The Newbie’s Guide To The Treadmill

When you first venture into a gym you might view the treadmill as a safe space. You don’t have to share it with others or put it back in the right place like you do with weights, and it’s really quite hard to use it incorrectly, in contrast to initially terrifying contraptions like suspension trainers or cable machines.

However, once you clamber aboard you might well discover that using the treadmill is not as simple as anticipated. Modern machines have a baffling array of dials and buttons you can adjust to mix up your workout, and if you steadfastly ignore them in favour of hitting the big “quick start” button and just plodding along at a set pace, you’re missing out on a world of opportunity.

You’ll also get bored. Really bored, no matter how exciting the true crime podcast you’re listening to while on the treadmill is. Running on the spot staring at a wall or out into the rest of the gym is a monotonous enough experience without adding to that by sticking to the same workout, so it’s time to get acquainted with all those buttons that’ll let you change up your training easily.

To help you get the most out of treadmill training we spoke to David Howatson, master trainer at equipment company Technogym.

What are the first settings people need to adjust when they first step on a treadmill?

The most basic settings to consider are speed and gradient. First-timers should begin at a moderate speed that replicates a similar speed to which you run or walk outside.

My little tip is to make sure you walk, jog or run with a gradient of at least 1.5% on your treadmill. Working without a gradient means that the machine does most of the work for you. Because the belt is moving your muscles don’t need to do too much work at a 0% gradient – you are literally just putting your foot down and lifting it back up again without having to drive forward as you would outside. Having a 1.5% gradient gets the muscles to produce some force, making the whole activity more effective and authentic.

What is the red clip that’s found on treadmills?

This is the emergency stop function. There’s a small clip on a string that’s designed to halt the belt if the user gets too close to the back edge of the treadmill. If the string is pulled to its full length,the belt will come to an immediate stop.

The clip should always attach to the waistline of your shorts or trousers – because T-shirts can be baggy and vary in length, it’s best to avoid clipping to them.

What are the common pre-set workouts to try?

Programming will vary from treadmill to treadmill but distance-based workouts tend to be the most commonly used because people look to hit a target, whether it be a 5K or a marathon. Hill-based and interval-style sessions are always popular too.

Running at a set speed or pace is an extremely valuable strategy, especially for those looking to hit a particular time on their given distance. However, sprint intervals are great for those looking to work at high intensity or improve their pure speed. One of the benefits of this type of training is developing fast-twitch muscle fibres, which improves your ability to perform power movements.

Hill training will build strength in particular areas of the body as well as improving your muscular endurance. Every muscle in your posterior chain – calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and shoulders – is switched on and working during hill running.

When should you use the heart rate monitor hand panels on a treadmill?

The heart rate monitor panels are useful for recording levels at the start and end of the workout. It’s best to track heart rate using a chest, wrist or forearm device while moving. Holding the hand panel takes the arms out of walking or running which prevents people from moving naturally. It’s a bit like running with a shopping trolley or a baby buggy.

The best advice I can give is to monitor heart rate in every treadmill session. Getting into the correct heart rate zone ensures the body is working in the appropriate way to match your goal. For example, if you want to build endurance your heart rate should be at 70-80% of your maximum. That specific zone develops your capacity to transport oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, your muscular tissue.

What are some good ways to stop treadmill sessions getting boring?

Tracking your sessions and setting a goal really helps combat the boredom. For example, the Technogym MyRun app connects a tablet to the treadmill, so you can see all your live workout data and browse the web at the same time. For the beginner, this distraction will help – even if it leads to just a few more minutes of exertion, that’s still a few steps closer to the target.

Having a goal is the best killer of boredom. People who use the quick start option on treadmills don’t tend to last very long! Even the most basic goal, such as time or distance, will focus the mind – and having a training plan that includes some variation is always a winner.

How does running on a treadmill differ to running outside?

The physical demands of running on treadmills are often lower than running outside. This is due to being able to run uninterrupted at a pre-set pace without variation in the surface or speed. Treadmills also cut out any changes in direction, which lowers the risk of injury and takes less energy to perform. However, these benefits can also be downsides, as you may want those variations in surface, speed and direction to keep your body stimulated.

Are there any treadmill etiquette pointers people should make sure they follow?

Absolutely. First of all, listen. We’ve all had that person running next to us who sounds like a herd of elephants. That is sometimes down to bad technique, but often highlights a runner who is on a 0% gradient. So be aware of how much noise you’re making when your feet make contact with the belt. Whatever your size or weight, technique can be improved to make each step that little bit softer and more efficient.

