I am going to be starting to train for either a half or full marathon. The problem I have is I live in the desert, it's hot...all the time, even in the early mornings it is in the mid-upper 80s to low 90s. So running outside is not ideal for me. I own a treadmill and I do most of my running on that.

I have read articles about using a treadmill for some of the training but not all of it. Most advise to use an incline of 1-2% to simulate wind resistance.

Are there any specific training plans that could be easily adjusted for treadmill training?

I am concerned that the treadmill won't get me race ready since I will not be training outside. Should I attempt to add some outside runs prior to race day?

  • Is this a powered treadmill or manual/unpowered?
    – rthsyjh
    Jul 13, 2012 at 12:23
  • 1
    It is a powered treadmill
    – Taryn
    Jul 13, 2012 at 12:41
  • is the half/full marathon you are training for in the desert? i know a few people how have training mostly on treadmills for a half. they did OK. i would absolutely run outside prior to race day. btw, there is a huge difference between a half and full marathon, both in training and especially race day. good luck. Jul 13, 2012 at 19:26
  • 2
    and are you looking to "race" or just finish? Jul 13, 2012 at 19:45
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    @RyanMiller I just want to finish it. :)
    – Taryn
    Jul 13, 2012 at 19:46

4 Answers 4


Running on a treadmill is even ground. There are no bumps or slopes like a road has. The downside to this is your stabilizing muscles do not get the workout so they do not get stronger. Adding weight lifitting can help build those muscles.

Nice thing about the tradmill is the belt is easier on the joints, but you do not get the benefit of perception on motion that can help your body move in a more fluid motion.

There are charts that can help you figure out what road speed vs treadmill speed correlates too.

Best thing to do is see if a local gym has an indoor track to run around on. Might be worth shelling out a few bucks every couple of weeks to get actual forward momentum into your training.

  • I appreciate the feedback especially about finding a gym with an indoor track. I had not thought about that.
    – Taryn
    Jul 19, 2012 at 10:25

A treadmill won't prepare you for the impact of running for real. If the (half) marathon is in the desert and you're running through the sand then the problem you'd run into is fatigue. If (much more likely) the (half) marathon is on the road, you'll be in for a really nasty surprise.

Also, unless you're planning on running somewhere quite different from where you live, you'll want to acclimatize yourself to the environment, which means getting used to running in the desert heat.

If you insist on training only on a treadmill, don't do a full marathon. Half is the most, and even then you'll be in for a nasty experience, as the treadmill really won't prepare you.


I've noticed a remarkable difference when I run on the treadmill vs when I run on the road. When I was training for my first half-marathon, it was often too cold to run outside. So I ended up doing majority of my training in the gym on a treadmill. Having said that, I found that any distance greater than 6 miles on a treadmill and I'm bored out of my mind.

Running on the road has it's advantages. I realized that I can go faster or slower much easily. It's much harder to do it on a treadmill because you have to keep fiddling with speed control. Time seems to pass a lot quickly on the road. Mainly because there's so much happening around to keep me distracted. There's other runners, joggers, walkers, sights and sounds, the fresh air etc.

Regardless of where you train, the race will happen outdoors. So I'd strongly recommend putting in a couple of longish runs in an environment similar to the race you are training for.

Good luck!

  • that is the plan, it is finally starting to be a bit cooler in the mornings, so I am going to start doing some runs outside.
    – Taryn
    Sep 14, 2012 at 14:29

I guess you can train for a marathon on a treadmill but I'm certainly not a marathon runner, so take this with a pinch of salt.

Personally I think powered treadmills don't work the muscles that push you forward so much as actual running, I sometimes feel that the treadmill is pushing my legs along. I'd recommend finding some exercises to work hamstrings, glutes etc Squats and dead lifts are probably good.

This link has some useful tips (Music and TV to avoid boredom, variety, speed work)


I guess as an "extra", you can video yourself on the treadmill to check out you form and see where you are wasting energy (flailing arms, feet twisting out etc).

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