How Far Do I Need To Run on a Treadmill To Complete a Mile?


question-icon-newWhen I run on the treadmill, the screen shows a track and I’m not sure how far the distance is. I would like to know how far I need to run to complete a mile. Do you know?

answer-icon-newOne lap around a normal outdoor track represents a quarter of a mile (400 meters), so when you run 4 times around a track, you have completed 1 mile. The screen on your treadmill will most likely be calibrated for this distance when they display a track on the screen. So, you would basically need to run 4 times around the track for 1 mile. For people who do not have a computer screen with a track display, then a normal time increment to measure a mile is around 8-10 minutes when running at a normal pace. Obviously, if you are running hard then this time will be decreased and could be as low as 6-7 minutes per mile.

Another interesting thing to note here is the difference between running on a treadmill versus running outside. Many people say it’s much easier to run indoors on a treadmill and that you don’t get as good of a workout as when you run outside on the road or on grass. Well, it is true that running on a treadmill is actually easier since the belt propels you forward. When running outside you have to push yourself forward and upward to actually create the running motion that moves you. You can adjust the intensity and the incline of the treadmill which will make it more difficult and is recommended to increase your heart rate to make it a little harder.

The treadmill is great when the outside conditions are not favorable. For example, if you live in an area of the country where it’s very cold or rainy, then having a treadmill indoors to run on is a life saver. If you like to run late at night or really early in the morning when it’s dark, this is also a time when a treadmill comes in very handy. The cushioned surface of a treadmill is also much easier on your knees and joints when compared to running outside on a hard surface like cement. You can always try to run on grass but then you risk the chance of spraining your ankle due to the inconsistency of the grassy field or area where you’re running.

running-outdoorsThe convenience factor of a treadmill is also very nice to have for many people. You can simply can wake up, roll out of bed and just put on a pair of running shoes and get right on the machine. No need for getting ready, doing your hair, or putting on the needed clothing for the conditions outside. The accessories that come with a treadmill are also a nice plus for many people. There are iPod hookups, TVs, cooling fans and water bottle holders on many of the machines today. Watching TV during your run seems to make the time go by much faster than running outside but many of the hardcore outdoor runners will argue that having all these “extras” on a treadmill makes you forget about what you’re really there to do and that is to get a great workout in and really push yourself. When you have all these gadgets you’re plugged into, you lose the focus that you get when you’re outside in the elements with nature.

Running inside on a treadmill versus outdoor running also brings up the personal safety issue. When you run in the privacy of your own home, you have no worries or fears about anything happening to you when running outside, especially if you live in a big city and like to run in the early mornings or later at night. This fear of being outside exercising also has a direct influence on people who are very overweight or obese. They might be embarrassed to be seen outside exercising at such a heavy weight and they feel much more comfortable working out inside their house on a treadmill until they have lost the weight and feel more confident within themselves.

Advantages of a TreadmillDisadvantages of a Treadmill
Avoid any weather issues (rain, cold)Less intense vs. outside (wind, terrain)
Run anytime of the day (morning, night)Less energy (belt propels you forward)
Much easier on knees and joints (cushioned surface)Can't train for marathon conditions (rain, cold)
Cooling fans, iPod hookups, TVNo downhill running or turns
Can stop at anytimeCan't enjoy the fresh air and outdoor scenery
No personal safety issuesNo new routes or exciting terrain to cover

The biggest disadvantage of running inside on a treadmill is missing the fresh air and scenery when going for a run outdoors. There is something very magical about going for an early morning run and watching the sun rise as you workout. It’s very spiritual and can really add a sense of calm to the rest of your day. The elevation changes, twists and turn and intensity variations are factors that you can only get from running outside. Yes, you can adjust the intensity on the treadmill and even increase the incline, but you really don’t get the full intensity of running up a steep incline or running around corners when you are busting your butt on a run outdoors. Being stuck on a small track going forward for your entire workout can’t even come close to the excitement you get from running around your favorite course or trail outside.

If you’re a person who is training for a marathon, the treadmill will not be able to give you the real world elements of what you will experience come race day. You really need to get outside in order to learn how it feels to run in conditions such as rain, cold weather, a warm climate or a windy area which you will encounter when the race starts. It would be a big mistake to train 100% on a treadmill leading up to your big race day only to find that the weather is so overwhelming that you need to quit before finishing.

To run on a treadmill or to run outside, that is the question. The answer really lies in what your specific needs are and what your overall goal is. If you are preparing for a marathon, get your butt outside and get after it. If you’re running for general health and fitness and you want to workout in the privacy of your own home, then get a good quality treadmill and enjoy!

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    • ShapeFit

      Hi Esther – Any length of exercise is good, so great job on getting started! You can work on building up your endurance and for your next treadmill workout try to shoot for 5 minutes and see how you feel. Best of luck 🙂

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