Second, be clean. Nobody wants to step on a treadmill covered in sweat. Always give the kit a good wipe down afterwards.

How To Use A Treadmill (For Beginners)

If this is your first time using a treadmill, congratulations! A treadmill is an excellent way to get fit and an ideal exercise machine for beginners. Treadmills are perfect for users of all shapes, sizes, ages, and skill levels because they offer so many workout options. Most treadmills also come with some form of a deck support system to make working out easy on the joints. However, before hopping on your treadmill, there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your workout safer and more enjoyable.

See Our Video Explanation Of How Beginners Can Use a Treadmill

If you are using a folding treadmill, make sure that the deck is completely reclined and locked in place. Folding treadmills are excellent space savers, but you have make sure the deck is clicked in place before running or walking of things can go wrong. In addition, whether you have a folding or non-folding treadmill, it’s important to ensure that the machine is on a stable and flat surface. If you are using the treadmill in your home, double check to make sure the machine isn’t on the corner of a rug, or another uneven surface.

After stabilizing the treadmill, check that the emergency key is in place. If the key isn’t in place, the machine simply will not start. So before you think the machine is broken, double check this feature. Once this key is in place, you are almost ready to go! Next, check the start key. Most treadmills feature a Quick Start key that allows you to simply start the machine with the push of a button, but it depends on the model. One suggestion is to stand on the side rails of the machine before pushing the start button so that you can determine how fast it will start and then safely get on the treadmill at a pace that is safe and comfortable for you.

Becoming familiar with the console and handrails is also essential. Depending on the model and brand of treadmill, the controls could be directly on the console, built into the arms, or even built in with motion sensor controls. It’s important to know where the speed, incline, and other controls are located before getting started because this is not something you want to be fumbling for while in motion. Other things to familiarize yourself with are the entertainment options (if you have them). For example, know where the headphone jack and audio port are located and how they work so you are not messing with a pile of cords and struggling to get your music started.

Perhaps the most important buttons to find before getting started are the stop key and speed dial, so that you can safely slow or stop the machine if something happens while working out. And once you have used your treadmill for a while, you can try out interval training (knowing the speed and incline controls will be crucial to making fast and efficient changes while in motion). If you are a beginner, learning to use a treadmill before getting started will make your workout experience more enjoyable and ensure that you get the best results. If you are looking for a good, reliable entry-level treadmill to get you started, check out some of our best buy treadmills to find the right one for you. These are all strong machines, many of which are perfect for someone just getting started with a treadmill workout regimen.

Starting Cardio? Try This Treadmill Workout for Beginners.

“You must learn to walk before you can run.” That saying definitely holds true for beginners who are interested in incorporating the treadmill into their fitness routine. Try this quick treadmill workout for beginners to up your cardio game.

“Running is one of the most popular cardiovascular activities we can do,” says Cris Strong, a Gold’s Gym fitness manager. One of the main reasons for its popularity is the myriad health benefits it provides — heart health chief among them. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for overall cardiovascular health.

“When we are running, we increase the strength and efficiency of the heart, which pumps more blood with less effort,” she says. “And when we do that, we’re lowering our blood pressure.”

Running also helps us burn fat (especially if it’s done after a weightlifting routine, when the body is primed to tap into its fat stores).

“For beginning runners, the treadmill is a safe way to start,” Strong says.

Besides being easy to use, treadmills put you in complete control of your workout and the environment around you. When running outside, you have to consider both the weather and personal safety issues — those things don’t factor into an indoor treadmill workout. This control is another reason this is a great treadmill workout for beginners — there aren’t any excuses not to do it.

Treadmill safety

Here’s a look at what you’ll see on a typical treadmill dashboard.

Before you press the start button, remember to:

  • Identify the emergency stop button. Knowing where it is means you can stop the machine immediately if you feel pain or dizziness, lose your balance or drop an item onto the belt
  • Stay hydrated. All treadmills are designed to hold a water bottle. Use one – preferably a style with a top that doesn’t need to be unscrewed for every drink.
  • Secure your device. If you want to watch TV or listen to music while on the treadmill, the safest option is to use a machine with a built-in screen. If one isn’t available, be sure your device is resting on the small shelf or holder near the dashboard. Even better, tuck it in your pocket or an arm strap where it will be less likely to fall.
  • Double check your gear. Wear comfortable clothing, but nothing so loose that it could get caught on the equipment. Make sure your shoelaces are tied. Have a towel handy.

