By: Jeremy Neisser
It goes without saying that the treadmill is the most popular piece of equipment in the gym. They are convenient, endlessly versatile, cater to people of all fitness levels, and keep you out of the blazing sun, humidity, rain, snow, sleet, or any other de-motivating outdoor conditions.
While everyone knows how to use a treadmill to some degree, many don’t realize how to get the most out of their treadmill workout or utilize it as an effective race training tool.
Treadmill running can be a race trainer’s best friend when used properly, check out these ten tips for running on a treadmill to make your workout more efficient and more enjoyable.
Training on a Treadmill vs. Outside
- Joint Impact: Treadmills offer a more cushioned surface compared to outdoor terrain, reducing the impact on your joints. This makes it ideal for individuals with joint issues or those recovering from injuries.
- Weather & Safety: Treadmills allow you to run regardless of weather conditions, making them a safe option during extreme heat, cold, or unfavorable weather. Moreover, you can exercise in a controlled environment, lowering the risk of accidents.
- Pace and Incline Control: With a treadmill, you have complete control over your pace and incline, allowing you to easily adjust your workout's intensity and simulate various terrains.
- Monotony: Running on a treadmill can sometimes feel monotonous due to the lack of changing scenery and being indoors.
- Less Dynamic Surface: Treadmills provide a consistent and flat surface, which doesn't fully replicate the varied terrains encountered during outdoor running.
- Lack of Wind Resistance: The absence of wind resistance on a treadmill doesn't challenge your body in the same way as running outdoors.
Outdoor Running Pros:
- Terrain Variation: Running outdoors allows you to experience varied terrains such as hills, trails, and different surfaces, which challenges your muscles and improves balance and coordination.
- Psychological Benefits: Being in nature and experiencing changing scenery can have positive effects on mental well-being, reducing stress and enhancing mood.
- Greater Energy Expenditure: Outdoor running requires more effort due to factors like wind resistance, uneven terrain, and changes in elevation, resulting in a higher calorie burn.
Outdoor Running Cons:
- Joint Impact: Outdoor terrain can be harder on your joints since it lacks the cushioning of a treadmill. This can be a concern for individuals with joint issues or injuries.
- Weather Limitations: Outdoor running is weather-dependent, which means you might need to modify or reschedule your workouts based on conditions like extreme heat, cold, or heavy rain.
- Safety Concerns: Running outdoors may pose safety risks, such as uneven surfaces, traffic, or potential encounters with wildlife. It's essential to prioritize your safety and choose well-lit and secure routes.
Here are my Favorite 10 Treadmill Running Tips
1. Be Prepared.
Know what kind of workout you want to do before you get started. If you are going to be doing interval training, make sure you are prepared physically and mentally before you step on the treadmill.
That way you don’t have to think about what you're doing when you are in the heat of your workout.
Also, remember to bring your supplies - one of the best things about treadmill workouts is that it gives you the luxury of easily being able to use things you wouldn’t normally be able to carry with you on a run, like a water bottle and a towel.
2. Choose Interval Training.
The treadmill is not necessarily the best place to do a long run at a fixed pace but rather you can choose the paces that you run. It certainly can be done, but boredom is a big factor when it comes to treadmill running, and being able to watch your time slowly tick by doesn’t help.
Most treadmills offer workout plans. Intervals are a great way to use the treadmill effectively - it keeps things interesting and helps you burn more calories. Rather than running at a comfortable treadmill speed for 45 minutes straight, go with an interval workout that makes sense for your training level or goals.
Doing interval workouts on a treadmill is a great way for race trainers to build their speed or train for a hilly course.
Follow these links for some simple beginner treadmill workout plans:
3. Mix It Up.
Running is only one of many ways you can work out on a treadmill.
Sometimes you need to mix it up with some cross-training techniques like lunges, sideways shuffle, backward jog, adding dumbbells, and even push-ups. I would include incline and flat running as additional options to mix it up.
