Sunday, January 8, 2012

How-to Use the Treadmill Effectively

I didn't make any resolutions for this year.  I have some goals for 2012, like finding a teaching job and continuing to develop myself as a professional, but I haven't set any strict resolutions.  When I was developing a workout plan for myself, I noticed that when I had told myself I needed to do this workout on this exact day I would put a lot of pressure on myself to complete this workout even if I had other stuff going on.  Instead of doing the workout at a later time I would do an abbreviated workout instead and in the end, I would feel like I hadn't really accomplished anything.  And if I had to miss the workout for one reason or another, I'd later feel really down on myself and beat myself up about it.  There was a time when I developed a really negative attitude towards completing my workouts and for a while I fell off the bandwagon.

However, when I had an idea for what I would do for my next workout and told myself to do it at my convenience, I started working out more.  When I felt like the workout wasn't looming over my head, I was more excited to do it.  I was working out and running for the joy of doing so, not because it was glaring at me from my calendar.  I feel the same goes for New Year's resolutions.  If you force yourself to not eat sweets or if you drag yourself to the gym every morning, you're going to be doing these things because you have to, not because you find joy in them.  When I set off on this journey into a new chapter of my life I told myself to do things because I enjoyed them, not because I had to.  It makes navigating your quarter life crisis (or any other part of your life for that matter) much more enjoyable.

Due to New Year's resolutions and the colder temperatures, the number of people at my gym has tripled in size.  Over the past few weeks, I've noticed that many people don't use the treadmill safely or use it to its full potential.  For this installation of the winter workout series, I want to give you a few tips to make your treadmill workout both productive and safe.

Please note that these guidelines are based on personal observations and experiences and articles I have read from sources such as NYRR, NYCruns, and Runner's World.  I am not a trained professional and therefore you should always speak to your doctor if you are concerned about starting a new exercise regiment.  If at any point you feel short of breath or dizzy while on the treadmill slow your pace down to a brisk walk and speak to a doctor.  

1. Warm up and cool down

This is incredibly important and it's something that most people do not do when they use the treadmill.    The only walking I've done before getting on the treadmill is the walk across the parking lot. So when I get on the treadmill, I like to start at a normal-paced walk, and then work my way up to a jog.  Minute by minute, I go from a walk, to a brisk walk, to a slow jog, to a quicker jog.  You should do this for about 8 - 10 minutes so your muscles get warmed up and ready for your run.

The same goes for the cool down.  Running on a treadmill messes with your perception because the ground is moving underneath you while you're staying in place.  The blood in your body is also rushing around at a much faster rate since your muscles, heart, and lungs were in need of more oxygen.  The first time I used a treadmill, I decided I was done with my run, turned off the machine, and stepped off.  I pretty much fell over once my brain realized the ground wasn't moving underneath me anymore.  Take at least 5 minutes to walk on the treadmill and allow your brain and your body to adjust to your surroundings.

2. Don't over do it

The treadmill is unforgiving.  The track on the treadmill doesn't absorb a lot of impact, so repeated running on the treadmill can do damage to your shins, ankles, and knees.  I like to do 3 days on the treadmill followed by 1 day on the bike.

3. Use the incline

Running on the treadmill is artificial in the sense that you're not running with wind resistance or on uneven territory.  In fact, running on a flat treadmill is like running slightly downhill.  Try raising the incline on the treadmill to level 2 or 3 before you up your speed.  You'll get a more efficient workout that mimics running outside on ground that is never completely flat.  Use this conversion chart to figure out your pace in terms of your speed and the incline.

4. Focus on time, not on distance

The distance you run on the treadmill may not always be accurate, especially if your gym doesn't calibrate the machines often.  Focus on how long you've run in terms of minutes rather than miles.

5. Keep your back straight

Because the conveyer belt is constantly pulling you backwards, your posture can be compromised while you're running on the treadmill.  Make sure your hips are lined up with the rest of your torso (in other words, don't let your butt stick out!).

Running on the treadmill can have many advantages.  It keeps you out of the cold weather, mimics outdoor running more than any other cardio machine, and can up your mental game (honestly, there is nothing more boring than running on a treadmill - keeping at it for 30 minutes is a workout for your body and your mind!).  On the other hand, it can negatively affect your posture and stride and can lead to injury if you're not careful.  Just follow these guidelines, though, and you can get in a great run without having to brave the cold.


  1. I'm a treadmill runner too. I'd definitely rather add in a run or two instead of making a resolution to give up sweets! This is good information and love the conversion chart.

  2. Since I really can't use treadmills for running, I'll use either the treadmill or elliptical and make the incline a level 10 or so. I'm definitely more tired afterwards than running at level 1!

  3. Thanks for the post! I found the tips very handy. Will pass them on to my hubby too. Happy following your blog.

  4. Great advice! I just started running a few months ago, and trained for my first 5k outside. Now it's cold and I want to keep it up inside, but I don't know much about a treadmill. Thank you! :)

  5. Great tips! I've been running for a while - I started off a couple years back with the C25K program. Love the first two tips especially - The warm up is so important, especially if your muscles are a little sore anyways. Pacing yourself - not going full tilt seven days a week - is super important too. I know I've run when I really shouldn't have, only to hurt myself and be pretty sore the next day.

    I really hope you do a post on lifting next! Cardio is important, but gaining muscle is the best way to keep fit!

  6. Ali! I love this! I agree with your assessment of forcing the workout--it really does ruin it for me. When I take it day by day and do what I want to do (rather than what I have to do), I enjoy working out.

    And I love that we share a few commonalities--namely running and baking. What a great combination, I think. :D

  7. @Melanie {adorkable life} Haha it really is! They totally cancel each other out in my book...

  8. I agree with your not forcing the workout. I've realized the way I look at it now is that "I get to work out", rather than I have to. Now that I have a family, I have to schedule it in, and it's my "me" time. So these days, going to the gym and working out is something I "treat" myself to rather than something I "force" myself to do!


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