When you're trying to develop a consistent running routine, it's not always easy to know where to start. What treadmill speeds are appropriate for a beginner? How long should you spend on the treadmill and on what incline? The short answer is that no runner is the same as another.
There is no one speed that works for every beginning runner. Instead, focus on the overall effort you are putting into the run.
Average Treadmill Speeds
Every beginning runner starts out at a different baseline weight, build and level of fitness. They also have different goals. For instance, if you're starting a treadmill routine where you complete intervals based on speed, you're not going to use the same speed as someone who wants to run 3 miles without stopping.
While treadmill running and outdoor running are similar in many ways, one big difference is that it's harder to follow your intuition when running on a treadmill. Rather than running based on how you feel or how steep the terrain is, you're setting the machine to one specific number and keeping up that pace.
Ultimately, there is no "average treadmill speed" for a beginner, an intermediate runner or even a pro. It all comes down to what you're hoping to gain.
Run Slower If You’re Training
If a 5K or a half marathon is your ultimate goal, you should focus more on distance and less on speed. Sure, you want to be running fast enough to expend effort, but your biggest concern should be training your body to run for miles at a time.
Covering long distances at a moderate pace will be key to reducing your risk of injury. According to a 2019 study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, runners who covered more than 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) per week, at a pace of 6 minutes/kilometer (9.7 minutes/mile), were at a lower risk for running-related injuries.
Read more: A 10K Training Plan For Beginners
Try Intervals for Speed
If you want to increase your running pace, interval training is a great place to start. Since speed work spikes your heart rate, it's considered one type of HIIT training — which a June 2019 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has shown can aid in weight loss and boost your heart health.
The American Council on Exercise recommends regular interval training to help runners increase their overall speed. While everyone's definition of "fast" is different, you can tell you're doing useful speed work when you feel yourself getting breathless.
Next time you hop on the treadmill, try cranking that speed up further than you might normally feel comfortable with. It'll push your body to work in a new way, and your pace will naturally get faster the more often you do this.
Read more: How to Do HIIT Treadmill Workouts
Translating Treadmill Speeds to Road
Want to take your treadmill training out on the open road? Use a treadmill pace converter to see what your pace number corresponds to in terms of minutes per mile. For instance, if you're regularly running at 6.5 miles per hour on the treadmill, you'll likely be able to run a 9:14 minute mile on a level road.
Some machines will show you this while others will not, so you may need to do your own research to figure out exactly what pace you've been running.
No matter how fast or slow you are, there is no correct running speed — only a correct level of effort. If your workout leaves you feeling breathless and exhausted (in a good way), you'll know your body is changing.
- Sports Medicine: "A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Crossover Studies Comparing Physiological, Perceptual and Performance Measures Between Treadmill and Overground Running"
- Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport: "ProjectRun21: Do Running Experience and Running Pace Influence the Risk of Running Injury - A 14-Week Prospective Cohort Study"
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: "Is Interval Training the Magic Bullet for Fat Loss? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Comparing Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training With High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)"
- American Council on Exercise: "How to Create Effective Treadmill Intervals"
- HillRunner.com: "Treadmill Pace Conversions"
- ACE Fitness; Maximizing Your Treadmill Workout; Jessica Matthews