Treadmill Exercise Tips
On face value, it may not be the most exciting bit of kit in the gym or training room but there is much more to the treadmill than meets the eye. To max out of your indoor running machine session you need to see it as more than the wet-weather alternative to the great outdoors.
From your warm up, your posture and how you use the incline to the type of running shoes you wear, it is possible to shake-up any treadmill tedium and stride out for an awesome workout – whatever the weather or time of year. To help you to totally blast it on the belt, we’ve put together our top tips for getting the most out of your treadmill exercise.
Warm Up And Cool Down
While you may be raring to get straight on a thigh-burning steep incline, don’t rush in without warming up or you could be asking for trouble. Even if you’re planning a short session on the treadmill as part of a cardio circuit, spending at least a few minutes at a slower pace to warm up those muscles is a must. This way you can help to avoid any injury or strain as you start to up the pace.
And the same applies to your cool down. When you are done with your treadmill workout, resist the temptation to press the stop button and head for the showers. Your heart rate will still be elevated so it’s a good idea to slow walk for five minutes or until your rate is below 100bpm before you hop off. Taking time to cool down will also help prevent that dizzy or ‘still moving’ feeling you can get when step off.
Wear The Right Shoes
The way you run on a treadmill is different to pounding a pavement due to the cushioned and constantly rolling surface. This means that, unlike having solid ground underfoot, you don’t need a hard push-off to generate propulsion. So, what does that mean for your footwear? Well, you can carry on wearing your outdoor running shoes with their thick sole and substantial cushioning and still have a good treadmill training session. But if you want to have a more responsive and dynamic run, you should consider going light. The best running shoes for a treadmill workout are a light and low-profile style that allow you to create a powerful enough push off from the cushioning treadmill belt for a fast and effective workout.
Don’t Let The Treadmill Do All The Work
Although the treadmill can make your exercising life a little easier, it’s not there to do the workout for you! It can be tempting to simply plug in the headphones and get into the zone but being a little more mindful can stop you falling into more ‘passive’ habits.
Resist the urge to hang on to the machine’s handrails (they’re there for safety, not support), especially when you crank up the incline. Walking or running with your arms free and swinging naturally by your side will burn more calories as your body is forced to do more of the work. For more burn, try holding a couple of hand-weights as you exercise. If you do find you can’t help but reach out to the handrail, check your speed or incline settings as they may be a bit more than you can cope with.
Another tip to get the most out of your treadmill session is to shorten your stride so that the belt is not doing all the work in moving you forward. A shorter, faster stride can also work wonders if you are wanting to get your heart rate up into the cardio zone.
Use A Slight Incline
You probably feel that running on a treadmill is often easier than running in the great outdoors. And you’re right, as there’s no wind to create resistance as you run. So, to boost your treadmill work out, it is a good idea to create your own.
To create resistance, increase the treadmill incline by around 1-2% to simulate the effort required for everyday outdoor running. Work up to this incline if needed and don’t keep to it throughout the session but alternate with some flat running. It’s also important not to crank the ‘hill’ up too far as you could cause a strain if you run at a steep incline for a prolonged session. Aim to go no steeper than 7% – trust us, you will still get a workout you will definitely feel but at least you will be injury free for your next session.
Watch Your Posture
How you stand, run and walk on the treadmill will really help you to max out on your workout but it can often be left to slide as you get into the treadmill zone or focus on your speed, time or pace. The key to good treadmill posture is your eyeline, so don’t look down. Looking down at your feet or the moving belt can throw you out of balance and will put a strain on your neck or back. Trust your feet to do their job and look straight ahead! Also aim to keep your body position upright, rather than leaning forward into the run. It’s tempting to lean against the pull-back of the belt, but this will throw you forward and put you out of kilter. Lift your feet before they are driven back by the belt and you’ll find your own natural pace without losing your upright body position.
Work On Your Stride
Now here is a simple but effective top tip – the more steps you take per minute on the treadmill, the more efficiently you’ll run. And, with a shorter stride this can make a real difference to your treadmill technique. Elite athletes run at around 180 steps per minute and while you may not get to this level you can use the challenge to add more interest to a treadmill session.
To work out your starter stride rate, count how many times one foot hits the belt in 60 seconds and then double it. Now put your best running shoes forward and work at improving this rate every time you take to the treadmill.
Mix It Up
Do the same routine every time you step on to the belt and you will soon find yourself in a total treadmill rut. Not only that, but you could well see any results come to a standstill as your muscles become used to the routine you keep throwing at them.
However, shake it up every time and it could well be a different story – and you will start to see the humble treadmill in a whole new body-honing light. Apply the theory of interval training by mixing up fast-paced, intense bouts with slower cool downs and interchange the incline with the flat and you will have a treadmill session to keep you interested…as well as your body burning those calories and challenging those muscles. By adding variety to your treadmill session, you will stave off boredom, create more of the unpredictability of an outdoor run and keep you coming back for more.