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Treadmill Tips for Beginners

October 12, 2017 by Normand Richard, Certified Exercise Physiologist

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Treadmill tips for beginners

Fall is now in full swing and winter is just around the corner. Whether you’ve decided to invest in a gym membership or treadmill for home, using indoor exercise equipment can be a great way to maintain your aerobic fitness as the rain and snow arrive.

If you’re starting up at the gym, read these basic tips and tricks for using fitness centers.

If you’re new to using a treadmill, approaching one – with its display panel of buttons, LED lights, and beeps – might feel like you’re walking up to a control center of a nuclear power plant. It can all be a bit overwhelming. Don’t fret! Here is some guidance on how to use the treadmill at the gym or at home.

Before You Start on the Treadmill

  • If you are at the gym, there’s probably a sign-up sheet. Write your name and start time on it to reserve a time slot. Some really busy gyms have a 30 to 45 minute limit.
  • Find the emergency stop button on the machine. If there’s an emergency string, you can clip it to your shirt so that if you fall, the treadmill will stop and you won’t get thrown off.

Doing Your Workout on the Treadmill

  • Quick Start: this option simply “wakes up” the machine and gets the motorized belt turning at a low speed. From there you press the speed button to go faster or slower, and press the incline button to make it steeper.
  • Program start: this is a pre-programmed workout. It usually has a warm-up, periods of running at a higher speed or incline with periods of recovery, and a cool down. The upside to using this feature is that a workout is laid out for you – you just have to run along. The downside is that the workout may be over your ability level and you could injure yourself. So adjust to your ability level.
  • Speed is how fast the motorized belt will be turning. The incline sets the steepness to make it as though you are running uphill. If you want to make your workout harder but keep it low impact, increase the incline rather than speed.
  • Point a fan in your direction to cool you down. Keep a small towel nearby too to wipe your sweat if you get really hot.
  • Have a plan. This will make the time go by faster. For example, plan to:
    • Do a 5 minute warm-up at a light-intensity
    • Increase intensity until you feel like you are walking or running at a moderate-intensity for 30 minutes
    • Do a 5 minute cool down at a light-intensity
  • In our era of technology there is no shortage of distractions. If at home, you can set up your laptop in front of the treadmill and watch your favourite show. At the gym, there are usually TVs you can watch. Personally, I like to make a good playlist on my phone. While I have friends who take a treadmill workout as an opportunity to learn something new by listening to podcasts.
  • Keep in mind that if you are using a heart rate monitor, your heart rate might be higher for a given intensity indoors because of the heat.

After Finishing Your Treadmill Workout

  • Wipe down your equipment with a disinfectant spray and towel.
  • This is a good time to do some stretching as your muscles are nice and warm.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back for being active!

Next time you’re at the gym you can approach that row of treadmills with confidence. Share your knowledge – if you ever see someone who’s unsure of how to get going on a treadmill, give them a hand!


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