5K Treadmill Training

by Andrea Cespedes Google

A goal, like finishing or improving your performance on a 5K, gives your workouts meaning and keeps you motivated. Beginners and veteran runners benefit from training on a treadmill for a 5K race. You may choose to do the majority of your training runs on the treadmill, or use it to augment track or trail work.


The treadmill offers a safe training location any time of day in any weather, allowing you to stick to your training plan come snow, rain or a late work night. It is a convenient alternative, especially if you have your own home model, when time does not allow for a drive to the trail or the babysitter cancels. A treadmill allows you to simulate hills, which is particularly beneficial if you live in a flat area but are training for a course with elevation. While determining and maintaining a consistent speed outdoors is challenging, on the treadmill you can be much more precise---and as marathoner and Coach Jeffrey Horowitz notes in an April 2010 issue of the Washington Post, proper intensity is important to improved performance. Treadmills also provide more shock absorbency than outdoor running surfaces---helping prevent injuries to joints. The treadmill is very friendly to beginners who may be intimidated by running outside and would like to combine bouts of walking and running.

Types of Training Runs

Most 5K training plans include a variety of runs each week that are easily performed on a treadmill. A basic run is performed at a manageable pace at which you can still carry on a conversation. Fast runs require you to feel out of breath. Long runs consist of four to eight miles at a conversational pace. Interval training, which involves alternating hard periods of running with more manageable ones, help improve oxygen intake. Many plans also include tempo runs which are continuous runs that begin at a manageable pace, increase to a faster, uncomfortable pace, and return to a manageable pace for cool down.


The way you train for a 5K really depends on your goals and fitness levels. If you are a reformed couch potato seeking to finish your first 5K, you should spend most of your treadmill time alternating walking and running—gradually decreasing the length of your walking intervals until you are ready to run 3.1 miles straight. Noted running coach Hal Higdon recommends three strategies to improve endurance and speed: running more mileage, running faster or a combination of both. A sample treadmill training week for a person looking to achieve a personal record time on a 5K might include a three-mile basic run on Monday, a 30-minute tempo or interval run on Tuesday, a mile-mile basic run on Wednesday, a rest day on Thursday, a three-mile fast run on Friday and a five- mile run on Saturday.


Running indoors removes factors like wind resistance and unpredictable terrain changes that may complicate an outdoor run. Setting the treadmill at a minimum incline of 1 percent helps make up for these issues so you will be more ready to encounter them on race day. Try to include a cross-training day that involves a different exercise modality--i.e., swimming, strength training, or cycling--in your 5K training plan to prevent overtraining your running muscles.

Injury Prevention

Be sure to wear proper footwear for your runs. Choose running shoes that accommodate the needs of your stride—if you are unsure, ask for a gait analysis at a running store. In your eagerness to achieve greatness in your 5K, be careful not to do too much running too soon. Although your body may allow you to push its limits for a few weeks, over time injuries are likely to occur and side line you for weeks or months. Just because the treadmill is always available does not mean you should overuse it. Include one or two rest days per week in any treadmill 5K training plan.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.