5 Treadmill Mistakes to Avoid

The treadmill is a valuable piece of equipment that can be very effective in helping toward weight loss goals. If the weather outside isn’t conducive to running, walking, or hiking, a treadmill is a great alternative to keep moving. Walking is a very simple exercise that most people can do at their own pace, and can be great for your overall health. However, there are common mistakes that can often be exhibited while on the treadmill that can diminish the workout or are simply unsafe practices. To get the most out of the treadmill, try to avoid these mistakes:


Skipping Warm-Up/Cool Down:

A quick mistake many people make is to jump right on the treadmill at a set speed or pace. Like any type of exercise, you should give your body time to get “warmed up”. This process allows your heart rate to rise gradually, which helps increase blood flow to the working muscles. This in turn can allow the muscles to “loosen”, and it is believed to be very helpful in preventing injuries during exercise. When running outside it is easier to listen to your body in order to set the pace, but when there is a screen in front of you controlling exactly how fast you go it can become too easy to start too fast. 

Similarly cooling down at the end of exercising is also important. If you were running on the treadmill, reducing the speed and walking for even a few minutes can allow your heart rate to decrease, and help you return to a more normal breathing pattern. This can also make it much safer to dismount from the treadmill, as attempting to stop from a full sprint can be difficult and dangerous if not done carefully.


Hanging onto the treadmill:

There aren’t handrails on most walking trails, and when you run outside you aren’t holding onto a railing. Why hold the treadmill then? Simply put, it makes it easier. The handrails are a great tool if walking or standing for a length of time is a struggle, as they can allow some to walk longer than they regularly would by providing stability and reducing stress on the lower body. It is often seen at the gym, the treadmill on the highest incline setting, with the person holding onto the treadmill for balance. This puts the body in an unnatural position for walking and can be detrimental to the workout. When walking on flat ground your arms will naturally swing, which helps to balance your strides. By holding the hand rails it disturbs the natural walking motion. Try to avoid relying on the handrails unless you absolutely need them. 


Sticking to same Routine:

Another mistake that can make long term results hard to achieve from treadmill workouts is lack of diversity in the workout. Many people will get on the treadmill, day in and day out, and do the same… exact… thing. Walk or run for the same set distance, at the same set pace, at the same incline level. This is not only less effective in terms of fitness results, but can become incredibly tedious and easily lead to skipped workouts. Varying the workout by adjusting the incline throughout, or increasing and decreasing speeds for intervals of time will not only help make it seem like the time goes by faster by keeping your mind occupied, but it can be much more effective in terms of fitness results. Thinking of it as 15 - 1 minute workouts with 15 - 1 minute active rests in between, and a 5 minute warm up and cool down sounds a lot easier than a 40 minute treadmill session. 


Not Keeping Safety in mind:

Being safe in the gym is imperative no matter where you are. Most people know better than to stack more weight than they can lift without someone there to spot them, but the treadmill can be dangerous if not given the same respect in terms of safe operation. It’s not uncommon to see people on the treadmill with a towel hanging over the screen or on the handrail, and while that may seem harmless it is certainly possible for that towel to slide off during operation and become an issue under your feet. Starting and stopping the treadmill can also be dangerous if not done properly. Keeping your feet to the side when starting the belt, and stepping on slowly while supporting your weight on the handrails can help make the transition to beginning movement smoother. Having a similar approach can assist stopping on the treadmill as well. By slowing the speed, then using the handrails to take the weight off of your lower body, it can be much easier to move your feet to the sides of the belt prior to stopping the treadmill. The monitor of the treadmill can be a useful tool, but it can be dangerous if it becomes too distracting. Glancing occasionally to check distance or time is important to ensuring you are on track for whatever goal you have set, but staring at the screen for long periods will take away focus from running form, and can sacrifice posture. 


Changing your Stride: 

Walking or running on the treadmill may seem a bit unnatural at first. Running or walking without going anywhere, the visual alone is enough to make some people lose their balance. It’s important to try to keep your stride as natural as possible when on the treadmill. Many times you will see people walking too close to the front and taking short strides, or almost at the very back of the belt and having to pick their feet up sooner than they normally would. This alteration in stride can disrupt normal muscle and joint movement, which could possibly lead to injury. Keeping your body near the center of the treadmill belt and taking natural strides will simulate normal walking or running more effectively, making it safer and likely more efficient in terms of training results. 


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