Treadmill Running Tips
The treadmill is one of the most remarkable inventions of the 20th century. Not only is this machine important in the rehabilitation of certain patients, but the treadmill is also a venerable partner in the fitness of majority of modern individuals. With the treadmill, one can now safely run for health and fitness without worrying about the weather. These machines have a bevy of features, too, that can make running a more pleasant and fulfilling experience. There’s a catch, however. You should know how to run on the treadmill the correct way. Here are 12 tips to get your treadmill running on the right track.
1. Wear the Correct Attire
While it is true that you won’t be exposed to the elements whenever you run on a treadmill, it is still imperative that you wear the correct attire. Of particular importance are the running shoes for men (or women). Under no circumstances should you wear your hiking boots or casual shoes on a treadmill. The outsole should always be designed for running and not for basketball, tennis, or any other sport or physical activity. Get your Adidas or Nike runners ready if ever you’re going to run on the treadmill.
As for your garments, some folks find it a lot more comfortable wearing running shorts with matching tees, although trainers would also be nice. The thing is that you will have to wear something that you’ll feel more comfortable in.
2. Always Perform Warm-Ups
Even before you run on the treadmill, it is important to execute pre-workout warmup exercises first. Some would say you can get on the treadmill as soon as you enter the gym by running the machine at a slow walking pace for about 5 to 10 minutes. While this may work, we strongly recommend performing stretches especially of the legs. Even simple walking will warrant the joints to be well-lubricated for optimum range of motion.
Most fitness trainers recommend using foam rollers to get your muscles up to speed. You can run a foam roller on your back, legs, hips, and glutes. You can then jog in place or even perform 30 jumping jacks. Alternatively, you can move your arms in large circles or even touch your toes as you reach for the sky.
3. Compensate for the Lack of Wind Resistance in Treadmill Running
Once you’ve warmed up your muscles, you can get onto the treadmill. You should understand that running on a treadmill largely eliminates wind resistance that is ever-present when you run outdoors. It is this resistance from the wind that will make your muscles work harder since you’ve got to overcome this resistance to move forward.
There are two ways you can add resistance to your treadmill running. You can set the treadmill machine to a gentle incline of about 1 to 2 percent. This will simulate a gentle uphill run which will put strain on the muscles of the legs. This is often enough stimuli to get you going and to push yourself even harder. The second method is to use a weighted vest. This should make you have to exert greater effort in your run. And if one of your goals in running on a treadmill is to shed some pounds, adding some weights while running should help you achieve your goals a lot faster.
4. Watch the Incline of Your Treadmill
Unless you’re a practitioner of high intensity interval training, keep your treadmill platform to no more than 7% as any angle steeper than this can lead to unnecessary calf injuries or even injuries to your Achilles tendon. When you run on a 7% incline, your ankle joints can take on a more acute angle on the front surface of the foot while hyper-extending the back. This can exert unnecessary strain on the ankle tendons which can break or tear.
Additionally, running on an inclined folding treadmill should never comprise more than 2 percent of the total length of time you are running. For instance, if your goal is to run on the treadmill for an hour, then you should run with the platform inclined for no more than 1 minute 12 seconds.
5. Keep Your Body Straight
Novice runners on treadmills have this peculiar tendency to lean forward whenever they run, supposedly to mimic the forward-leaning strides of runners in the field. This is absolutely unnecessary since the movement of the treadmill’s running platform already pulls the feet towards the back. As your foot hits the treadmill belt, it will already be pushed backwards. As such, you should also be quick in pulling your foot up while simultaneously planting the other foot. Leaning forward puts your center of gravity slightly towards the front, making your back and neck muscles to compensate for the shift. This can lead to back pain or even neck pain.
In addition to keeping your body straight, you should also look forward and not look at the moving belt. Looking down can have the same effect on the neck and back muscles as leaning forward. If you’re tempted to look at your exercise parameters, you can take a very brief glance without moving your head. This is where fitness trackers can come in really handy. Many of these come in the form of smartwatches so you can easily look at your exercise parameters by simply holding your hand at eye level. There’s no need to look down or to move your head down.
6. Keep Your Hands Off the Rail
Novice treadmill runners make the mistake of holding onto the handrails of the machine. If not the rails, many will hold onto the console itself. Under no circumstances should you hold onto anything whenever you run on a treadmill. These elements are there to help you hop safely onto the belt.
Holding onto the handrails makes you want to lean forward. We already said what will happen if you will lean forward while running on treadmill. There’s going to be neck and back pain afterwards. But more than the physical discomforts that follow forward-leaning stance, holding onto the handrails also compromises your effort and can reduce the load you are putting on yourself. In other words, instead of you really working out, holding onto the handrails will have the exact opposite effect. So, keep your hands off the handrails.
7. Keep Your Stride Short and Quick
As much as possible, your mid-foot should be able to hit the belt and not your heel. If the heel strikes the belt first, there is a chance that the impact force can reverberate through your leg bones and ultimately end up in your knee joints. By keeping your strides relatively quick and short, you are ensuring that the midsection of your foot strikes the belt first and not the heel.
The midsection contains the arch of the foot. It is that part of the foot that is anatomically raised in relation to the heel bones and the toe bones. Striking this part of the foot means that the shock energy will have to travel on the thick and cushiony padding of skin and muscle tissues before it reaches the bones. It may take some getting used to. It is for this reason that you may want to go slow before you start hitting more powerful strides.
8. Focus on Improving on Your Number of Strides per Minute
Professional runners aim to run at an average of 180 strides or steps per minute. We’re not saying that you should also aim for such a number, but it does underscore the importance of making shorter yet faster strides rather than longer ones. The trick, of course, is to obtain a baseline stride per minute so that you will have something to measure your progress against.
You can start at a speed that is comfortable for you, say 5 MPH. Now try counting the number of times your right or left foot will be hitting the belt in one full minute. Multiply this by two and you’ve got your stride count per minute. From here, you can now try to gradually improve on your stride count per minute. For example, if you counted 100 steps per minute, then you should aim for 110 steps per minute on your next session on the treadmill. Aim for quicker, shorter strides.
9. Load Up on Your Proteins and Carbs and Stay Hydrated
Before you start running on the treadmill, it is always wise to load up on complex carbs and lean proteins. The carbs will help provide you with the energy to complete your run without really feeling too exhausted afterwards. Ideally you should have your pre-treadmill run meal about 2 hours before you get onto the machine.
The same is true with lean proteins, although having a protein shaker at hand during the treadmill run can always come in handy. Your leg muscles will be hard at work when you run. Some of the tissues can also get damaged especially if you don’t observe the basic safety principles of running on a moving platform. Loading up on proteins can help facilitate the faster recovery of your muscles right after the run while also helping minimize muscle tissue injuries.
Don’t forget to drink. Running on a treadmill can overheat the body a lot faster than running outdoors since there is no natural air that can help cool the body. Drinking fluids while on the run can help keep your leg muscles functioning at their optimum.
10. Get Some Music to Help in Your Rhythm
Whether you’re running indoors or outdoors, adding music to the experience can do a lot of positive things for the activity. Studies have shown that timing your strides to coincide with the rhythm or beat of music can greatly improve overall treadmill performance while also helping eliminate boredom. Music has the uncanny ability to flood your mind with more pleasant sensations so that you will not really be thinking about how much effort you are putting into the treadmill run. Since your brain is more focused on the melodies, you will be able to run harder and longer, too.
As such, it is wise to create your own treadmill running playlist. Start with slow-tempo songs to get you on the groove. Once you’re all warmed up and raring to go, that’s when fast-tempo music can really pump you up for the run.
11. Put Some Imagery in Your Run
Just as music can help your brain refocus on more pleasant sensations than the physical exertions attributed to the run itself, visualizing yourself running on a mountainous trail or even a runner’s path in some park can have the same effect. Putting imagery into the run can make indoor treadmill running seem and feel more natural. It takes a vivid imagination, though.
Now, if you cannot visualize yourself running through a particular route or pathway, you can prepare for it by looking at pictures of your favorite destinations. You can also use Google Maps to help you gain a more “visual” understanding of the terrain that your brain will be playing once you hit the treadmill.
12. Don’t Forget to Cool Down
All exercises must start with a warm-up period and should end with a cooling-down phase. The same is true with running, be it outdoors or on the treadmill. The good thing with treadmill running is that you can easily cool down even without hopping off of the machine.
Most treadmills already come with an automatic cooling down exercise mode that instantly kicks in the moment the exercise program has been completed. For example, if the program was set to run at 8 MPH for 1 hour, it will automatically add 5 minutes to the 1 hour setting. This 5 minute setting is dedicated to cooling you down by reducing the speed of the treadmill from 8 MPH to a more comfortable 2 MPH gradually. This should help stabilize your heartbeat to below 100 beats per minute before you get off the machine.
Follow these tips and you can easily master the art of running on a treadmill.