The treadmill is one of the best machines for cardio workouts, where it makes a handy alternative if you don’t fancy running outside in the wet and cold. Knowing how to use a treadmill properly enables you to maximise your workout and reduce the risk of injuries, yet mistakes are surprisingly commonplace amongst treadmill users. Here are some of the most frequent mistakes to avoid next time you step on the belt.
Skipping the warm-up
You wouldn’t go for a run outdoors without warming your muscles up first, so why do so many people hop straight onto a treadmill without giving warm-ups a second thought? If you want to avoid aches and strains, gently stretch muscles before you get the treadmill rolling, or start your session on walking mode before you step up your pace to a run.
Getting on the treadmill incorrectly
No matter how eager you are to get going on the treadmill, avoid the schoolboy error of stepping onto the belt while it’s rolling at full pelt. You could end up falling over and hurting yourself. Instead, step on the treadmill when it’s stationary with your feet placed at each side. Set the machine to start slowly and familiarise yourself with the motion of the belt before you step onto it. Increase the speed gradually as you get going.
Holding the handrails
Arguably one of the most frequent mistakes treadmill users make is holding onto the machine’s handles as they walk or run, especially during an incline. The only time you should hold onto the handrails is if you have balance problems or a disability. Otherwise, steer clear of them. The reason being that holding on forces your body into a bad posture and creates tension in your arms and shoulders. Plus, your legs don’t have to work as hard, which means your body won’t benefit as much. You’ll gain more from running at a slower pace without holding onto the handrails, than a faster pace where you do hang on.
Another no-no when it comes to using a treadmill is looking down at your feet as you move. You could be forgiven for thinking keeping an eye on your feet keeps your balance in check, but it actually has the opposite effect, and could cause you to stumble. Additionally, it can strain your neck and add stress to your back, hips and legs, while even reducing your oxygen intake. Instead, experts reckon your body will be better aligned if you keep your focus straight ahead with your chest open and shoulders level.
Running near the front of the treadmill
Frequently, treadmill users veer towards the front end of the belt when they get going, but this isn’t a good idea. It means you can’t move your arms properly for fear of hitting the monitor, making it difficult to adopt a natural stride. Instead, focus yourself towards the middle of the belt so you’ve got more room to move naturally.
Although many runners get their form spot-on when sprinting outdoors, often, as soon as they step on a treadmill, this goes to pot. One of the most common mistakes made on a treadmill is not using the same stride as you would if running or walking outdoors. This can lead to burnout or even injury. Additionally, if you stomp your feet down on the treadmill, this also has to stop. Pounding down can damage it and your feet over time, so use soft landing motions instead.
Getting stuck in a routine
Many treadmill users stick to the same routine each time they hop on the machine, but, gradually, your body will get used to this and the gains may start to plateau. Try to mix your sessions up each time you use the treadmill. Start by familiarising yourself with the functions on the machine, so you’re aware of its capabilities. Look at increasing your speed or incline, use a pre-programmed workout or link the treadmill to an app to boost your fitness repertoire.