The Treadmill Workout for Beginners

For healthy adults with no risk factors, Strong suggests doing the following treadmill workout for beginners three to five times a week.
Step onto the treadmill and push the Quick Start button to begin walking. Warm up for at least five minutes at a comfortable pace. Then change to these settings:

  • Incline: 1 percent — This is comparable to running on the road.
  • Speed: 3.5 mph
  • Program: Variety — Strong says this option (called “Random” on some machines) is ideal because it gives beginners a good feel for the equipment. “Both the incline and speed vary throughout the program, but neither becomes extreme,” she says.
  • Duration: 30 minutes

Walk for three minutes at these settings. After that, evaluate how your body feels. If the intensity is moderate — you’re breathing heavily but you can still carry on a short conversation — try adding resistance by bumping the incline to 2 percent and increase the speed to 4.5 mph. Stay here for three more minutes and evaluate again.

Continue this pattern — increasing the incline by 1 percent and speed by one unit every three minutes — until you’re breathing hard, speaking requires maximum effort or you’ve reached the point of discomfort. At first, you may reach this point while at a walking pace; however, with each workout, you will get closer to a manageable running pace.

“Listening to your body is key,” Strong says. “The goal is to find a level of intensity that is challenging yet sustainable. Muscle fatigue is normal. Keep pushing! Sharp pain is not. If you feel it, stop immediately.”

She recommends not exceeding a 5 percent incline for at least the first four treadmill workouts for beginners, even if you are still able to speak effortlessly. Pushing yourself beyond that steepness too quickly may result in shin splints – micro tears in the muscles in your front lower legs.

“If you feel fine after four workouts at 5 percent incline, you can continue to increase from there,” Strong says.

At the end of the program you selected, the machine will automatically switch to cool down mode. This will gradually slow your pace and reduce the incline for five minutes before coming to a complete stop. Now grab some water and pat yourself on the back, you completed this treadmill workout for beginners.

More to continue your fitness journey for beginners:

Beginner’s Guide to Resistance Machines
Beginner Yoga Basics
Meal Prep for Beginners

I’ve been a fitness editor at Women’s Health for just two months, and I’ve already humiliated myself.

A week and a half ago, during the final stretch of an intense interval-based class at Manhattan’s new Orangetheory Fitness, surrounded by other fitness editors and writers, I thought it was my ambitious nature that steered me to listen to the instructor when she bellowed, “Last 60 seconds…Give it your all!” But I had no business slamming down my finger on the dashboard until I cranked up my speed to eight miles per hour and my incline to eight percent, especially when I was already huffing and puffing for air.

You see, that was when I tripped on the belt of the brand-new treadmill and flew off the machine. I probably looked a bit like this:

giphy.com

The result: two bloody knees, a sprained ankle…and worst of all, a very, very badly bruised ego.

Now, more than a week later, after watching my bruises turn every shade of the rainbow, I realize that what had come over me in that class was not determination but, rather, desperation. When I heard the words give it your all, I suddenly had to prove—to the instructor, to the other editors and bloggers, to the overhead screen displaying our heart rates, and to myself—that I belonged there.

Since crashing and burning on the treadmill (seriously, my knee lost a good inch of skin), I’ve realized something huge (besides that you should never wear skinny jeans when you have skinned knees): You have to respect who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you’re not. When the instructor is shouting at you to do more and your legs are so shaky, you’re losing your balance, that’s a pretty good sign that you’ve hit your limit. Laziness is when you hold back because you don’t want to do something you’re capable of. Realism is when you want to do something but you hold back because you know you’re not capable of it (at least not yet!). Deep down, I knew an eight mph sprint on such a high incline wasn’t in my bag of tricks that day, but it took a hard fall to bring me back to reality.

That said, I’m all about challenging yourself, as long as it’s for the right reasons. If you want to test the boundaries of your own limits, go for it. But be prepared for the fact that you may end up eating it.


Marissa Gainsburg is the assistant fitness editor at Women’s Health.

More from Women’s Health:
You’re Probably Setting Your Treadmill to the Wrong Incline
Your Ultimate Guide to Getting Running Ready (After the Worst Winter Ever)
Ellie Goulding Is Super Fit and Can (Actually) Kick Your Butt

Marissa Gainsburg Marissa Gainsburg is the Features Director at Women’s Health, where she oversees the magazine’s news-meets-trends Warm Up section and Love & Life section.

15 Most Hilarious Treadmill Fails of All-Time!

Treadmill Tumbles: You Won’t Believe the Recovery on #5…

When you think of a treadmill, you think of exercise equipment that can help you melt away the pounds and live a longer, healthier life. You don’t think of it as a harbinger of doom and viral humiliation on the Internet. But for the 15 people you’re about to meet, it became just that!

