How to Run On a Treadmill: 10 Beginner Tips

how to run on a treadmill

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Whether you want a great alternative to outdoor running, you only have hilly ground, or the weather is terrible, running on a treadmill is a great way to get your exercise fix and lose weight even if you’re not marathon training.

Treadmills are some of the most versatile exercise equipment, allowing you to pick the elevation and speed, and you don’t have to worry about being spotted on the street during outdoor runs. However, running on a treadmill isn’t the same as running outdoors, so we’re going to give you some tips to help you start the right way.

How to Use a Treadmill

Setting up Your Treadmill

Start by getting familiar with the controls, so you’re not trying to figure out how it works as you run. The first thing to look for is the emergency cut-off. Most treadmills have a cord that clips onto your clothing to switch off the belt if you should fall. There’s a large emergency stop button on most machines too.

Next, check out the controls so you can see how to adjust those. Treadmills, especially in the gym, have built-in programs that will vary speed and incline, but it’s better to change them yourself while you’re getting used to everything.

You’ll see displays for time and distance, and you should take the time to familiarise yourself with how they work. Not all treadmills have heart rate and calorie burn functions, but if yours does, feel free to experiment with them.

Start first at a comfortable walking speed so you can go through the controls without being too physically challenged.

Running on a Treadmill

Running on a treadmill is different as the ground itself is moving in the form of the treadmill belt. It’s easy to overstretch yourself and, in effect, try to outrun the machine. Start going from a walk to a jog so you can get used to the feeling and avoid an inefficient running form.

Keep proper treadmill running form in mind and maintain your posture while ensuring that you keep a natural stride length. Your footstrikes need to be even to avoid injury, so check that you’re not overly striking your heels down.

One of the significant benefits of using a treadmill is that you can adjust speed and incline. Once you’ve got comfortable, increase the speed until you reach your comfortable running rate. It can be a good rule to add a slight angle even if you’re flat running to help your feet strike the belt correctly. Just 1-2 % can help avoid your heels hitting too hard and simulate a realistic level of natural resistance. If you’re looking for a hill workout, then a steep incline of 5-10% on your treadmill runs usually is about right to simulate typical outdoor hill training for experienced runners.

Treadmill Running Tips

How Should a Beginner Run On a Treadmill?

A treadmill workout is a perfect way to get some essential cardio exercise, and for most people, it’s one of the most accessible pieces of equipment in the gym.  For the beginner, proper running form on the treadmill can make the difference between a comfortable and beneficial training session and one that can be disheartening or even cause injury.

1. Warm-Up

After you’ve put on your thick socks to prevent blisters and laced up your running shoes and stretched, it’s time to make a proper warm-up. Start with a walking pace and then speed up, so you’re gently jogging for five minutes. How fast that will be will depend on you, but you should be going for a speed that would still allow you to maintain a conversation with someone.

Once the time is up, increase the speed for another three minutes to a fast jog, so you’re starting your treadmill workout.

2. Keep Your Toes Straight Ahead

As you’re jogging, have a look at how your feet are landing. It’s easy for your feet to turn in or out, which can hurt your knees, so check that your toes face forward. Practice this at slower speeds as you don’t want to look down while you’re running full speed.

3. Run Tall and Don’t Look Down

Running with your body upright with a good form not only helps to avoid injury but also means that you’ll get the best workout possible, particularly when you’re getting tired.

Good form means keeping your body’s centre in the middle of the belt and your pelvis and hips up and forward so you’re engaging your glutes. Make sure that your chest and head are staying up and not dropping forwards.

You’ll need to concentrate as you engage the treadmill’s incline function as it’s normal to try and lean into the slope. Keep an upright running form even as you head up the virtual hill.

You can help yourself stay upright by not looking downwards as you run. Not only will this mess up your form as you lean forward, but it is also a sure-fire way to lose balance. Find something in front of you about head height and focus on it, and you’ll find it easier to stay upright and not lean forward.

Once again, it’s best to experiment as you’re making a slow run so that you get used to how form feels and you can make any adjustments safely. You can always ask a personal trainer for assistance if needed.

