Treadmill speed accuracy? (Read 831 times)

    In theory you should be able to maintain a faster speed on a TM than on a flat road if there's no wind, because of the effect of air resistance.

    This effect is more at greater speeds (it goes up with the square of speed). At low speed a very small amount of the total energy you're expending goes to overcoming air resistance.


    Of course if the wind is behind you it can be a big advantage (e.g. Boston Marathon a couple of years ago).


    But this ignores the psychological effect of racing. Most people are able to run faster in a race than they can in training (for reasons that are not entirely understood) and we don't race on treadmills.


    But as others have already mentioned - treadmills can be pretty inaccurate, so the first thing to do when comparing speed on a treadmill with that over a properly measured course is verify that the treadmill is accurate.

    Dream Maker

      Of course, the treadmill may not be calibrated correctly.


      For my body's work, I put the incline at 1.0 at lower speeds and higher as I'm going faster to equal it out, if I am somehow forced to use the treadmill.


      HOWEVER,   I believe treadmill running is a skill like any other.  When I never had run on a treadmill, my first few times, it felt hard at the same speed and less distance.  It was mental, and that faded away with experience.  Actually, I have not been on one in a very long time again and when I was put on one at the physical therapist's it felt all kinds of awkward again.  Before you get used to it, your form can change, your brain can remind you constantly what you are doing so you can't just zone out, etc, and yeah it can feel hard.




        Particularly on a home treadmill, don't discount the fact that it may just be horribly calibrated.


        My parents have a treadmill that, I discovered over Christmas, is terrible.  It is stuck on a small incline, which I figured, okay, I can deal with, since it's a small enough incline that the thing actually appears flat to the naked eye.


        Then I put it on the speed I was "supposed" to do my interval at - and by halfway through my first 800, I felt the way I expect to feel halfway through my LAST 800.  Ultimately I ended up going by feel since it was so terribly off, and I had to set the treadmill to slower than my HM pace for it to feel like 5k pace.  Between the funky incline and the terrible calibration, the digital readout on the thing is basically useless.  I have to just run by effort and time, and call it good enough.

        My wildly inconsistent PRs:

        5k: 24:36 (10/20/12)  

        10k: 52:01 (4/28/12)  

        HM: 1:50:09 (10/27/12)

        Marathon: 4:19:11 (10/2/2011) 


          If you look on the internet, there are ways to figure out what speed your treadmill is calibrated to, so that you can adjust for the amount that it is "off."  You have to put tape on the belt and count the number of times the lap belt rotates.  I've never done it, but you might give it a try.


          Here is a place to start.  I did about a 5 second search.  I'm sure that there are other sites.


          2017 Goals:  Qualify for Boston 2018 at Boston in 2017 & sub 1:39:00 at the Revel Canyon Half in November 2017.

          Over 45 PR's:

          5K - 21:21

          Half - 1:39:49

          Full - 3:33.47



            I always tend to run slower than the treadmill than outside.


            I notice this mostly at the end of long runs.  When I'm outside, t seems like I naturally tend to slow down and speed up a little throughout the run.  Either that or there's a stoplight, car or obstacle to break things up.   On a TM, it's like the Terminator:  it has no mercy and it will never, ever stop. Smile


            In all seriousness, this is why I think having HRM capability on a treadmill (or on your wrist) can be very useful so that you can match effort as opposed to relying on the speedometer.


            I also agree with treadmill running being an acquired skill as my gait definitely changes, even between various treadmill models.  When staying in hotels and forced to use a treadmill, I ease into it until I get used to that particular one.


              If not calibrated they can get way off


              I asked our YMCA if they ever calibrate - They see as a waste of money


              A couple of years ago there were 2 TM side by side ... If you set both at 7.5 MPH, 1 was really @ 7.0 and the other really 8.0.  The ones that were the most innacurate to a runners favor (Made them think they were going faster than reality) were the most popular ones.


              I use TM a lot.  I tend to run by feel.  If I am going to do a speed workout, I will do 3-4 1 minute striders to get a feel of what speed feels like the right pace for the workout.  If you are a train by numbers person this would bug the shit out of you, but I am not.  When I do speed outside, I often do it in a run and base it on time.  5x5 minutes or 4x10 minutes or 20 minutes at what feels like the training pace I want.