Now a word before we begin: when you fall off a treadmill at a high rate of speed, there is a better than 50% chance you’re going to say some colorful things. Such is the case here. If you’re at the office, consider muting — or at least turning down — your speakers. You don’t want the occasional interjection finding its way from your computer to your boss’s ears. Don’t worry, though. These are funny with or without the sound.

So, without further ado, we give you the 15 Most Hilarious Treadmill Fails of All-Time!

1. Broken Break Dancer

There’s nothing quite so humiliating as getting into your groove for the camera only to be upended — in this case, quite literally — by an unforeseen circumstance. Here, that “unforeseen circumstance” is a treadmill going a bit too fast for its rider. Thankfully, no one depicted in this video, which originally appeared on YouTube via user FunnyChapina, was injured — physically anyway.

Pride? That’s a whole other story. As if the initial treadmill fail wasn’t bad enough, watch what happens when the poor break dancer tries to get up. You’ve got to give him credit, though. He certainly doesn’t let it stop the beat.

guy falling off a treadmill

Video Link: YouTube

2. Baby Bro’s Wild Ride

This little guy probably should have known better when he tested the band with his foot only to have the speed almost take his leg off with it. When he tried to jump on with his back facing the control panel — no support — the predictable results were a quick ride that sent him sprawling. YouTube user Nikkid06 insists that no baby brother was injured in the making of this video, but one thing is certain: we wouldn’t want to trade places with him.

Boy Falls on Treadmill – Funny video!

Video Link: YouTube

3. Underdog

If you gave an A for effort, then yellow lab puppy Dugan couldn’t be included here because there is no quit in this little fellow. In that sense, he doesn’t fail. However, he doesn’t really master the art of walking on a treadmill either as evidenced by what happens when he finally fights his way to the front of the machine.

Feeling accomplished, he stands there in victory until the band has other ideas. Originally appearing on Refrigerizer’s channel, this video has since racked up more than 20,000 views. Looks like everybody loves an underdog!

Video Link: YouTube

4. Guy Falls Off Treadmill Looking At Girl. A Classic!

Oh who cares if it’s real or not! This hilarious treadmill fail was executed to perfection, and it never gets old. It’s hard to pinpoint the original source. You can find versions of it all across the web, but one of the most widely viewed comes from YouTube user Siddhesh Guldekar.

According to the Mirror, the video in all its incarnations has 700,000 views and counting. The setup: a man gawks at a pretty lady walking by while getting in a run. The treadmill promptly punishes him for it, but when the lady turns around to check out the commotion made by him falling off, he makes a quick save.

Excellent Gym Recovery (Ultimate Gym Fail Compilation) Funny Man Falling At Gym From Treadmill

Video Link: YouTube

5. The Price Is Wrong, George Gray

No matter how you feel about George Gray’s announcing duties on The Price Is Right, you’ve got to give the man credit for busting it while showing off a treadmill and not missing a beat. That was in spite of Drew Carey’s and his contestant’s reactions. (Not to mention the fans!) Gray continues with the whole spiel in spite of what was, quite clearly, an accident. He even manages to turn it into a joke at the end. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from living on in YouTube infamy.

The Price is Right’s George Gray falls on treadmill

Video Link: YouTube

6. Bandit, The Pit Bull Pup

If you thought the lab puppy trying to figure out a treadmill was cute, then you won’t know what to do with this pit bull pup. Originally posted by PeaceLoveandPitBulls.org, this adorable little guy just wants to be like his big brother. Each time he experiences the same result — a 3-second ride from back-to-front, front-to-back.

Particularly adorable are his frustrated, half-hearted attempts at boarding the treadmill with one paw when he just can’t figure it out anymore. If you love dogs, period, you should get a kick out of this.

BANDIT the Pit Bull Puppy VS the Treadmill

Video Link: YouTube

7. Interview Over

Some things are just too painful to watch, and this could fall into that category, unless you take pleasure in the misfortunes of others. The “misfortune” here happens in the background of an interview that gets completely overshadowed when the poor guy jumping on the treadmill is dumped on his face.

Unfortunately, the video, originally posted by Encik Mono, cuts off before we find out if he’s okay. But he certainly doesn’t appear to be moving at the end of it so draw your own conclusions.

Epic Treadmill Fail During Interview

Video Link: YouTube

8. Dad’s Bruised Ego

Let this video be a note to all parents. Don’t try anything that could end up putting you on your backside while your children are filming you. If so, you could end up hearing something like the dad here does from his daughter: “I’m so putting this on my YouTube Channel!” Dad takes it in stride, though, which is good because the spill didn’t look like a very pleasant one.

