Running is a great sport for everybody. It strengthens muscles, increases cardiovascular fitness and can be done virtually anywhere with very little equipment -- but running on a road or in a gym and running on a treadmill are very different. You can’t just start at full throttle on a treadmill because you ran laps in gym class, you’ll have to make a few changes to your regular running routine.
When you start your treadmill adventure, keep these five tips in mind to get the most out of your time with your new favorite piece of gym equipment:
Warms and Cool Downs Aren’t Optional. It might seems like you can just hop on the treadmill, hit the start button and go like mad, but doing that very thing leads to injuries of the worst kind. Instead, spend five minutes stretching before and after your cardio workout. Also, don’t immediately set the machine for the pace you want to run -- work your way up and down more gradually. Let yourself get used to the machine and you’ll be able to go back for more day after day.
Focus on Your Breathing. Not only is it a great way to set your pace, it’s also vital to breathe properly when you’re running. Inhale deeply, exhale deeply and repeat as you run. If you reach a point where you’re hyperventilating or struggling to breathe steady, slow down and get your breathing back under control. Focusing on your breathing is Treadmill 101 -- you can easily overwork yourself on this kind of equipment, so take it slow.
Monitor Your Posture. Proper form is also important to maximizing the benefit of your treadmill. Stand up straight, don’t slouch, curve your back or lean forward. If you feel too tired to maintain an upright position, turn the speed or incline down some so you aren’t trying to compensate for the difficulty level with incorrect form.
Let Go (of the Handles). This is one of the biggest mistakes new treadmill owners make. Yes, there are handles, but no, they’re not for you. Grabbing the handles reduces the effectiveness of your workout and causes you to burn significantly less calories. Besides, if you intend to run outdoors, you might as well get used to pumping your arms now.
Challenge Yourself By Changing the Incline. When you start to feel like your workout is getting too easy, do you turn the speed up on the machine? It’s ok -- a lot of treadmill runners follow this pattern, but it’s not an ideal way to improve your workout. Instead, change the incline and you’ll find you’re working more muscles harder. If you mostly run at a positive incline, mix it up with a negative incline; runners who prefer to run on relatively flat surfaces will benefit from adding a degree or two of incline at a time.
There’s no such thing as a one size fits all treadmill, so before you get overly eager and rush out to buy the first machine you find on sale, read several treadmill reviews. If treadmills are too hard on your knees, you can get as good of a workout on an elliptical machine -- check out these elliptical reviews.