Treadmills don’t get the credit they deserve. In blazing June, you can have a nice run in an air-conditioned gym. In brutal February, you can avoid the polar bears scouring your garbage cans, and keep from slipping on sheets of ice by again running on a treadmill indoors. Hell, if you have the right set up, you can marathon some shows, or catch up on some movies or books (hey, maybe Winds of Winter will come out within the next 40 years) while you work out. Treadmill running comes with a number of benefits both obvious and unobvious, but there are too many runners out there who don’t quite use them the way they should.
Why Should I Run on a Treadmill?
Other than avoiding inclement weather? Treadmills contribute to your goals, whether that’s weight loss, strength building, or endurance. Combining consistent treadmill runs with proper dieting and exercises like weight-training or cross-training, you can use these runs to supplement your gains. Of course, the amount of the gains depends on the person–their size, their speed, the duration, and the type of their runs will burn a different amount of calories for every different person. (Admittedly, given the right amount of time and effort, any person can lose about a pound or two a week using a treadmill).
Treadmills are also helpful for marathon training. Do you have a run coming up on a flat surface like asphalt? Treadmills are flat as they come. Doing an inclined race? Well, you have a control mechanism to simulate even the steepest hills. And, again, really, treadmills keep you out of bad weather. How much do I have to sell this thing to you?
Anyway, to experienced runners, this sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, treadmill running is incredibly similar–nigh identical–to your regular outdoor runs. However, there are a few adjustments even the most experienced runners will have to make in order to safely run on a treadmill.
How to Run on a Treadmill for Beginners (and Avoiding Injuries)
Well, you should stretch first, then give the treadmill a try. You can do this in your normal stretching routine, or on the treadmill itself by setting a slow pace so you’re walking. It’s normal to feel wobbly and a little off-balance when you’re first on a treadmill. Your body and brain need to adjust to the movement.
On a treadmill, the ground you’re running on is moving, altering your normal forward-falling footstrikes. As you adapt, remember not just to move your feet, but run as you normally would–maintaining proper form with your entire body. Of course, this can sometimes lead to overstriding. It’s tough getting used to that belt speeding beneath you, and in the reflexive desire to “keep up,” you might reach your legs out too far ahead of your body. If that happens, increase your cadence: get your feet up faster. This will create shorter strides. However, you should be careful not to excessively strike your heel during the run. Over time, the strikes can do damage to your heel and your knee. To set your footstrikes right, increase the incline about 5 degrees, allowing your feet to fall forward more naturally again. And don’t worry, we’ll deal with inclines soon enough.
As with normal runs, though, oddly, especially in treadmill runs (perhaps because of the design of the machine), your posture might change as the run goes on. You’ll tire out and you’ll lean forward, in a hunch. Correct this by running for a minute with your hands clasped behind your back, like you’re getting arrested (but with your fingers entwined). This will realign your body into an upright position.
After a few minutes, you should feel comfortable enough to increase the speed somewhat.
Increase to a jog. Keep a pace that’s fast enough to get your heart pumping, but not so fast that you couldn’t keep up a conversation with someone.
Check out this video from TheRunExperience for more clear instructions on how to perfect your running form (and also to learn a few treadmill-specific running tips).
A Full Treadmill Run
Treadmill Running Plan for Beginners
If you’re new to running in general, use this rubric to help introduce to you to work out.
1- 5 minutes of walking.
2- 5 minutes of jogging or running.
3- 5-minute cooldown at a walking pace.
4- Maximum workout time: 15 minutes.
Depending on your capability, you can try walking for a minute, then running for a minute, and switching back and forth between the speed for 10 to 15 minutes. If you enjoy shifting quickly between speeds, be sure to check out our section on interval running below.
Advanced Treadmill Running Plan
Once you’re accustomed to running (or are already experienced), this is the next level. Experienced runners will see that there’s no difference here between a treadmill run and a normal outdoor run structure. A treadmill doesn’t change the basics of your run, it just makes you a little more watchful of your form in those early workouts.
1- 5-10 minutes of walking.
2- 10-20 minutes of jogging or running.
3- 5-minute cooldown at a walking pace.
4- Maximum workout time: 30 minutes.
Your treadmill runs should also have a schedule. Since, in the end, you’re still doing a run, just switching locales, the schedule will stay the same as your outdoor runs. Your treadmill workouts should be done 3 to 4 times a week, lasting for 30 minutes. Of course, long-distance runners should adapt their routine to the treadmill too at whatever intervals they normally run at.
Incline running is an excellent way of burning calories and developing muscle strength. It can also be quite dangerous. Uneven ground or too steep climbs increase the risk of injury. Treadmills allow you to control how steep an incline you want on your run (this also makes it entirely your fault if you overdo things and get hurt). If you feel as if you need a new challenge with your run, increase the incline a few degrees.
High inclines can be very helpful in building strength and endurance, and burning calories, but they also place a heavy strain on your back, hips, knees, and ankles. If you’re on a particularly steep incline run, don’t have it last more than 5 minutes.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact science for determining how much incline is too much. While people and machines can vary, an incline of 7 is usually thought to be too much for just about anybody–that’s when the strain you’re feeling isn’t muscles being workout out, but being stressed to the point of possible injury. Decrease it by a degree or two. It might take a few tries, but the benefits are worth it.
In general, a good rule of thumb to use is that if you can’t do your full 30-minute workout at an incline level, you’ve gone too far.
You either felt thrilled or a cold chill when you watched that above video. Yes, interval runs are very possible on treadmills–but they’re also very hard. If done right, however, interval running can help you in whatever your running goals are. They also have a special utility in treadmill runs: killing boredom.
There’s no guarantee that the venue you’re running in is all that stimulating. Truthfully treadmill runs are rather stationary. You’re not outside. There’s no nature to see, attractive people to side-eye, or obstacles to navigate around. Even with music blasting, it’s easy to just kinda zone out during your run. And perhaps that’s what you want–a bit of a distraction from the exertion your body’s going through.
But sometimes you need a cattle prod to your behind.
Treadmill Interval Running Workout Plan
1- 5-10 minute warm-up (a little bit of stretching and some walking on the treadmill so you can get comfortable in your footing).
2- For 30 to 60 seconds, jog at an intensity that would make holding a conversation difficult.
3- Walk for 60 to 90 seconds.
4- Return to your intense jog.
5- Switch between paces for 20 minutes.
6- Give yourself a 5-minute cooldown walk.
NOTE: Not only can you apply this to the aforementioned introductory walking plan, but you can also add interval running to your incline runs as well.
Proper Treadmill Footwear
Even after you’ve mastered proper treadmill running form, and you’ve found an incline that’s tough but safe, you’re still a runner, and runners aren’t known for doing anything halfway. Despite the change of venue and form, running on a treadmill can cause blistering, even though you’re still in your running shoes. It’s often suggested you wear thick socks for extra protection. Rockay’s socks are sleek but protective. They not only have a comfortably tight fit but also wick sweat, so your feet stay dry. For treadmill runners, Rockay’s socks are well-padded in the toes and heels, protecting you from blisters. If you want to make an honest attempt of treadmill running, do it as comfortably as possible. Be sure to check out our selection below.
With winter’s chill on the way out and summer’s blaze on the horizon, maybe you should give a treadmill a try. Just because you’re exercising doesn’t mean the whole ordeal needs to be uncomfortable.