The Best Time to Exercise on a Treadmill

Beautiful young woman running on a treadmill in gym

A treadmill can be a useful exercise tool. It does have its quirks, but overall, the numbers show its benefits: According to a study cited in an article on treadmill workouts for the New York Times, people can run 11.5 percent faster on treadmills than outdoors, most likely because running indoors eliminates any obstacles. Also, running on a moving belt is easier on the body than running on hard pavement. Consult with your doctor, though, before this or any exercise regimen.


Running on the treadmill in the wee hours of the morning can be a real time-saver; you probably wouldn’t feel safe running around your neighborhood in the darkness at 5 in the morning, but you can do it without worry in your gym or home if you’ve got a treadmill. This can help you start out your day with a burst of activity and energy; many people feel an early workout helps clear their mind and prepare them for the day. If you’re planning to run in the morning on a treadmill at your gym, take note: if you go between the peak hours of 7:30 and 9:30 in the morning, you might have stiff competition to access a machine, and you’ll likely have to limit your workout to 30 minutes if others are waiting.


When it’s nasty outside -- especially when it’s cold and icy, conditions that make for dangerous conditions on the roads -- you’d be wise to stay inside. Many elite runners follow this rule because they’d rather have a little bit of an easier run inside than risk slipping and being injured for weeks or months because they were too gung-ho about their training to use common sense.


If you need to get in a run at a certain pace that’s a bit quicker than your usual pace, hopping on the treadmill can serve as just the motivation you need to crank your tempo up. That’s because the treadmill does the thinking for you; set the pace you’d like to go at and for how long you’d like to run at that pace, and you have no more excuses like “I felt like I was going faster” or “A big hill slowed me down.” Running on a treadmill, you can just cover up the readout of how much time you have left and just concentrate on running until you’re done, without having to constantly look at your watch. Also, the surface of the treadmill is smooth and forgiving; some runners prefer the “feel” of running fast in this controlled environment to running on an anonymous road.


Listening to music on headphones while running outside is dangerous. You’re less alert and less aware of your surroundings, and more likely to not hear potential threats, such as a speeding car or an attacker. But take your music indoors and you have a recipe for a high-energy workout that can make you feel like you just got a second wind for the rest of your day. You can even read a book before class while getting in a workout if you decide to exercise on a treadmill.


If you’re trying to think of a specific time to squeeze in a treadmill run, consider the sleeper 1:30 to 2:30 afternoon time slot. Here’s why: If you can postpone your run until after 3, you can have a productive “lunch break” alone at your desk during the usual lunch hour. Then, when everyone else comes back from lunch and sits groggily at their desk checking emails for a few hours, you can leave the office, get a mental break on the treadmill, get your energy back up, and bounce back to your desk before anyone else knows what happened. Just make sure to eat a decent-sized mid-morning snack so that you have the energy to run.