              7/20/17 #247 Comeback #19 ... 10/8 - Glacial Trail 50M




                If I put no elevation on TM, I will run significantly faster on TM than outside.  If I put @ 1% on most it is about the same as outside.


                At least a properly calibrated TM (I have one in my basement)

                7/20/17 #247 Comeback #19 ... 10/8 - Glacial Trail 50M



                A Saucy Wench

                  I notice a significant difference from treadmill to treadmill at the gym.  Fortunately I am too sleepy to remember which one is the easy one.


                  I have no idea how far off my one at home is.  It always seems extra hard.

                  I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets


                  "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7


                    My treadmill has an issue with the timer weirdly enough.  If I set it to 7.5mph it says that one lap will take 2:00 -- which is right.  And, one lap later, sure enough the timer has gone up by 2:00.  The problem is that my watch has counted 2:06.  So while the TM says I'm running 8:00 minute miles, I'm actually running 8:24s.


                    I haven't been able to test the accuracy of the distance measure, but wouldn't mind having it calibrated.


                      I can run faster on the TM, but that's largely because the area around my house is hilly.   On the TM I always do progressive runs with an incline between 1 and 3, where I start slow and speed up a bit every 5 minutes or so.  Outdoors I'm going slow on the uphills and a little faster on the downhills and my perceived effort is much greater but my average speed is much less than when I'm doing the more even pace of the TM.  I don't know whether it's worth checking the calibration or not.  I run by perceived effort, not by a timer, so it doesn't really matter to me what the watch says, I go by breathing.

                        I run faster on the treadmill as well.  Of course it took 50 or 60 miles of running on the treadmill to get used to it before I started running faster on it.


                        Now that I'm used to it, it makes sense to me that I'm faster on it.  VERY flat, predictable surface to run on, climate controlled conditions (fan blowing on me), nice big TV to watch while I'm running, etc.  Most of my outdoors mileage is on gravel roads and there are enough large rocks and ruts and things like that that I'm constantly watching my footing.  I think I pick my feet up higher running outside than I do on the treadmill as a result.  Running outside I very rarely ever drag my foot as I step forward, but I find myself doing that occasionally on the treadmill.  It makes a squeaking noise as I drag my foot forward because I'm barely picking my foot up high enough.  I think this is because the treadmill is so smooth and flat.


                        I've moved to a 1.5% incline on the treadmill instead of 1.0% incline and still run about 15 seconds faster at the same effort level (measured by HR) on the treadmill than outside.

                        Age: 49 Weight: 202 Height: 6'3" (Goal weight 195)

                        Current PR's:  Mara 3:14:36* (2017); HM 1:36:13 (2017); 10K 43:59 (2014); 5K 21:12 (2016)

                          Anything over 7:30 pace on a treadmill feels like a sprint to me, while I can comfortably do 800 m repeats at under 7:00 pace on a track.  Tried a mile TT at my mile pace on the treadmill once, had to bail after a couple of minutes.  Even an easy 10 min mile pace on a treadmill feels harder than outside, well except when the temp is over 90 degrees outdoors.

                          Better I Leave

                            Another minority here. I run faster on TM than on road. BTW Michael, did you run on a Landice TM? I have found all Landices including mine to be faster than it says.


                            I think you're right. We've got Landice TMs at our company gym and last night I matched the pace for what I was doing on my 10K this last weekend...I could swear I was running considerably faster than when I ran the 10K.


                            Healed Hammy

                              Funny but I had the same question 3 weeks ago in the Beginners and Beyond User Group.


                              Ran on treadmill for 6 miles and it seemed to be 30 sec per mile harder than outside.  Week later kids decide to race cars on the TM at a 12.0 incline, quickly locking the Image TM in the upright position.  Thus I was forced to calibrate the machine.  Instructions to do a calibration were on the inside, by taking off the motor cover the electrical schematic and diagnoistic sheets were stuck inside.


                              Ran the calibration setup and the TM was off by about 10%.  Made the adjustment and it seems much closer to outside running time.


                              Moral is - if you are handy and comfortable, either check the web for calibration instructions, or look inside the machine for the steps, mine involved setting a speed and turning a speed screw on the motor control board.  Took 10 min total time.