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Using Treadmills

Not only is it important to find a treadmill that suits your needs but once you’ve got it you also need to ensure that you use it correctly. Below are some hints and tips for a safe and effective workout.

Safety

The treadmill should be positioned away from walls, windows or any items that could potentially cause injury in the case of a fall. Make sure that any power cables are out of the way so that you will not trip over them when stepping on or off the treadmill.

Before using your treadmill for the first time, read the user manual carefully and try out the different control panel functions such as the speed, incline and emergency stop buttons. Only get on the treadmill once you are confident that everything works properly and that you know how to operate it safely.

If your treadmill came with a safety cut off clip or tether, always use these when exercising. If the machine has an emergency stop button instead, make sure that you know where it is. If your treadmill is equipped with any safety bars or siderails, use these when stepping off the machine.

Posture and positioning

Take care of your posture while exercising. Whether walking or running, keep your shoulders back and head up looking forward, not down. Relax and use your normal walking or running stride length, swinging your arms easily at your sides. Let your heels land first and push off with your toes. You might find it helpful to have a mirror on the wall to check your movements.

You should run at the front of the belt, as this is safer than allowing yourself to drift towards the back, and you will also be able to easily reach the control panel. Take care to also stay in the centre of the running surface, not towards either side.

Warming up

Always start your workout slowly to warm up properly. Walking or slow jogging at around 3 miles per hour is suitable and should be done for at least 5 to 10 minutes. This will increase your heart rate, blood flow and body temperature and reduce the risk of injuries. Ideally you should also do some stretching exercises as part of your warm up to increase the joints’ movement and further reduce the risk of injuries. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 15 seconds.

The workout

If you haven’t had much experience of using a treadmill, stick with low speeds until you start to feel more comfortable. Increase you maximum speed and incline levels gradually, ideally over several weeks. Remember that it’s not just the speed at which you run that is important, adding incline helps you to get your heart rate up and burn more calories.

Note that running on a treadmill is easier than running on the road at the same speed, due to the lack of air resistance and the fact that you are running on a moving surface. If you want the effort to be equivalent to road running at a certain speed, add a one or two percent incline to the treadmill. The above factors as well as deck cushioning also mean that the impact to joints and muscles is significantly reduced when running on a treadmill compared to the road. If you want to reduce the landing shock even further you can try exercising at a slower speed on a steeper incline, which will still require the same amount of effort but with less risk of injury to joints and muscles.

One of the safest and most effective ways to exercise is to stay within your own target heart rate range. If you have a pulse sensor of any kind, check it at regular intervals to ensure you are in the correct heart rate zone. Better still, if your treadmill comes with specific heart rate workout programmes these will automatically adjust speed and incline to keep you in the target zone. Heart rate training has been proven to assist both with weight loss and in improving general performance. Please note that heart rate monitors may not be suitable for people with pacemakers.

If you find you easily get bored while exercising, place the treadmill so that you can look out a window or, even better, watch television. If your treadmill has a reading ledge, use it to catch up on a good book while burning off those calories.

To keep your motivation up and make using your treadmill more enjoyable it is also important to add variety to your workouts. If your machine comes with different workout programmes, use any that are suitable for your particular fitness level and goals – they can be great for spicing up your workouts. If your machine is more basic you can still vary your training by adjusting the speed and incline and keep motivation up by setting small realistic goals, one at a time. Adding more variety to your workouts is often the key if you seem to get stuck at a certain fitness level or weight plateau.

Cooling down

Don’t forget that cooling down is just as important as warming up. Reduce the incline and return to walking or very gentle jogging for a few minutes at the end of your workout. Some treadmills come with specific cool down programmes to ensure that your heart rate properly returns to normal. Ideally you should finish off with some stretching exercises for all your major muscle groups as well.

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