Check out these links for some ideas on using the treadmill for more than running:
4. Utilize its Features.
Many people use a treadmill often, but have never used some of it’s best features, like the incline, or the built-in interval training plans like “Fat Burn” or “Hill Climber”.
These features are unique to treadmills, help you burn more calories, and build a stronger body.
If you are accustomed to always running flat on a treadmill, then a good way to get used to running on an incline is to do pump it all the way up to 10 or 15 and do some treadmill speed walking, then lower it back down to about 3 or 4 and start running. When you want to push yourself, increase the miles per hour.
Some of the lower end treadmills have the basic features and some of the more expensive ones have more elaborate features. I put together a list of the budget-friendly and the ones that have a few more features.
The heart rate monitor is an item that I would also recommend using.
Going from big incline to slight incline will make it feel much easier than going from no incline to slight incline.
Even if you are running at a set speed for a long period of time, upping the incline to only 1 or 2 will help you avoid shin splints and other injuries (plus burn more calories, engage more muscles, and simulate outdoor running more effectively).
Treadmill running can be just as satisfying as outdoor running around the neighborhood when done correctly.
Some treadmills also have rather large screens which open up the possibility to numerous workout programs making your treadmill run more enjoyable. Here are the top 5 that are recommended.
5. Indoor running - Ward off Boredom.
Indoor running is boring staring at the same wall or screen the entire time. Running outdoors provides plenty of scenery.
As a runner, boredom and repetition is one of the number one reasons why people tend to shy away from using treadmills (or at least not look forward to using them).
Keep things interesting by using interval training, making killer running playlists, listening to audiobooks, podcasts, TED talks, or if your gym has a built in system you can link your headphones to a tv or radio from your treadmill.
Try to avoid reading magazines, books, or chatting it up with friends during your indoor running, all of which tend to slow down your workout and take your focus of maintaining form and working hard.
6. Warm-Up and Cool-Down.
Being able to have such easy control over your speed and time on a treadmill means there is no excuse for skipping the warm up and cool down process.
Always warm up with walking or light jogging for at least 5 minutes, and same goes for afterward. Warming up and cooling down are essential for avoiding injury and keeping you from feeling stiff and sore later on. You will notice the slower you go the longer your minutes per mile will be.
7. Know Several Routines.
Each persons fitness level is different. Doing the same workout on the treadmill over and over again will allow your muscles to adapt to the workout (which means that you will burn less calories) and could potentially lead to injury.
Keep growing in strength and endurance by doing different treadmill routines. If you use the treadmill three times a week, try to do a different type of workout each day, and incorporate new routines over time. Before you know, it you will become a faster runner.
8. Watch Your Running Form.
A common mistake for a beginner runner who is starting on a treadmill is constantly looking down at the “dashboard” or their feet. This is likely not your natural form, and it can lead to neck/back pain and bad form.
Try to mimic your “road form” when using the treadmill, concentrate on keeping your back straight and looking forward. Allow your feet to strike the belt just as you would if running outside, and be careful not to shorten or lengthen your stride.
9. Lay off the Handrails.
Another common mistake many treadmill users make is holding on to the handrails or the top of the machine when walking on a steep incline.
Try to keep your arms free, and pump them as you move to make your workout more efficient.
Holding on to the treadmill also lends itself to unnatural running form - remember that the point is to mimic your road running form and get a workout that is just as effective (if not more) than a run you would get outside.
10. Ignore The Neighbors.
When you are running side by side with other treadmill users, it’s hard not to compare yourself and try to compete.
Avoid doing this, everyone is in the gym for their own workout, and if you are focused on competing with your neighbors then you're taking your focus away from where it needs to be - getting an effective workout.
I hope these treadmill running tips help you get onto the treadmill and have fun. Whether you goal is lose weight, exercise or simply burn a few calories. I wish you only the best. Don't forget a solid pair of running shoes!
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Jeremy.
I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods