Those rows of cardio equipment at the gym can be intimidating to a newbie, but you don't need to be scared by a simple treadmill workout. Taking the first step on that treadmill can lead you to increased weight loss, better heart health and an improved mood. As a beginner, start slowly and ramp up your workout gradually to prevent burnout or possible injury. You'll be looking fabulous in no time.
When you step on the treadmill, take a minute to familiarize yourself with all the bells and whistles, such as the emergency stop, speed and incline buttons. To make your workout as difficult as your walk or run outdoors, set the incline to 1 or 2 percent. If you're running at a gym, ask the staff how long it's been since the treadmill was calibrated – as with other pieces of machinery, treadmills need to be fine-tuned now again to keep its measurements, such as calorie burn and distance, as accurate as possible.
What to Wear and Bring
Even when you’re beginning with a low-intensity workout on the treadmill, wearing certain workout gear will make you more comfortable. Even at a walking pace, you might start sweating, so invest in a technical T-shirt that wicks away moisture from your body. Wear well-fitting shorts or pants. A pair of running shoes purchased with the aid of a trained staff member at a specialty running store will also make your feet more comfortable and less prone to injury. Bring along a water bottle to stay hydrated, a hand towel to wipe away any glisten and earphones and an MP3 player to keep your brain occupied.
It’s tempting to just hop right on the treadmill, set the pace to 7 mph and let yourself run as far as you can, but that’s also a recipe for injury and quick burnout. Start all your treadmill workouts with a basic warm-up of walking for three to five minutes, and then stop the belt to do some basic stretches for your hips, legs and core muscles.
Choosing a Workout
Everyone begins their treadmill routines at a different fitness level, so whether you walk, jog or run will depend on your comfort level. However, when completing a regular exercise session on the treadmill, do it about 1 to 1.5 minutes slower than you would run in a 5K race. If you’re crunched for time, incorporate intervals into your treadmill workout, meaning you jog or run at a faster speed for 20 to 30 seconds, and then walk for 40 to 60 seconds for recovery. Repeat this sequence six to eight times during your treadmill session, or until you feel like you can’t do it anymore.
Use the TV
A disadvantage of walking or running indoors on a treadmill is the lack of changing scenery to occupy your mind. Therefore, use the TV – whether it’s the one mounted on your treadmill at the gym or the one in your living-room at home – to your advantage. Structure your workout around the typical half-hour sitcom by running at a moderate pace while the show is on and allowing yourself to walk for a break during commercials. If using a TV isn’t an option, follow the same structure by listening to music, running during one song and slowing down during the next.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.