My dad falls off a treadmill!!!!!!

Video Link: YouTube

9. Form Before The Fall

“Robyn” from this video doesn’t fall till the very end, but there is a whole bunch of “fail” in that form! For most of the clip, it appears as though her legs are moving three times faster than the rest of her body. Then she pulls out the cheerleading stunts, and from there, well, you know what’s about to happen. That said, one thing she doesn’t fail at: having fun!

Robyn Falling off the treadmill.3GP

Video Link: YouTube

10. Broken Break Dancer, Part II

Originally uploaded by YouTube user “Gabby”,the poster admits that she doesn’t know the people featured, “but couldn’t stop laughing” once she saw it. Understandable, especially with how this 40-second clip ends. The payoff is reminiscent of our “Broken Break Dancer” from No. 1. Fortunately, no one was hurt beyond ego, but a valuable lesson was (hopefully) learned: don’t place your treadmill so close to a wall or you will eventually pay for it.

girl falls off treadmill

Video Link: YouTube

11. Brothers On A Treadmill

The two brothers in this video are a little too big to be riding the same treadmill at the same time, and that’s a fact made painfully clear when little bro starts to lose his footing. He then uses his older brother for support, but doesn’t find much. What happens next is YouTube gold, brought to us by YouTube user Eric Bumphrey. Not sure if Eric is one of the two involved. He’s certainly not messing up on the video description, so we’re going to take that as a maybe.

treadmill fail

Video Link: YouTube

12. Handstand On A Treadmill. How Do You Think It’s Going To Turn Out?

Sometimes you have to think the sole purpose of the Internet is to capture in full glory the stupidity of Man. Wherever there is a video camera, there is a person willing to do the impossible (and reaffirm why people label it “impossible” in the first place). Such is the case with this unnamed young person, who foolishly tries to do a handstand on a speeding treadmill.

YouTube user NASTY THE HORSE was kind enough to give us this treadmill fail in both full speed and slow-motion versions. The slo-mo is classic, though it does make you want to find the nearest available ice pack. Ouch!

Treadmill Handstand Attempt

Video Link: YouTube

13. Human Bullet

While most of the entries on this list are videos, there was no way we could get through the entire thing without offering up one of the most painful GIFs ever posted. This comes by way of Red Dragon Gym. What we have is a man trying to keep pace with a speed that’s well beyond his training. When it becomes too much, the results are downright brutal.

He was very lucky to walk out of this alive, especially since it appears as if a bench press bar fell on his neck. It doesn’t get more painful than this.

GIF Link: Imgur

14. BMX Treadmill Fail

Credit where credit is due. The young man on the BMX is doing a fine job of keeping pace with the speed level on his treadmill, but then he has to get fancy. While he may have walked out of this unscathed, it definitely doesn’t look like he stuck the landing. This item originally appeared on GIFBin and has, over the years, became a Reddit favorite. Was it worth the wait?

GIF Link: GIFBin

15. Things Fall Apart

We had to save the best for last. This one will appeal to anyone, who loves a good practical joke. You know the poor guy in the video got burned by his mischievous friends. Either that, or the treadmill was put together by the most incompetent handyman in the world. (We doubt it.) There is far too much anticipation followed by uproar when things go south for this to be anything but on-purpose. That, and the victim pops up to inform his friends that “That’s not funny … that’s not funny at all.”

The Internet disagrees. With more than half a million views from its original appearance on the Nigel Nuttcrusher video blog and countless reshares across social media, this is undoubtedly one of the funniest treadmill fails of all time. See for yourself.

Treadmill falls apart Video Link: YouTube

So there you have it, fellow treadmill enthusiasts — the 15 Most Hilarious Treadmill Fails of All-Time. While each one is good for a laugh, though, remember not to try any of this stuff for yourself. The scenes captured were attempted by non-professionals, and you saw how that turned out.

What was your favorite, and which fails should have made the list? Sound off in the comments section below!

The death of 47-year-old Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey and husband of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, shows that serious and even fatal accidents can happen while you’re using exercise equipment. But there are safety precautions people can take to prevent injuries, experts say.

Last Friday, Goldberg was exercising at a gym in a private resort in Mexico, where he and his family were on vacation, according to the New York Times. Goldberg appeared to have fallen off the treadmill he was using, and later died from head trauma and blood loss.

“This is a severe example or case where cost him his life,” said Dr. Michael Jonesco, a primary care sports medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who was not involved in Goldberg’s case.

Fatal injuries from treadmills are rare — between 2003 and 2012, there were 30 deaths associated with treadmills, for an average of three deaths per year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But other injuries — such as ankle sprains or skinned knees — are more common, Jonesco said. In 2014, there were about 24,400 injuries in the United States associated with treadmills that required a visit to the emergency department, out of the 62,600 total injuries associated with any exercise equipment, according to the CPSC.

It’s not clear what caused Goldberg to fall from the treadmill. It could have been slipping or tripping, or Goldberg could have experienced a heart problem such as a heart attack, which caused him to lose consciousness, Jonesco said.

When anyone collapses while exercising, “I always worry about the heart” as a possible reason for the fall, Jonesco said.

For this reason, before people start exercising on a treadmill, they should first make sure that they are fit enough to exercise at high intensities, Jonesco said. If a person has risk factors for heart disease, such as older age, tobacco or substance use, obesity or a family history of heart disease, they should speak with their doctor about whether it’s safe for them to participate in high-intensity cardiovascular activities, Jonesco said.

People can also get hurt on treadmills if they’re in an unfamiliar setting, or using a particular treadmill for the first time, Jonesco said. A new treadmill may have different controls, or a different level of bounce, than a user is used to, which could cause the person to fall.

Until people familiarize themselves with any new piece of exercise equipment, they should start at a lower intensity and avoid distractions such as listening to music with headphones, Jonesco said. Once you become comfortable with a treadmill, then you can increase the intensity of your workout, he said.

People who are used to exercising outdoors may be less comfortable with the rather narrow path of a treadmill, Jonesco said. “It doesn’t take much of a misstep or miscalculation” to go off the tread, if you aren’t used to the narrow path, he said.

Jonesco also recommends the following safety precautions when you’re using a treadmill:

  • Move the treadmill away from the wall: If the treadmill is against a wall, you may hit the wall when you fall off, which could increase trauma.
  • Use a safety key: The safety key plugs into the treadmill and has a cord that wraps around your wrist. If the key comes out of the treadmill, as it would if you fell, the treadmill automatically stops.
  • Exercise with friends: If other people are in the gym with you, they can take action in case there’s an emergency.

Jonesco noted that treadmills are generally safe, and provide a means to exercise when you would not otherwise be able to, such as when it’s very hot or cold outside. “I would not recommend against the use of treadmills for fitness … as with any exercise activity, safety is first.”

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Is the Treadmill Really Bad for You?

Does the treadmill deserve a bad rap? Photograph courtesy of Flickr user eccampbell.

Ask most running coaches about treadmill training and they’ll scoff, offended that you even uttered the word in their presence. Sure, a treadmill doesn’t offer everything that an outdoor run can, and the lack of changing scenery may prevent that wonderful runner’s high afterward. But as one of the most popular pieces of cardio equipment, it must being doing something right. So why do so many people think it’s bad for our bodies?

“The treadmill is not bad for your body,” says local physical therapist Dr. Jamey Schrier. “The body is bad for the treadmill.”

As it turns out, the treadmill isn’t always the culprit of our injuries, whether it’s shin splints or knee pain. Schrier says often users already have a presdisposition to an injury that they aren’t aware of, which is only exacerbated by overuse of the treadmill. When running on a treadmill for 30 minutes at the same speed is our only workout every day, we’re likely to be more attuned to what’s going on with our body and more aware of injuries.

“Let’s say you have flat feet and you run again and again on the treadmill. That’s going to lead to problems in your foot, ankle, and hip from overuse,” Schrier says.

Fortunately, these issues can be easily fixed. First, consider the last time you changed your running shoes. Many runners get a new pair after approximately 300 miles of use.

If you’re concerned about injuries, a physical therapist can help determine whether your gait is the issue. Schrier says after videotaping patients run on a treadmill, it’s easy to pinpoint the problem and see whether you’re running incorrectly.

One of the most common mistakes Schrier sees patients making is failing to have a plan or purpose when they get on the machine. “Know the reason why you’re using it. Create a plan,” he says. “It will increase effectiveness and maximize what you’re trying to achieve.”

He recommends using the treadmill for three things: to lose weight, to improve your cardiovascular system, or for sports-specific training. For example, a football player might plan a treadmill workout that involves lots of hills and inclines to improve his leg strength. Intervals are a good tactic for a cardio workout, while running at a zero to low incline and at a moderate speed for 30 to 45 minutes is ideal for weight loss, Schrier says.

Users should also understand that a treadmill run is quite different from running outside. When on a treadmill, the surface moves under our feet. Outside, our feet move over the pavement or ground. “This different causes the body to work differently,” Schrier says. At the very least, runners should run at a 1 percent incline on a treadmill to mimic outdoor wind resistance.

Finally, Schrier says to remember that the “treadmill is a great tool, but it’s just one tool.” Our bodies like variety, he says, so don’t let the treadmill be the only form of exercise that you do.

“It’s not always the treadmill’s fault,” he reminds us. “We have to look at ourselves, too.”

More: FitnessHealthWell+Being Join the conversation! Share Tweet

5 Myths About Running on the Treadmill

Can you imagine running 50 miles on the treadmill? Jacob Puzey, coach at Peak Run Performance has done it — and he even holds the world record. In fact, his time of 04:57:45 was an hour faster than the previous record. Once you reel in your amazement that he lasted almost five hours on a treadmill, take in just how fast that time is!

What is his secret? The first thing he does when he gets on the treadmill is revel in the fact it exists in the first place. “I start by being grateful for the miraculous machine that the treadmill is,” shares Puzey. “Even the most basic treadmills are quite remarkable if you think about it. Brilliant people have found a way to make running possible indoors when conditions outside or busy schedules simply don’t allow for it. How cool is that?”

The treadmill often gets a bad rap and quite unfairly. Not only is it a remarkable machine, but it also offers some major benefits when it comes to your training. We break down some of the most common myths so you can take a cue from Puzey and use them to train with a purpose.

This may easily be one of the longest-running myths surrounding the treadmill. What’s the enjoyment in running and never really going anywhere?

Reality: With the right mindset and some creativity, running on the treadmill can be enjoyable.

“In some people’s minds, treadmills are still synonymous with the mind-numbing task of trudging through boring, monotonous, steady-state cardio,” admits Leanne Pedante, program director and head coach at STRIDE, a fitness studio in Pasadena, California. “However, the treadmill’s reputation has changed a lot in the past five years with the growing popularity of treadmills in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.”

In fact, treadmills have now begun to take the spotlight in fitness classes — think ‘spin’ class but on a treadmill — with frequent changes in incline and speed, dimmed lights and a playlist carrying you along. Running on the treadmill keeps evolving year after year.

Reality: The treadmill is also a great tool for those who prefer to walk. Going for a walk every day comes with some serious health benefits, and the treadmill is a great tool to take those workouts to the next level.

“I think the treadmill is a really valuable, under-used tool for non-runners,” insists Pedante. “Walkers can get amazing results from high-intensity hill-walking workouts. In fact, at STRIDE, many of our clients walk their HIIT workouts and burn over 500 calories while strengthening their legs, glutes, cores and upper body.”

Reality: You may think you need to run outdoors as much as possible when training for a road or trail race; however, even if you solely trained on a treadmill, you’d be ready!

“ treadmills do not provide an authentic running experience and therefore don’t allow one to prepare well for the challenges of an outdoor race,” remarks Puzey. “I have personally trained for at least two marathons almost exclusively on a treadmill and run just as well — or better — than for those that I have trained for outdoors.”

Pedante agrees, adding that the treadmill provides the added benefit of controlled conditions. If you have to train for a hilly race while living in a flat area, you just have to crank up that incline and do some hill work! By having control of the terrain and intensity, you can train for even the toughest race course on the treadmill.

“I have found that it is often easier to mimic race-like conditions on a treadmill than running outside (and it often takes less time and effort to do it),” adds Puzey. “For example, if I am training for a spring road marathon, I can get in more consistent quality training on a treadmill than if I were to try and do all of my runs outdoors in the snow and ice.”

Reality: Pedante reveals that running on the treadmill is actually easier on your knees than the pounding they receive on the road.

“Running on concrete is harder on the joints than running on a cushioned surface, such as a treadmill or a trail,” she notes. “Some treadmills use a belt system, which some link to your foot slipping and causing knee pain. However, new models of treadmills — like the Woodway — use individual shock-absorbing slats instead of a belt, which helps reduce shock in each step.”

Reality: There are a lot of benefits to the treadmill, and if you choose, you can do all of your running indoors. Puzey uses the treadmill for training benefits, such as filming and reviewing his form, and for safety benefits, such as avoiding vehicles and other pedestrians.

“Since first run on a treadmill, I have actually used the treadmill to avoid traffic, traffic lights, ice, sub-zero temps, bears, cougars, elk, moose, etc., during my key workouts and long runs,” he stresses. “The treadmill has not only become a safer option for me, but has actually helped me save time and avoid injury.”

Is the Treadmill Bad for Your Knees?

When the weather outside isn’t conducive to your appetite for speed—or ahem, snagging that perfect sunset pic, while running—you might have to take your running habit inside.

