How to Use a Treadmill Effectively

Pump your arms while you're walking on a treadmill.

Pump your arms while you're walking on a treadmill.

Treadmill walks can’t replace the pleasures of walking through the woods when the air is fresh, the flowers are blooming and birds are singing. But when those woods are covered with ice and snow, or your favorite walking path is a muddy mess, you’ll appreciate the chance to walk or jog on a treadmill. And, most treadmills feature digital controls -- such as distance, speed and heart-rate monitors -- that are helpful if you’re on a weight-loss regimen. Using a treadmill effectively can help you become fit, or maintain your excellent fitness level.

Make a plan and stick with it. Using a treadmill intermittently is better than nothing, but setting up a workout plan can help you achieve specific goals. For example, set a goal of performing three 30-minute treadmill workouts each week, or set aside a specific half-hour treadmill period every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Position the treadmill properly in your home, or use a correctly positioned treadmill at a health club. The treadmill should be far enough from any walls so you won’t hit the wall if you fall, and should be at least 6 feet away from windows or ledges. Make sure the power cords are secured away from the walking belt so you don’t trip. If you’re using a new treadmill, take note of the “off” button’s position before you begin.

Warm up and cool down before and after your treadmill workout, respectively. Use lower speeds and inclinations during the warm-up and cool-down periods. Enhance your preparation by stepping off the treadmill after your warm-up, performing some dynamic leg stretches, and then proceeding with your treadmill workout.

Fasten the safety cord to your clothing. A typical cord clips to your clothing on one end, and has a magnet that attaches to the treadmill on the other. If you slip and dislodge the magnet, the treadmill stops immediately.

Maintain the correct posture, whether you’re running or walking. Keep your head up and look straight ahead, as if you were walking or running outdoors. Keep your shoulders back and your abs tight. Walk or run with your standard stride length.

Keep your heart rate within a range of 75 to 90 percent of your target heart rate for at least 30 minutes during your treadmill workout if you want to lose weight. Calculate your target heart rate by subtracting your age from 226.

Use a treadmill in front of a large mirror to view your running mechanics. Correct any flaws you observe, then continue glancing at the mirror occasionally so the flaws don’t creep back into your running form.

Run at a speed you can handle, if you use the treadmill for running instead of walking. Don’t set a higher speed to force yourself to run faster.

Swing your arms while you’re walking. Use the handrails only if you slip. Swinging your arms provides an upper-body workout and burns 5 to 10 percent more calories than if you leave your arms at your sides.

Alternate speeds and inclines to keep your workout interesting and maintain your target heart rate. For example, you can steadily increase your speed and reduce the incline every 30 seconds for about two minutes, then gradually reduce your speed and increase the incline for the next two minutes.

Tips

  • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes and loose clothing for your treadmill workout.
  • Add variety to your workout by occasionally walking backward.

Warning

  • Consult your doctor before beginning a treadmill program. Stop your workout if you feel any pain.
 

About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

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