get my training in as opposed to the alternative not being able to train.
    I do not run on an incline when i work on the treadmill and I do shoot for a slightly faster pace so I am so happy that a pro like you has helped me remember I am doing the right thing and not listen to the running myths 😉


  1. […] Mile Posts » A Treadmill Is A Treadmill Is A Treadmill: Should I … Posts Related to Mile Posts » A Treadmill Is A Treadmill Is A Treadmill: Should I … Winter […]

%d bloggers like this: