10 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Treadmill Workouts

By Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

No doubt, working out on a treadmill presents lots of advantages for your body and mind. Granted, the workout alone can satisfy your basic exercise needs, but you can take it a step or two further by incorporating some handy tips in your treadmill workout routine. Are you ready to maximize your exercise to the fullest degree? Then read on and have a blast!

1. Maintain a Varied Incline

While a steep incline makes a good challenge, there’s no harm in keeping your incline to the minimum. Contrary to popular opinion, an incline between 1 to 2 percent simulates a gentle uphill which better translates to outdoor running – thanks to the absence of wind resistance. This tip is especially useful to beginners who are new to running.

In this case, it is best to set your incline at lower degrees (even zero) until you feel comfortable enough to take on a higher gradient. Once you feel up to the task, feel free to explore higher incline levels. Try not to get caught up in your comfort zone, so you don’t end up with up less-than-favorable results. A good rule of thumb is to vary your incline settings; switch between lower and higher settings with recovery periods in-between, for well-rounded interval training.

2. Avoid Steep Incline Settings

An incline setting above 7 percent exerts excessive pressure on your ankles, hips, and back. We get it, you want to challenge yourself to exhaustion by completing a whole session on a steep incline, but this doesn’t bode well for your delicate joints and could leave you injured. In light of this, follow tip number one and alternate your incline settings.

We promise you will be more pleased than disappointed with the result – the uphill path promotes optimum body strength while the lower gradient improves endurance and stamina. So for your good and the sake of your performance outcome, don’t maintain a steep incline for more than five minutes!

3. Focus on Your Stride

The same way you run outdoors is the same way you should be running on a treadmill! In other words, run with your natural gait. When it comes to indoor running, short unnatural strides are frowned upon. Start at a steady pace to stabilize your form and gradually increase your speed.

At the same time, don’t stretch out your strides or your legs may react unpleasantly. Considering that a treadmill’s belt is structured to move your form forward, striding ahead of yourself creates friction with the belt. That being said, ensure to position your feet beneath your body and not otherwise. Additionally, learn to take quick strides to minimize impact to your legs.

4. Your Stride Count Matters

Stride count equates to the number of steps taken per minute, and the higher your stride count, the higher your running efficiency. You can calculate your stride count by noting the number of times your foot hits the belt per minute. It is a good thing there is a timer on the console, so this makes your job easier.

When you arrive at a number, multiply it by two to determine your step count. You can improve your stride count by taking short, quick strides and closing the gap between your feet and the trainer’s belt. And of course, calculating your stride count is an effective way to deal with the tedium that is characteristic of treadmill runs.

5. Don’t Lean Forward nor Look Down

You should never lean forward while using a treadmill. Instead, maintain an upright posture. If you lean forward more than necessary, your neck and back will be at the receiving end (you don’t want to deal with the bothersome pain). You could even lose your footing and fall of the treadmill, causing injury. Ensure to check your posture before you hop on the treadmill during warm-up and periodically as you run. Let your shoulders rest above your hips by pulling in your abs.

It is almost impossible not to stare down at the console to keep track of time or distance, but there is a disadvantage to this; your posture will bear the brunt of your seemingly harmless action. When you look down often, either at the console or your feet, you may run in a hunched-over position, causing pain to your neck and back.

6. Adopt Virtual Reality

Thanks to advancements in technology, most treadmills are now equipped with a host of programs and apps, that make running a much more fun affair. A good example is NordicTrack’s iFit app that offers a platter of exciting programs including virtual routes and breathtaking scenery. With this, you can run on realistic routes with visually appealing sights.

Usually, these treadmills are programmed to modify your speed and incline to match the virtual route, so it’s as real as possible without the” infamous” outdoor impact. Also, the programs are designed to vary your workout intensity, so you don’t run at the same boring pace. As such, you get a productive and effective workout that surpasses the basics. So why don’t you subscribe to one of these apps for a redefining workout experience!

7. Maintain Your Target Heart Rate Zone

If you want stellar workout results, then stick to your target heart rate zone. Thankfully, the vast majority of treadmills are equipped with built-in heart rate sensors, making it easy to monitor your pulse/heart rate. And even if your trainer lacks built-in sensors, you can get a heart rate monitor watch or strap (which is believed to be more effective).

Here is a simple calculation to figure out your heart rate; first, subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate (MHR), That is, if you are 30 years old, your maximum heart rate is 190 beats per minute (bpm). Your recommended targeted heart rate zone is between 50 and 85 percent of your MHR. So the targeted heart rate zone of a 30-year-old is half of 190, which is 95bpm.

8. Keep your Hands off the Handrail

Unlike elliptical machines where gripping the handrails stimulate upper body engagement, a treadmill’s handles contribute little to your workout output. The handrails have just one job; to help you get on and off the treadmill without incident. So what happens when you hold on to the handles? For starters, it gets you into a hunched-over position which is detrimental to your neck, shoulder, and back.

Secondly, holding on to the rails minimizes your work burden, which reduces your perceived exertion level (a treadmill run shouldn’t be uber-comfortable). Some would argue that the rails help maintain balance, but if you need to hold the rails for support, it means you are running at an overly fast pace or using an extremely steep incline! So steady your pace or reduce the incline. Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry.

9. Don’t Jump off and on the Treadmill at the Slightest Excuse

Jumping off and on a fast-moving treadmill is the number one cause of treadmill-associated injuries. Whether you want to use the bathroom, grab a snack, or take an important business call, slow the machine down to a reasonable pace and reduce the incline. Then carefully get off the treadmill.

And when you are ready to get back on the machine, repeat the same process −don’t attempt to pick up where you left off, with the machine at a breakneck pace and too-steep incline. Better still; keep your essentials handy before starting a run. The good news is, most treadmills are furnished with storage compartments where you can keep your water bottle, phone, tablet, towel, and the like.

10. Warm-Up and Cool Down

Though an “obvious” tip, you’d be surprised to know how this running pre-requisite is taken with a pinch of salt. Some eager exercisers find it boring to warm up before a run; they rather hop on the treadmill and get started immediately. Well, this is nothing but a bad habit. Like outdoor running, warming up before a run is non-negotiable. There are benefits to a warm-up, including optimum heart rate and sufficient oxygen flow to the muscles. To warm up, walk or jog for five minutes before accelerating your pace or increasing your incline.

Just as warming up before a run is imperative, so is cooling down after a run. You may be anxious to get off the treadmill as soon as your timer gives the signal, but doing so can result in light-headedness. Because there is a sudden drop in your heart rate and blood pressure after a run, you are bound to experience dizziness if you step off the treadmill immediately. Conversely, winding down at a slow pace stabilizes your heart rate and blood pressure. To cool down, walk or jog at a slow pace for five minutes and carefully step off the treadmill. You can follow this up with post-run stretches (if you will).