Correct Way to Use a Treadmill

a running man on a running machine at a fitness club
Man starting to use a treadmill. (Image: TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Getty Images)

Machines that simulate running or walking outdoors, treadmills allow you to improve your cardiovascular fitness as you move along the revolving belt. Many treadmills offer digital consoles and allow you to adjust the speed and incline settings to suit your fitness goals. When it comes to using the treadmill, there are certain things you need to take into consideration. If you use it incorrectly, you risk suffering a short-term or even long-term injury.

Step 1

Familiarize yourself with the treadmill you'll be using. Make sure you know how to adjust the speed and incline. If you're using a treadmill at your gym, one of the staff members can assist you.

Step 2

Stretch before stepping onto the treadmill. Perform five to 10 dynamic stretches to loosen up your joints and muscles. Dynamic stretches are done in motion. For example, you can walk around lifting your knees as high as possible. Then, swing your legs forward and backward, gradually letting your leg lift higher as your muscles loosen up. To warm up your arms, you can swing your arms forward and back, and you can do slow, controlled arm circles.

Step 3

Get on the treadmill, but don't stand right on the belt. Grab the handrails and place your feet on the sides of the belt. Attach the safety kill switch to your clothing if the machine has one and hit the "Start" button. The belt will start moving at a slow pace. Place your feet on the belt one at a time, start walking and then take your hands off the handrails.

Step 4

Begin your workout with a light five-minute warm-up. The intensity of this warm-up depends on what you plan on doing in your workout. Walk at a slow pace if you plan on doing a speed walking workout. Walk at a fast pace or jog lightly if you plan on doing a steady state running workout. Toward the end of your warm-up, gradually increase your speed to your desired pace and perform your workout.

Step 5

Walk or run with proper form. Keep your back straight, shoulders broad and eyes looking forward. Once you take your hands off the handrails, leave them off. Pump your arms smoothly in unison with your legs.

Step 6

Hydrate your body before, during and after training. Most treadmills come equipped with bottle holders. Fill a bottle with water and place it in this holder as soon as you step onto the treadmill. Drink water every 10 to 15 minutes during your workout. Drink an electrolyte enriched sport drink if you are training longer than 60 minutes on the treadmill.

Step 7

Exercise long enough to get a benefit. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 30 minutes of cardio performed five days a week reduces disease risk and 60 to 90 minutes causes weight loss. Work out for the lower time frame if you are just in it for the health benefits. Opt for the longer time frame if you are trying to lose weight.

Step 8

Perform static stretches after you exercise. Stretch your entire body to keep your muscles lengthened and to prevent soreness and tightness. Pay particular attention to your hamstrings, calves and glutes. A downward-facing dog yoga pose stretches all of these areas in one fell swoop. Place your hands shoulder width apart on the floor and your feet together behind you. Extend your arms and raise your hips as you bias your weight back onto your heels. Stop when your body forms an inverted angle and hold the position for 45 to 60 seconds. Keep your arms, back and legs straight throughout.

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