How to Run Correctly on a Treadmill

Keep your arms low and your head forward as you run on a treadmill.

Keep your arms low and your head forward as you run on a treadmill.

While it’s likely not news to you that running on a treadmill is different from running outdoors, how you change your running form may not be as apparent. From where you look to your pace, you might need to make a few adjustments when running on the treadmill. By practicing proper form, you can reap the benefits of treadmill training, including having less impact on your joints and maintaining a steady pace. Always speak to your physician before beginning any exercise program, however, to ensure you are in good enough health to begin.

Look forward, ideally something at eye level to prevent fatigue in your head and neck. While you might not be looking at changing scenery on a treadmill, this head positioning keeps you from getting dizzy from looking at the moving treadmill belt and minimizes head and neck strain. If you do take a break to read the treadmill’s displays, make it a short one and resume looking ahead.

Mimic the push-off motion you typically take on when running outdoors by running at a 2 to 3 percent incline, said running coach Matt Barbosa in an interview from "Men's Fitness." Running at this incline level will help you transition between outdoors and treadmill more easily, if you desired to switch up your surfaces.

Strike the treadmill belt with the ball of your feet, not your heels. Treadmill running can give you a tendency to run with shorter strides, but by stretching forward on the treadmill belt, landing on the ball of your foot and rolling through your foot just before the heel touches, you can lengthen your strides. You are running with the right stride length if your feet are directly under your body. Otherwise, you might need to speed or slow your pace.

Land on your foot as lightly as possible. If you are making a lot of noise on the treadmill when running, you might be using too much energy.

Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, and keep your shoulders relaxed. The arms should not straighten during your entire running session, and your palms should face inward. Do not pump the arms so hard that your body twists as you run.

Warning

  • If you find you are significantly more tired after a treadmill running session than you are after an outdoor one, your form may be to blame. Watch your form in a mirror and look for common areas of error, such as bouncing on the treadmill belt, landing too heavily or holding your head and upper body too far forward.
 

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