Track Changes

You can still get the rigor of an outdoor run when using a treadmill

Freezing cold. Sweltering heat. Pounding rain. You’re not a mail carrier, so it’s okay if you don’t want to deal with bad weather.

But what if you still want that hard run that makes you sweat, keeps the weight off and helps you sleep?

You can get it on a treadmill.

Michelle LaFleur

But you will have to make some adjustments.

“With a treadmill, that belt is moving underneath you,” explains Michelle LaFleur, an Exercise Specialist at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Wellness Center. “You are not responsible for pushing off. So yes, there is a difference. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still become as fit as all get-out.”

As an inductee to the NCAA Division III Track and Field Hall of Fame and three-time competitor in the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials, LaFleur knows a thing or two about running. Personally, she loves the outside, even when the elements aren’t perfect. But she trains many of her clients on the treadmills at the Wellness Center.

“My own coach tested treadmill training with me by adjusting the grade and saw the difference,” LaFleur says.

The grade is determined by the incline function on the treadmill. The higher the incline number, the harder the workout.

“For example, say you want to run a 9:19 mile with the belt going 6 miles per hour,” LaFleur says. “With a 2.9 percent grade, that will give you that extra bit to make it equivalent.”

But you don’t need to be a math whiz to make these adjustments on your own. Just try different grades a different paces to see what feels best to you—providing a challenging workout but not putting yourself in danger of overexertion or injury.

“Instead of running faster on the treadmill, just raise that grade,” LaFleur says. She also notes that runners should not hold the rails, even on the higher grade.

“Let go and use your arms to get a full workout,” she says.

LaFleur has even used treadmill adjustments to recreate uphill runs, something that doesn’t naturally exist in Savannah and the Lowcountry.

“When my clients are using different grades or setting the treadmill so that it won’t let up on the pace, I know they are going to their max,” LaFleur says.

The Wellness Center at St. Joseph's/Candler is more than just a gym. Our professionals are specially trained to create an individualized exercise program designed to meet your goals. We offer education on various health topics, state-of-the-art equipment, and group fitness classes. Call 912-819-8800 to learn more or visit

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