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Can You Train For a Half Marathon on a Treadmill?

Amanda Wendorff

One of the most familiar pieces of gym equipment, the treadmill is a device that many runners have a love-hate relationship with. Can you train for a half marathon on a treadmill? To some extent, yes. You may find it boring at times, but there are many benefits to including some treadmill into your half marathon training. However, we do not suggest training for a half marathon exclusively on a treadmill.

In this article, we’ll touch on some questions regarding training for a half marathon on a treadmill, including:

  • Can you train for a half marathon entirely on a treadmill?
  • What are the benefits of treadmill training rather than running on the road?
  • What are the downsides of running on a treadmill?
  • What settings should you use when training on the treadmill for a half marathon?

Can You Train For a Half Marathon on a Treadmill?

When you start training for a half marathon run, you may prefer to complete some of your training runs on the treadmill. This is a perfectly acceptable option! Many runners, including some of the best in the world, often opt to do some of their training runs on treadmills, no matter the weather. Some famous treadmill fans include the following:

  • IRONMAN World Champion Anne Haug, one of the fastest runners in triathlon, has said that she prefers doing all of her running speed work and interval training on a treadmill.
  • American former professional runner Christine Clark, who lived in Alaska, qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team in the marathon after doing much of her winter training on a treadmill.
  • Professional runner Renee Metivier ran 3 hours and 11 minutes to break the treadmill world record in the 50K run in 2020 at the Chaski Challenge. She also set treadmill half marathon and treadmill marathon records along the way.

If these athletes can become some of the fastest marathon and Ironman athletes in the world by training on treadmills, you can also certainly include treadmill running into your half marathon preparation.

MOTTIV app user Shannon Cazavillan performs run training indoors on a treadmill.

What are the Benefits of Half Marathon Training on a Treadmill?

There are numerous benefits to half marathon training on a treadmill instead of outdoors on the road.

  • More Controlled Environment: You may notice that the treadmills at your local gym are much more likely to be occupied when the weather is bad. Whether it's rain, excessive heat, poor air quality, snow, or frigid conditions, you can avoid it by moving your training indoors. The treadmill provides an effective way to train without dealing with inclement weather that would make outdoor running uncomfortable or even dangerous.
  • Convenience: Especially if you have a treadmill at home, getting in a workout on a treadmill can be a real time-saver, as you cut down on time spent traveling to your run route or stops you’d make for road crossings. You can also easily couple a treadmill run with strength training and save yourself an extra trip to the gym.

Particularly in the winter, when daylight hours are more limited and running outside is treacherous or perhaps unsafe, a treadmill allows you complete your training schedule safely, whenever you want, even if it’s dark.

  • Easy Access to Nutrition: As you build up your miles, it becomes increasingly important to have hydration and sports nutrition during your training runs. A treadmill makes this very easy - all you need to do is set a water bottle on the treadmill, and you can easily reach it whenever you want without stopping.
  • Ability to Simulate a Race Course: Treadmills allow you to control the grade you’re running, which means you can simulate hills or run on flat ground. If you’re training for a hilly race but live in a flat area, this can be very useful for preparation. Similarly, treadmills work nicely if you live in a hilly area but occasionally want the lower stress of a flat course.
  • Softer Surface: Treadmill belts are generally softer than concrete or asphalt, making them easier on the legs.
  • Entertainment: Treadmill running can be boring at times, but it can also be endlessly entertaining. While running on a treadmill, you can watch your favorite shows, listen to podcasts or music, and occasionally participate in online group runs. Some treadmills will even allow you to watch, and run to, training videos of your upcoming marathon course.

When training for a long distance race like a half marathon, any runner’s primary goal should be consistency. Moving training seessions to the treadmill  can make it easier for busy runners to fit run training into their busy lives. Ultimately, that consistency is what will get you to the finish line.

What are the Downsides of Running on a Treadmill?

Although the benefits of treadmill running are numerous, there are also some drawbacks to be aware of:

  • Lack of Variation in Surface: While the soft surface of a treadmill can reduce the ground forces on your body, constantly running on this smooth surface can make you more susceptible to injury when you do get back outside. Without practice, you may find that your bones, muscles, and tendons are less able to manage harder surfaces, and uneven terrain may feel particularly difficult for your ankles and stabilizing muscles.
  • Changes in Running Form: Running on a treadmill closely approximates outdoor running. Still, there will be subtle differences in how you run on land versus a moving belt. When running outdoors, you’re repeatedly bounding forward off the ground, while on a treadmill, your body stays still as the belt moves your legs behind you. This is a minor difference but may be noticeable for some runners, especially because treadmill running using slightly different muscles.
  • Injury Risk: Although doing some treadmill running is generally fine, studies have shown that too much treadmill running can potentially increase the risk of injury, specifically in the hip flexor and knee areas. Similarly, many physiotherapists have observed an increased incidence of injuries when frequent treadmill runners return to outdoor surfaces. For this reason, we suggest a mix of treadmill and outdoor running
  • Boredom: For many runners, nothing beats the pure joy of being outside and moving the body in nature. Treadmill running eliminates this and can be boring without the constantly changing scenery. Half marathon training includes some quite long runs, up to 15 miles (or 24 kilometers). For many runners, attempting to do long runs on the treadmill can lead to burnout and make the training process much less enjoyable.

