Couch to 5K
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Treadmill vs woods vs soft track???

Before starting this programme I was advised never to run on a hard surface (years long back problems now +/- okay). I stuck to this advice and ran in the woods, also because it was too hot here in central Europe to run in full sun. Then came W8R2 when it was cooler, and I conveniently forgot/ignored the advice and went on a run involving tarmac for 10 mins and never again I can tell you. It was back to the woods for run 3 today which was fine again.

However, woods all winter aren't very attractive. I've heard a treadmill is soft to run on too, can anyone confirm this? Is it softer than a dirt track? And what about those soft track affairs with wood shavings or whatever they are, someone told me yesterday there's one locally I could use at weekends. It's attached to a school, couldn't go there and make an exhibition of myself during school hours :-)

Also about treadmills - how do you know what speed/incline/??/etc to start at?? I've never been on one of the things in my life. Help!

8 Replies

I understand that treadmills are the best cushioned surface to run on. I found the treadmill very odd to begin with but you get used to it. I just started by walking on it and then once I was at a brisk walk I put the speed up by about 1 kph, you'll know once you start if you'd like to go faster or slower. I walk at between 6 - 6.5 kph but I run at 7.5 or sometimes more. Most people are faster than me at the gym, but I have little legs so ...


I think a treadmill is probably the softest. I run on a running track though, it's softer than a pavement and I prefer being outside :) (plus my partner is training for a half marathon and trains outside). I broke my leg just under a year ago (spiral fracture of both bones just above my right ankle, in 3 places, ouch!) and I'm finding that the track is actually really good for me to run on. I have invested in running trainers too which I guess helps a lot.

Well done getting to week 8!! I've just finished run 2 of week 3 so have a while to go :)


Thank you both! I'm going to try a treadmill next time I have a wet 'running' day and will probably take out a membership in our local fitness centre Dec-Feb. The tip about running 1km faster than walking sounds good, Mrs 2. I'm a slow jogger and I'm a bit apprehensive about a treadmill running away with me. What surface is your running track, himnyameislara? Well done you getting back to running so quickly!

Good luck to you both with the programme - just keep at it. I can't believe I've got this far... week 4 was toughest for me but once I got that behind you it was fine, until W8R2 when I disobeyed 'orders'.


I haven't tried a treadmill, but I tried running on soft ground and through woods, and though I preferred the softer ground, I find that I am constantly trying not to twist my ankles in rabbit holes, on twigs...

I have changed to mostly running on the road and though the impact is greater I really appreciate the smoother surface, and my joints are gradually getting used to it, and I have slightly changed my running style to a shorter stride which compensates.

I hope the road will still be good for me when the weather changes, I found the woods squishy and the playing field soaked my feet! :-) Maybe I should try the treadmill, but I feel I would miss the trees and the many creatures I see on my travels.


You're right, the ground does get squishy, and when the icy weather starts I reckon the frozen squishiness will be impossible to run on without going over on your ankles all the time. At the moment it's okay, and does give me something to think about, avoiding slugs and things. :-)

Maybe next year if my back continues good I'll give road-running another try but at the moment it's back to the woods and/or onto the treadmill for me!


Hi Mitts, I've been using a treadmill since I started the programme 'cos I am very overweight and unfit so wanted to run in privacy.

I have found the treadmill really useful, especially for controlling my pace, so I am not going to overdo it and scupper my chances of completing each run.

My walking and running rates are really slow so there is absolutely no chance of the machine running away with you. The best tip I was given during my gym induction was to always increase the speed of the treadmill gradually so you build up to the pace you want to go at rather than having to go from standing to running straight away.

I'm now up to W6 and still using the treadmill - it is a little boring on some of the longer runs but once I have completed the programme and can run for the 30 minutes I can either get better music or maybe even have the confidence to run outdoors :o)


Confidence was definitely a major issue for me when I started. I am very overweight and was more inclined to be on the couch than outside, so extremely unfit! With the earlier podcasts, each run was shorter I would rather wait until someone had passed by before running. I would not want to catch anyone's eye and kept my head down. Then I read a post which really helped me:

Like many who posted to the blog, it could have been written about me! Now I think, you know what? I AM running (slowly), and getting fitter. It IS tough, but I'm still doing it. I may be red in the face and breathing hard but every step takes me closer to my goal of being a healthier me. I wonder sometimes if using the treadmill would be kinder to my joints, but I enjoy it so much I would miss being outside. :-)


Great link arablue! :-) You should post it up in a new blog so that everyone can read it, a lot of people are going to miss it here!


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