How to Train for a Marathon on a Treadmill

You have finally signed up to run a marathon. You’ve paid your registration fees and now it is time to follow through on those New Year’s resolutions. It’s coming down to crunch time; Whether you are going for a half or a full marathon, it may seem like an overwhelming, Sisyphean task no matter how you prepare. Training for a marathon is a challenge but having access to the best resources will contribute to your marathon results. Will you let yourself be crunched in the maw of the grind’s incisive machine, or will you grind through whatever tedious rigamarole stands between you and success? Can you endure over 26 miles of frenetic, arduous, long-distance running? Training can produce some undesired physical effects, such as fatigue, lethargy, and sweat spells. These are a recipe for an inevitable deluge of intense and overwhelming exhaustion. Unless you’re a Dean Karnazes sort of superhuman who can indefinitely push your body to run without lactic acid, it remains unavoidable – you will experience bouts of exhaustion while you prepare for your marathon.   

runners running for a marathon

Just because you will experience some undesirable side effects of training doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek to minimize your pain. There are specific ways you can hone your body to help alleviate and lessen pain and fatigue (if the 90 to 99 age group can be the fastest-growing demographic to run a marathon, so can anyone in any other age group). In the comfort of 21st-century modernity, marathon training is easier than ever, regardless of the climate you live in.

The sport of endurance running is undoubtedly a predominantly primal exercise in physicality. However, if you’re dead set on using a treadmill strictly for long-distance marathon training, there are undoubtedly a few things to consider before you make the purchase. 

Getting Started 

To train correctly, it is essential to understand that there is a reason the word “training” is intensely emphasized: Your training conditions must be simulated to match the real deal but you don’t want to strive for maximum exertion at the outset and exert yourself too rapidly and for prolonged periods. Otherwise, you risk a fitness plateau effect in which you enter a stagnant state void of progression or regression. 

No one learns to walk before they learn to crawl, and similarly, no one conditions their body to run a marathon before they learn how to sprint. When beginning marathon training on a treadmill, you’ll want to ensure that you are training in conditions as comfortable as possible. Unless you’re an infantry soldier on the front lines, you don’t need unnecessary weight; wear lightweight, comfortable gear for optimal performance. To ensure you don’t abruptly spiral into an exhausted, sweaty heap, check that your body’s temperature is within a comfortable range. Monitor the environmental temperature and, if possible, exercise in an air-conditioned room, drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout, and position a fan in front of your face. 

Last, begin and maintain running responsibly. It’s fine to put on some music or a TV show to break the monotony but be mindful of becoming too engrossed in that entertainment and risk losing your footing. If this occurs, grasp the magnetic emergency stop key commonly found on treadmills. Many have an adjustable rope and extraneous clip that can attach to your clothing for added safety.

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running 

The feeling of running on a treadmill is considerably different (and in some respects, easier) than the feeling of running on actual flat terrain. When you run on a treadmill, you won’t have to worry about the elements and abrupt weather shifts that runners face outdoors. It is easy to maintain your pace while on a treadmill because of the motorized belt. This makes controlling your speed an even less conscious mental action. While running on a treadmill, you’ll probably have approximated calculations of your distance, laps, time, and calories burned available on a monitor.

Like any training, marathon training should closely simulate the conditions of the real deal without being the real deal. There are ways to do so with a treadmill when you’re acclimated. If you know the sort of terrain you’ll be running through in advance, whether flat hills or steep roads, choose incline settings that will accurately (or closely) reflect the incline of those terrains. 

man running on treadmill

No matter how you choose to incorporate simulations in your marathon training regimen, always perform intensive, dynamic stretch warmups before and after running for maximum safety, relaxation, and injury mitigation. 

Types of Marathon Training Sessions (and How to Plan Them)

In spite of all the talk about the “boring,” “monotonous,” or “tedious” repetition surrounding marathon running, the real deal is not. When you’re forced to move and exert yourself in perpetual constant motion across potentially diverse, varying grounds, this is not repetitive. No one can control all of the random, entropic outcomes that they’ll encounter in life. It is how one prepares or reacts to those outcomes that can be within the grasp of one’s relative control. The same logic applies to marathon training: Change up your routines and workout sessions to ensure that you’re getting the most varied preparations for those diverse conditions.  

When planning your marathon training regimen, there are three core tenets you’ll want to focus on: speed, distance, and stamina. Long-distance running at a consistent, moderate pace (with slight speed or incline variations every so often) will test your endurance, focus, and patience, which are crucial to hone in on for lasting in a marathon. Quick, high-intensity, 20- to 30-minute speedwork workouts are essential routines to fine-tune and work on your dash. You’ll want to punctuate every day or two of these intense workout sessions with relaxed, low pressure, slow-paced intervals of recovery runs to prevent burnout. However, if you feel especially daring after the downtime, you can adjust the speed and incline settings to be more intense than the marathon may be. 

In the 21st-century information age, scheduling and planning out the intervals of these different sessions is now easier than ever. There is simply an indispensable amount of how-to blogs, YouTube videos, apps, and literature on treadmill marathon training planning readily available at your fingertips, much of which is free of charge. With access to the best, widely acclaimed training regimens in the marathon game, along with some tenacity and commitment to those regimens, lactic acid can be hurdled and defeated on the marathon trail. Good luck, and happy running!