To counteract these challenges of treadmill training and ensure you are best prepared to run your best in a half marathon, we strongly suggest including plenty of outdoor mileage in your training plan, while using the treadmill more sporadically.

MOTTIV app user Karen Natho moves her training indoors onto a treadmill on a bad weather day outside!

Tips for Training for a Half Marathon On A Treadmill

If you’re going to use a treadmill for some of your Half Marathon training plan, it’s important to know the best settings for the machine. Treadmills vary in features, but all will allow you to change your speed and the gradient you’ll run at. Here are some tips to help you train on a treadmill most effectively

Gradient Settings

On a treadmill, you will not experience wind resistance like you would when running outdoors. To compensate for this and make your running feel more like outdoor running, we suggest setting the incline on your treadmill to 0.5 to 1%, which studies have shown most accurately reflects the energy cost of running outdoors.

If you’d like to simulate hill running, you can increase the gradient on your treadmill. If you’d like to simulate a rolling hilly course, consider changing the grade every few minutes, generally between 1% and 6%. This technique is also useful to break up the monotony of treadmill training sessions.


Treadmills show your speed as miles per hour (mph) or kilometers per hour (kph). Some may also allow you to see your pace per mile or kilometer.

For most runners, it’s best to start your treadmill runs with a slow warm-up, gradually increasing the speed every couple of minutes so that you build from a walk to an easy jog, always at a pace that allows you to talk. Generally, start your half marathon training workouts at a lower speed than you may think you need. It’s better to increase the speed if you feel like the running is too easy than to go too hard too quickly and need to reduce the speed.

Remember, too, that paces on a treadmill often feel different than paces outside. This is somewhat individual to each runner, but it is not unusual to find that a 10-minute mile on the treadmill feels much tougher than a 10-minute mile outdoors. Don’t let this discourage you or force you to run too hard. Always listen to your body. Run what feels like a 10-minute mile and trust that your body will get the same benefit.

What are Some Good Treadmill Workouts?

While you can complete any of the workouts in a half marathon or marathon training program on the treadmill, there are some workouts that work especially well on the treadmill.

Shorter, Easier Runs

Treadmills can be excellent for the easy, short runs that are so important in half marathon race training.

Many runners struggle to run their basic Zone 2 miles easy enough - their tendency is to gradually increase pace throughout the run. Running on a treadmill is a good way help you to avoid this common training error. You can set the desired treadmill speed and incline at the beginning of the run, and then just follow along. In that way, the treadmill can help you to be more disciplined about your pace during shorter runs.

Hill Training

Hill running is an excellent way for runners to build strength and running economy. The treadmill provides an ideal option for practicing hills, especially if you live in an area that does not have much elevation change. While it may be difficult to find an ideal hill outdoors for specific hill training, the treadmill offers the option to change the gradient you are running on as frequently as you want. You can get in some great, focused hill work on the treadmill, which will ultimately help to improve your speed.

Interval Runs

Most half marathon training plans will incorporate some interval runs, including sessions that include running at your half marathon pace ("race pace").

Treadmill running is great for really locking in your racing and training paces during those interval runs. You can quickly get a sense of precisely how the paces feel so that when you return to outdoor training, or to the start line on race day, they'll come easier.


If you’re excited to run a half marathon race but prefer running on the treadmill, never fear! A treadmill is a very beneficial tool that can provide plenty of benefits for beginner runners and seasoned runners alike.

In this article, we’ve provided some knowledge and tips to help you adjust your training to incorporate the treadmill as you train for a race:

  • How you can effectively train for a half marathon, or any distance run, on a treadmill
  • The benefits of treadmill running
  • The downsides of treadmill running
  • The types of workouts you should be trying on the treadmill

If you’ve got access to a treadmill and the motivation to begin, lace up your running shoes, download a Half Marathon training plan at, and let’s get running!

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Amanda Wendorff

| Author

Amanda Wendorff is a professional triathlete, focusing on the 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman distances. In the last several years she’s competed in multiple gravel bike races. Top Achievements: Top 3 Ironman Ireland and Ironman 70.3 Coquimbo, Multiple time top-5 finisher, 3rd Overall at Moran 166 Gravel Race in Michigan, Age group podium at Gravel Worlds, Big Sugar, and Ned Gravel in first year of gravel racing.

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