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You can control the pace on a treadmill.
Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images
Runners call it a "dreadmill" for a reason: running exclusively on a treadmill can be boring! A typical 5K training plan takes about eight weeks to complete. That's a lot of time to spend running without the benefit of scenery to keep you distracted. But if you need to, it is possible to train for your 5K exclusively on a treadmill.
According to running coach and two time Division-I All-American runner Jeff Gaudette, running on a treadmill has the same effect as outdoor running on your aerobic fitness. Additionally, he notes that the bio-mechanics are the same whether you run on a treadmill or outdoors. So from a purely physiological perspective, it will make no difference whether you train for your 5K on the treadmill or outdoors.
While you can train exclusively on a treadmill, there are advantages to hitting the road. Running outdoors lets you get used to real-world running conditions like wind, rain and heat -- all things that you may have to deal with in a race situation. For instance, if you train for a hot summer 5K in your air-conditioned home, you may be shocked by the heat on race day. Running outdoors will also get you used to maintaining your pace on your own.
Simulating Wind Resistance
When you run on a treadmill, you don't actually experience any wind resistance. Wind resistance has more of an effect if you're a faster runner. If you're planning to run your 5K at a speed of 8 mph or slower -- giving you a finish time of 23:18 or more -- then the resistance is insignificant. If your goal pace is between 8 and 11.2 mph, then setting the treadmill to a one percent grade will simulate this resistance. At faster speeds you can simulate the resistance with a two percent grade.
When to Use the Treadmill
The treadmill is the perfect solution when whether conditions are extreme. If it's unsafe to run outside due to the heat, for instance, then you are better off staying hitting the treadmill. You can also use the treadmill to simulate your race course, if you know the elevation profile. This can be a great option if your 5K is a destination race and you can't experience the course first hand. If you include speed workouts in your training, the treadmill allows you to set your paces precisely.
- Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images