How to Calculate Treadmill Conversion to Simulate Outdoor Running

Treadmill conversion is still a contentious issue with hard core runners. Most feel that using a machine with or without incline can not simulate the effort and results of a good run outdoors. Having said that, it’s not always possible to get out and run anytime you want.

Many issues can arise that would make a treadmill a better fit for that moment in time. Weather for one is at the top of the list when it comes to canceling your run, but there is also personal commitments, family, work, time and so on. When these issues occur, it’s up to each individual whether it’s better to get on your track or not run at all. My preference of course is hopping on the indoor track and getting in some cardio.

Treadmill conversion is basically a setting of your track incline to potentially match the resistance and effort of running outdoors. Now the argument that most runners give to explain why using conversions doesn’t measure up to outdoor running, is that you can’t simulate the environment, like wind resistance, hills, uneven ground or even the hardness of the ground. It also seems that your running speed on a indoor track with no incline or 0% incline is actually slower than running on a flat road or track surface since most equipment have a impact cushioning track that absorbs your impact but seems to slow you down.

For many, it even seems to be a little harder and take longer to run on a machine with 0% incline than it is to run for the same amount of time outside. This is most probably a mental adjustment runners have to make because when running outdoors you can take in the scenery and keep your mind off your time but when you’re training, in most cases, you are most likely just staring at the time on the machine making it seem longer.

My personal opinion is that, the effort of running on a treadmill at 0% incline is less than that of running on a level road at the same pace because of lack of wind resistance while running on a machine.

An excellent chart that you can use to get the approximate equivalent effort between running on a treadmill at different paces and inclines and running outdoors on a level surface can be found at:

This site helps your treadmill conversion for, treadmill MPH setting, pace per mile and equivalent paces by incline.

Finding the exact conversion is quite difficult due to the differences in treadmills and in how each of our bodies reacts to the different running scenarios. If you’re looking for the quick, uncomplicated answer to treadmill conversion and take the averages of both above and the average of what the professionals are saying, it breaks down to about 3% incline is the equivalent to an outside run on a flat surface. It might not be perfect but it’s a foundation for the majority of runners out there.

Machine training might not exactly simulate running outdoors, but it certainly gives you a great workout and can be much more convenient for most. But if you really want to get as close to an outdoor run as possible, look into your treadmill conversion to help you simulate your effort, it does work pretty well in a pinch.