5 Tips for Training on a Treadmill

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If the wind is howling outside and slush is covering the sidewalk, running on the treadmill seems like a good substitute for slipping and sliding on the sidewalks and roads. However, it’s important to keep in mind that treadmill running is not a precise equivalent to running outside. There are subtle but significant differences to keep in mind as you plan your workout.

Here are five tips for training on a treadmill.

1. Don’t take the “calories burned” figure literally. This is a great motivator, but the number provided isn’t a completely accurate measure of the effect of your workout. The reason is that the machine’s estimate includes not only the calories burned through exercise but also calories burned at rest over the same period. In other words, the calories that you would have burned sitting for the time period of the workout are also factored into the total.

2. Don’t omit your warm-up. You may assume that a warm-up isn’t necessary, as you walk through your toasty warm house to get to the treadmill, but that assumption would be incorrect. As with any other workout, the objective is to work your body very hard – and all the usual risks apply! So take the time to do your normal warm-up.

3. Always use an incline. Experts say that running on a perfectly flat treadmill belt is actually the equivalent of running on a very slight decline on the road. The remedy – and the standard protocol for treadmill running – is to set the incline at one percent.

4. If you’re very fast, use a steeper incline. If your normal training pace is faster than a six-minute mile, it will be difficult to find a machine that can accommodate by permitting higher belt speeds. The solution is to increase the incline sufficiently – try four or five percent – to produce the workout effect you seek.

5. If you’re planning to race outside eventually, prepare for the harder impact. The treadmill belt gives softer landings than the unforgiving pavement. While this saves wear and tear on your body while you’re on the treadmill, the danger is that you’ll be more likely to sustain injuries when you venture back onto the hard roads. You can prepare for this by regularly including some road work in your training. Also, it helps to do some strength training once or twice per week.

Using a treadmill is a great idea, as long as you make the necessary adjustments to properly integrate such workouts into your training routine. And when the wind stops howling and the slush melts, consider venturing outside again!