4. Maintain Arm Movement

Try and keep a loose arm swing to maintain balance and keep your stride. With your arms bent at ninety degrees, keep them moving relatively straight at your sides. If they cross over the centre line of your upper body, you can end up repetitively twisting and straining your lower back.

5. Don’t Hold On

The treadmill handrails are there to steady yourself as you get on and off, but you shouldn’t try and hold onto them as you run. Holding on makes it hard to balance and make you bend over, which messes up the form that we’ve worked on as well as causing neck and back pain.

If you’re thinking about grabbing onto the rails, it’s likely because you’ve pushed yourself too hard and need to dial back the speed or incline a little.

6. Don’t Step off Whilst It’s Moving

The most common way people get injured on a treadmill run is by getting on or off whilst the belt is moving. Ideally, you should always stop a fast-moving treadmill before getting off. Slow down to a gentle speed and lower the incline before stopping and getting off.

7. Start Slow

As well as letting you assess your form and importantly get accustomed to how the machine works, starting slowly and building up means that you’re more likely to stay motivated.

If you push yourself too hard, you’re more likely to end up thinking that the treadmill isn’t for you. Start with interval training alternating between a minute of fast walking and a minute of jogging and repeating ten times. This method allows you to find yours and build from there.

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t increase your target distance by more than ten per cent a week. More than this can make you more liable to injury or burning out.

8. Use a Slight Incline

Using an incline of 1-2% creates a more natural running resistance. You should add a greater slope into your training slowly and allow your form to adapt to it.

When you’re ready and want to simulate running natural inclines, slowly increase to about 10% and adjust so you’re comfortable while maintaining your running form. As with speed, it’s a good idea to use incline as an interval method, so your form remains loose.

9. Experiment and Don’t Get Bored

Successful, long-term treadmill running relies on you keeping it up and not getting bored. One of the best ways to do this is by mixing up your routine. Instead of always doing the same workout, add in different interval training challenges. Adjust your targets from distance to speed or incline tests while maintaining proper form.

10. Cool Down

Make sure that you cool down by slowing for a few minutes jogging and then three minutes of easy walking to allow your heart to slow. Finish up with a good stretching routine before you head to the shower.

What Speed Should a Treadmill Be at to Run On?

As we’ve emphasized already, start slowly and build up. The exact speed that you’re able to run at will depend on your fitness level, and it’s vital for enjoyment and long-term success that new runners don’t try too much too soon.

Typically speaking, jogging is anything above walking but with a speed of less than six mph, while above that speed, you’re starting to run.

It’s more important for your workout to focus on good running form across a reasonable distance and time rather than aim for high speed.

How Long Should You Run On a Treadmill for Beginners?

A good target is to jog or run for twenty minutes so that with about five minutes warm-up and five cooling down, you’re spending half an hour working out. If you can do this, you can increase your speed slowly until you’re ready to add more time to achieve your running goals.

Will Treadmills Reduce Belly Fat?

If you feel wobbly around the middle, treadmill workouts in the gym or at home are a great way to get in good shape, with the best results coming from relatively high-intensity interval sessions.

Once you’re comfortable running, start with three-minute intervals running at a fast pace and three minutes of fast walking and repeat across half an hour. Maintain the speed and build up the interval times, so you’re putting in an intense effort, and you’ll start to see changes rapidly.

Can You Lose Weight Running 30-Minutes on a Treadmill?

The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week as a minimum for adults, so if you do 30 minutes every day running on the treadmill, you’d already be over this target.

For weight loss and fat burn, you need your treadmill runs to be as intense as possible, including periods of high levels of effort and some incline mixed in with slower recovery periods.

Vary your routine so that you’re not doing the same session over and over again to help stop yourself from getting bored.

Finishing Up

As we’ve seen, running on a treadmill is an excellent cardio workout to get you burning calories and shed weight without the worry about how the weather is or the local conditions being unsuitable for running outdoors.

Start slowly, and develop good posture before pushing yourself too hard, and you’ll soon master how to run on a treadmill and see the results of your efforts.

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