Whether you regularly run on a treadmill or just use it when the nights draw in and the paths and roads aren’t safe for running, you’ll have come across the flaws and drawbacks of logging your treadmill runs.
Watch vs treadmill
I often get asked which to trust, the watch reading or the treadmill one. The fact that your watch will be making assumptions about your stride length means it won’t be accurate. Sometimes it might be close, but it’s luck not judgement.
Treadmills equally won’t necessarily be perfect since calibration should be done regularly, and even on gym treadmills, studies have found they can be up to 3% faster or slower than they say which will have an impact on how far it says you’ve gone.
So although it’s not a perfect solution, the treadmill is still your best bet, you’ll be able to see this from the fact that the “mile” laps your watch comes up with will always be different, even when the treadmill is set to a constant speed.
Now I mentioned watch miles a moment ago, and this is where it can get tricky. My advice is to ditch the auto lap feature for all treadmill runs, instead, manually hit the lap button on your watch every time it ticks over the next mile according to the treadmill.
This can be a bit of a pain, but even if you’re doing an interval session with efforts that are shorter than a mile, it gives you the time taken to cover the distance if you’re tracking that, particularly helpful if you’re using a pace range rather than a set pace for your efforts.
Calibrating after the run
Most Garmin watches have a treadmill running setting, which either asks you to calibrate the run afterwards on the watch, or allows you to do it on Garmin Connect afterwards. It won’t correct the assumed distance for your laps, but it at least means you get the correct distance for shoe tracking and your training volume.
Whilst you won’t get elevation or pace data from the watch, you can note these things down after the session if you keep a detailed training log. It’s something I recommend of course, so you can reflect on training when success or the occasional “failure” comes along. It takes a bit more effort, but it’s a matter of seconds to improve the quality of your training, and for the comfort of treadmill running if you’re avoiding rain, wind or cold, it’s a worthwhile trade off.
It’s an imperfect system, but by logging it this way, it’ll help you avoid some of the frustrations that can come with treadmill running for those who like to get accurate information.
Written by Kyle Brooks, Running Coach based in Norwich, Norfolk