Total guide to treadmill running

You wont find a gym without one. They’re often held up as an example of everything that’s wrong with 21st century living. They have, after all, taken people from nature and natural living, and put them into air conditioned, insipid and soporific spaces. But the truth is, treadmills offer a lot of advantages over running outdoors.

Treadmill running by no means replaces outdoor running, but it is an awesome alternative. Either it gets people running who’d never consider running outside, or it allows outdoorsy runners to keep on running when time of day, season, location, time constraints (lunchtime run anyone?) or various safety concerns might otherwise stop them from running in the great outdoors. What’s not to love?


Okay, so not quite finished with singing the praises of the treadmill. Using a treadmill offers quite a few benefits that are worth having a quick look at…

  • The deck of a treadmill is slightly flexible which absorbs some of your impact as you land. This means that using a treadmill may be easier on your feet, knees and hips than running out of doors
  • There is no need to worry about obstacles and hazards such as potholes, raised paving slabs, dogs, cars or bad weather when using a treadmill – you can walk, jog or run in relative safety
  • You can be very accurate and prescriptive with your treadmill workouts as the machine’s display will tell you exactly how far and how fast you are exercising. When you walk or run out doors, this is often an educated guess at best
  • You can easily monitor your running form by watching yourself in a mirror. This can be useful for gait analysis and identifying technical errors which can lead to injury
  • You can safely watch TV or listen to music when you work out on a treadmill as you don’t have to worry about traffic and other road users. This can make your workouts more enjoyable and seem shorter by keeping you distracted
  • Many treadmills have pre-programmed workouts you can do to keep your training interesting and fun. These include workouts that involve changes in speed, incline or both

Total Guide to Treadmill Running


Phew. With the defense of treadmills done, let’s tackle the finer details of all things treadmill. If you’re going to use it, it pays to know a little about it so that you can get the most from your workouts.

Wear the right shoes for running on a treadmill. Running shoes are best. No running barefoot or in sandals!

Stand in the middle of the belt in easy reach of the controls. If fitted, attach the emergency stop clip top your shorts or top

Make sure you identify the emergency stop button in case you experience any difficulties and need to bring your workout to a fast conclusion

Increase speed gradually; from walk to jog to run. Only go as fast as you feel comfortable and remember to stay near enough the front of the treadmill that you can reach the controls, but not so close that you’re almost stepping on the housing. If you get too close to the back, the belt is probably going too fast and you are in danger of falling off

Practice good running form. Try to keep your upper body relaxed, look straight ahead, land as lightly as you can and keep your breathing relaxed and rhythmical

Keep a water bottle close by so you can stay properly hydrated during your workout. And don’t forget your towel!


To get stronger and faster, to build endurance and become generally more fit, there have three main things you can change up in your treadmill workout:

  • Running longer increases endurance
  • Running faster on the flat increases foot speed, stamina, and endurance
  • Running slower on an incline builds strength and power

Increasing any of these variables means that you’ll be working your heart, lungs and muscles a little harder, which pushes you out of your comfort zone, making you more fit. You should aim to change all three variables to make your workout tougher.

Total Guide to Treadmill Running


Most treadmill accidents are caused by “user error” and are generally avoidable. But apart from mistakes that result in physical injury there are quite a few that can lead to your running workout being less effective than you’d want. To get the most out of your workout, avoid these common treadmill mistakes.

Over relying on the handrails.

If you’re worried about falling, you might be running at too fast a pace. Running while holding on to the handrails has a massively negative impact on your running posture and form. It forces you into a hunched position, leading to poor running form, which in turn make running uncomfortable and even worse may lead to neck, shoulder, and back pain. For proper running form, let go of the handrails and “run tall”, look ahead and keep your shoulders level.

Setting the incline too steep.

It may look like you are working really hard and stomping up Mount Everest, but holding on to the handrails for dear life negates the benefit of going uphill. By holding onto the handrails you’re making your workout easier as you’re reducing your load. If you’re struggling to run/ walk without holding on, you’re probably running/ walking at too high an incline. Lower the incline and let go of the handrail for a more effective workout

Stepping off the treadmill while the belt is still moving.

This is a common cause of treadmill injuries. Reduce the pace and incline, and wait until the belt has stopped moving. Seriously how much time do you think you’re really saving? If you are doing interval training stepping on and off quickly may be unavoidable as some treadmills are slow to decelerate and speed back up. However, if you do decide to jump on and off do so very carefully and consider using an alternative exercise machine such as a rower or bike for your interval training.

Talking and running on the treadmill

If you turn to talk to your neighbor, make sure you don’t inadvertently travel over to the side of the belt and off the edge. Nobody looks cool falling off a treadmill – plus you might get injured.

Training on the treadmill to run outdoors. 

Due to the even “terrain” and because the belt pulls your feet under you, your muscles work differently when you run on a treadmill compared to running outdoors. Also the lack of wind resistance makes running on the treadmill a little easier. This means that even though you can get very fit for treadmill running, this doesn’t necessarily translate to improved running performance outdoors. If you want to be able to run outdoor with relative ease, run on an incline and include hill running sessions on the treadmill a couple of times a week.  If you can, mix in some outdoor running sessions with your treadmill runs.

Total Guide to Treadmill Running was last modified: August 2nd, 2015 by the team

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