Don’t Let Your Treadmill Become a Dreadmill

Although running outside in the winter can be invigorating and satisfying, there are times when the conditions make it too challenging or dangerous to enjoy.

But don’t pack away your sneakers just yet. The treadmill is an alternative that doesn’t have to be disappointing. Its adaptability makes it a great option for runners (and walkers) of all abilities.

The controlled pace and built-in timer lets you monitor and measure your pace and progress. It allows new runners to gradually introduce longer periods and increased speeds of running.

You can also start to practise different paces and add a few fartleks (a fancy word for intervals) to spice up your workout and improve your running.

Treadmills are also great for working on your technique. Try engaging your core by running tall with your shoulders up and back; have a relaxed arm swing and quick, quiet feet. Aim for 180 steps/minute (3 steps/second), regardless of your speed. You increase your speed by pushing harder from behind rather than reaching further in front.

Set up a mirror so you can see yourself run and look for crookedness in your head, shoulders, arms and legs.

Treadmill running frees you from having to think about planning your route and avoiding hazards like traffic, so you can take advantage of the enhanced brain function that running produces. Use the time to brainstorm ideas or work out problems you’ve been unable to solve. You’ll be amazed how sharp your brain is when your body is moving!

New to running? Try walking three times per week for 30 minutes for three weeks before running to let your body get ready for the impact of running. Then add short bouts of running (for about one minute) every five or 10 minutes during your run, increasing the time by one minute every three runs. There are many learn to run programs available to guide you.

If you’re an inactive adult, consult a physician first to ensure that you’re ready to take on a vigorous form of physical activity like running.

Tips to ramp up your treadmill enjoyment and stay safe:

  • Consider incline #1 your “flat” level as it better replicates running outdoors.
  • Warm up for 5 minutes progressing from walking to your base or easy run pace.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes going from easy running to walking.
  • Keep the area around the treadmill clear to prevent being pinned against a moving belt if you were to fall (2.5 feet on sides, 6 feet behind).
  • Clip the safety key to your clothing.
  • Look up when running, not at your feet.
  • Listen to music (or watch TV) to motivate and distract you.
  • Holding onto the treadmill compromises the effectiveness of the workout. Try to walk/run with a relaxed arm swing and monitor your sense of control. If you feel your control is compromised, reduce the speed immediately.
  • Avoid going too fast or too far too soon. Follow general rule of thumb for increasing your distance by 10% each week.
  • Plan your workout before you start, so your run has some structure, which will make the time go by faster.
  • Avoid a lot of running on steep inclines, especially if you have a history of running injuries.
  • Runners under 12 years old need guidance from a parent or coach to ensure they don’t do too much, too fast or too soon. Check out Kids Run Club’s training programs for gradual increases in running distance for school-aged youth.

Kerry Copeland is a life-long runner and executive director of Kids Run Club, a registered charity and program with the Doctors Nova Scotia Healthy Tomorrow Foundation. The free school-based running program helps children and youth lead healthy, active lives.

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