How to run on a treadmill?

Running on a treadmill can feel like a totally different skill from running on the road if you're not sure what you are doing. Through my personal experience as an athlete and coach, you don't always have the option in your training week to get out on the road and the treadmill is sometimes the best option. This becomes a bigger issue during winter in Australia when the evenings are dark and sometimes wet and a lot of the age group athletes I coach with full-time jobs have no alternative.

Besides the slight monotony of treadmill running it can be a very useful training tool at specific times in training. Here are some of my simple tips to help you try to get to grips with the technical side of running on a treadmill.

Start with a good body position - due to the movement of the belt it is less necessary to be in a forward lean position like you may try to adopt on the road to give you better momentum. It's important to still keep a good posture with your body tall, hips tucked forward to engage your core muscles. This platform will give you the base to allow your legs to move efficiently under you as the belt moves.

Check your stride - its all to easy to over stride on the treadmill. The backward movement of the belt and its flexible platform provides less need to be in contact with the ground as long, this is because the belt provides some of the momentum. It's important to try to keep running form an natural as you can. Cadence will be slightly faster due to less contact time with the belt (which is good practice), and also remember to check that your feet are not landing to far in front of your body, over striding and letting the belt do the work. Your arm rhythm needs to match your changed running cadence to keep you balanced.

How's my air time? - With the risk of over striding also comes the risk ofincreased VO (vertical oscillation) or time in the air . The movement of the belt and the flexibility of the treadmill base will provide some vertical movement making it easier to adopt a more 'bouncy' running style. Again trying to get the best out of your run you want to limit too much vertical movement. Anything excessively vertical in real world running situations is limiting your forward momentum. Aim to visualise the trajectory of your body as you stride and think about being smooth going forward and not up.

Where do I run? - You want to be running in a safe position nearer the front of the machine and try to look down on occasion to check time, position and maybe for water/towel. Like with outdoor running your head can assist a lot in the alignment of your body. When not checking the machine you want to look forward as much as you can to keep in a good postural position and I find it makes it easier to maintain my position in the centre of treadmill belt without moving laterally too much.


Check out the short video of me running naturally on the treadmill below on a recent holiday in Fiji. Adapted a little from my outdoor running style, moving at 4.00/km. My cadence is approx 180, I am usually 170 on the road at this pace.

Look out for my next treadmill running video on instagram and vimeo where I manipulate my running style to show you how a poorer body position, slower cadence and over striding can affect your economy and energy use on the treadmill.

Feel free to shoot me a message through the contact page if you have any questions on how and when I have used treadmill running.