In addition to the lack of scenic views, many people complain about the knee pain they experience when they trek on a tread.

Although this condition will vary from one runner to another, Marshall Weber, CPT, explains that this high-impact exercise can take a toll on your knees.

Aaptiv has tons of workout variations like yoga, elliptical, walking and more in the app. Check it out here today.

This is especially true if you’re recovering from an injury.

You can make your treadmill healthy for you and your joints, though, by reading below or with a different option like this.

Here, experts explain how the treadmill impacts knees and share their best advice for keeping your knees safe on the treadmill.

Understand how the treadmill impacts knees.

The next time you run or walk outside, analyze how you move. Without realizing it, you absorb hundreds—if not thousands—of pounds of force with each stride, according to fitness professional James Shapiro.

When you upgrade that intensity to running on a treadmill belt, your musculoskeletal system takes the brunt of the impact.

“If we force a stride and strike down, we increase the amount of force we have to absorb. Even if the ankles are the first contact point, the knees take more damage,” he says. “They fall in the middle between our ankles and hips and have a significantly higher likelihood of injury.”

While this habit is definitely dependent on your running style, Exercise Physiologist Jerry Snider says that most people tend to run on their toes on a treadmill.

“Running on your toes means that your knee is bent to a larger degree when your foot strikes the treadmill. Therefore absorbs far more force with each step. Unlike running outside, the constant pace on a treadmill is unnatural. is why this prolonged stress of each step can be detrimental to your knee,” he says.

Runners should aim to land on their mid-foot with each stride to help alleviate some of this impact.

Try walking first.

It’s not all bad news. With some tweaks, you can still have an enjoyable and effective treadmill workout that doesn’t wreck havoc on your lower body.

Snider says a smart way to train your stride is to take it slow with a walking session. He explains that nearly everyone practices the heel-to-toe strike when they’re walking normally.

This is much healthier for your knees (like this machine too), and you can gradually understand what it feels like. You can then put it into practice as you up your speed.

“The heel-toe pattern allows the force caused by the step to be absorbed through the ankle and knee into the hip. Therefore dissipates the force through multiple joints,” he explains.

Focus on your posture.

Katie Dunlop, CPT and group fitness instructor, says that most people struggle with a treadmill workout because they aren’t practicing proper posture.

If you’re half-running or focusing more on whatever evening rom-com is on the television in front of you (#nojudgement), chances are slim that you’re tuned-in to your stomach, your arms, and your back.

“Keep your core engaged, shoulders pulled down away from your ears, and posture tall to keep your body in correct alignment,” she recommends.

Prioritize cross-training.

Though you might fall under the category of a runner who would rather collect miles than do any other type of workout, Physical Therapist Lauren Lobert PT, DPT, OMPT, CSCS stresses the importance of cross-training.

Far too many running addicts ramp up their distances and pace before their body is prepared for the vigor.

“It is imperative that you strength train and also practice balance training in addition to running. I suggest glute strengthening exercises, such as glute bridges, hip thrusts, clamshells, and sidestepping. You should also practice standing on one foot on uneven surfaces, such as a foam pad or a BOSU ball (this is our favorite). Keeping your feet and hips strong is essential to helping resolve and prevent knee pain in runners and non-runners alike,” she notes.

Don’t go for gold.

Your heart-pumping, energy-inducing playlist is popping and you’re ready to work.

But, for those with knee issues, a treadmill isn’t the time to push through your comfort zone—at least not in the beginning, Snider says.

When you’re training on a treadmill, focus on longer, slower runs, instead of aiming for your personal best pace. This will help you find a more natural stride and avoid knee issues.

Another tip Snider shares? It’s a tad dangerous but may make for a better experience.

While walking or running slowly, keep your eyes closed. Let your hands hover over the rails in case you need to steady yourself.

Without distractions, your body will find the pace and strike that works best for you.

Get fitted for running shoes.

If you haven’t been fitted for running shoes yet, Dunlop says that you’re not doing your workout—or your body—justice.

At any running or athletic store, professionals will have you run in front of them on a treadmill while they track your stride.

With this information, they can recommend a shoe. They can also tell you any adjustments that will make your feet feel more comfortable and supported.

After all, Dunlop notes that the right shoe can make a huge difference in avoiding and eliminating pain.

So while the treadmill impacts the knees, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid it altogether. Stay mindful of your form and how your body feels and you should be able to run pain-free.

If you continue to experience discomfort, talk to your doctor about your options.

Aaptiv has treadmill, elliptical, running, walking workouts and more. Check out the app today to see the new classes we’ve added.

Is running on treadmill bad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *