When it’s too cold, too rainy or too dark, a treadmill workout can be the perfect alternative to the fresh-air experience. But even the best outdoor walker needs to understand proper treadmill technique so that bad habits don’t negate the positive rewards. Most people feel slightly disoriented the first few times they use a treadmill. You’ll quickly gain confidence, however, with practice and a program geared to your abilities. So lace up, read through our safety tips and then choose one of the easy-to-follow treadmill workout programs in this article. Remember that each step – indoors or outdoors – moves you closer to achieving your personal health and fitness goals.
For a stress-free start, turn on the machine, then step up and straddle the belt so you’re standing on the side rails and holding the hand rails. Start the treadmill moving slowly, and step onto it. Once you’ve got your balance, slowly increase the speed, let go of the handrails and pump your arms at your sides. To finish, continue walking for several minutes at a slower pace to cool down. Before you step off, press the stop button which will gradually slow the treadmill until it stops.
If your machine has an emergency-stop feature – a cord that attaches magnetically to the console and clips to your T-shirt – take advantage of it. If you slip or lose your balance, the cord will disconnect and stop the treadmill. Some models also offer a heart rate monitor that clips to your finger or earlobe and keeps you from slacking off or overexerting yourself.
If you must hold the hand railings, do so lightly. Gradually challenge yourself to let go at intervals until you can walk unaided for your entire workout. Over-reliance on them can strain your shoulder and elbow joints and create low back pain.
If watching TV makes long walks more enjoyable, be sure the treadmill is directly in front of it. Since the body tends to follow the eyes, improper positioning of the treadmill could result in a stiff neck, awkward gait or even a fall.
Begin each of the following workouts by walking for four minutes at an easy warm-up pace.
1. Beginner workout
Walk at a moderately-challenging pace for two or three minutes. Then, decrease the speed slightly for two or three minutes. Repeat this cycle three times before cooling down at an easy pace for at least four minutes.
2. Intermediate workout
Walk at a moderately challenging pace and incline for two minutes. Then, increase the elevation by one or two levels every 2 minutes for a total workout of 20 minutes. Cool down by walking at an easy pace for four minutes.
3. Advanced workout
Walk at a moderately challenging pace and incline for three minutes. Then, bump up the intensity by increasing the speed and incline for 30 seconds. Repeat the cycle seven times before cooling down at an easy pace.