This winter in particular, it’s been far too cold to run outside, so I scrounged up a gently used treadmill and started looking for tips for running on a treadmill. If you’ve never used one before, set aside your reservations – it can be just as effective for fitness and/or training as the trail, but like anything else new, you need to make sure you know how best to tackle it. Here are my best tips for running on a treadmill to get you started.
Running on a treadmill requires the same gear you’ll need for running on the street or trail – a water bottle, your music, and, for longer runs, a quick and easy food, energy source, or gel. Gather everything you need before you head to the basement or gym, so you can get going without a hassle. This bit of advice may seem silly, but once you’ve had to run back upstairs – or worse, run home from the gym – a few times because you forgot something, you’ll agree with me that this may well be the most important of all the tips for running on a treadmill.
It’s not just me – most treadmillers have noticed they sweat more while running on a treadmill. So when you’re dressing for your indoor run, make sure you wear your regular running shoes, but also dress a little less warmly than you usually do. While you’re at it, grab a sweatband or bandana, or a hand towel to mop your brow.
You might be tempted to jump on the treadmill and start running right off, but take the time to warm up, to lessen the risk of injury. A quick warm-up period is fine – it doesn’t need to be a five or seven minute ordeal. Just do a light jog until you feel your body is ready to run.
Ah, but wait! Don’t set that speed at your usual outdoor run pace just yet. Build up to it slowly, because often times, the treadmill pace and your own pace, though they should be the same, are not. I’m a 6 MPH runner outdoors, but on the treadmill, that’s way too fast for me – my best pace is right around 5.4 miles. Experiment a bit til you find your perfect treadmill pace.
If you’re deep in the throes of training, you might be tempted to set a steep incline and knock yourself out. Well, that’s not the best idea – I can’t think of a real-world situation where you’ll be running at your race-day pace uphill the entire time. It IS a good idea to mix in some inclines and change up the pace for interval training, but check with a running coach or trainer before you do that.
It’s hard not to look down at your feet or at the monitor while you’re running, especially at first, but try your best to resist. Try to maintain your shoulders-back, head-up outdoor running stance, which promotes a healthier form and breathing. Another reason not to look down? You might be discouraged if you’re constantly peeking (or peering) at the time or distance read-outs.
If you need to hold on to the handrails while you’re running, your speed it set too fast. Holding on to the handrails while running ruins your good form, and if you stumble, may actually cause a painful twisting motion and potential injury. The handrails are great when you’re first starting out, but do not hold onto them for the entire run.
Leave time at the end of your run to cool down a bit, and get your land legs back. Be prepared to stumble a bit once you’ve stepped off the treadmill, and be sure to give it a good wipe-down when you’re done, especially if you’re running at the gym. If it’s a home treadmill, make sure it’s properly maintained, too.
Running on the treadmill is great, but there’s nothing like running outdoors, is there? That’s why it’s important to add some outside days to your routine, when it’s warm and safe outside. Enjoy the fresh air, and get back to focusing on the scenery around you, and the rhythm of your breath, the cadence of your footfalls. It’s good to be back!
It’s completely possible to have a rewarding run indoors, though of course, we can’t wait to get back outside! How many days til spring? In the meantime, do you have any other treadmill-running tips and tricks to share?
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