Common Treadmill Running Mistakes

Running on a treadmill can have its benefits, such as protection from the elements and unsafe running conditions. But when you take your runs indoors, you need to make sure that you're running properly on the treadmill so you can avoid injuries and get the most out of your treadmill runs. Here are some of the most common treadmill running mistakes.


Watch Now: How To Get The Best Treadmill Workout

Skipping Your Warm-Up or Cool Down

Man stretching on treadmill
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It's tempting to just hop on the treadmill, increase the incline or pace setting to your desired levels and get going. But, just like with outdoor running, it's ​important that you warm-up before getting into the more challenging part of your run. Make sure you start with a 5-minute walk or easy jog before you pick up the pace or increase the incline.

If you've ever felt a little dizzy after you took that first step off the treadmill, it's most likely because you didn't cool down at the end of your run. You may feel like jumping off the treadmill as soon as the timer hits your goal time for your run. But stopping suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly. Winding down slowly allows them to fall gradually. After you finish your run, make sure you cool down by walking or slowly jogging for 5 to 10 minutes before you step off the treadmill.

Improper Running Form

Mid adult woman running on treadmill in gym
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It's common for people to feel nervous about falling off a treadmill, so they make changes to their running form and don't use the same running form as they use outside. You should be running on the treadmill the same way you would run outdoors. Try to run with your natural gait, and avoid taking short, choppy strides. If your form feels off, slow your pace until you feel like you're using proper form. Then you can increase the pace as you become more accustomed to the treadmill.

Another common form mistake is overstriding or landing heel first with your foot well ahead of your body's center of gravity. Since the treadmill's belt is moving you forward, overstriding creates a braking force with the belt. To avoid this, try to keep your feet under your body, not ahead or behind it.

Holding Onto the Handrails

Fit woman runs on treadmill
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I've seen people at the gym who look like they're holding onto the treadmill's side rails for dear life. There are a couple of problems with holding on to the rails. First, it forces you to hunch over, an inefficient running form that can lead to neck, shoulder, and back pain. Keep your posture straight and erect. Your head should be up, your back straight, and shoulders level.

Holding on to the rails may make you feel like you can keep up the pace and work harder, but, in reality, you're reducing your load and making it easier on yourself. Try to pretend that the rails are not even there as if you're running outside. If you're concerned about falling, you're probably running at too fast of a pace or too much of an incline.

Not Exercising Hard Enough

People working out on treadmills in gymnasium
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If you're one of those people who read an entire magazine as you barely break a sweat on the treadmill, you're probably not working hard enough. While it's not good to do every run or your entire run at a hard pace (easy days are important), you should sometimes try to push yourself to get some results.

Try increasing your speed or incline so that you feel challenged, for at least part of your workout. Interval training, where you run hard for a period of time and then cool down for another interval, is a good way to push the pace without pushing it for the entire run. You can do interval training once or twice a week (never two days in a row).

Of course, when you're running hard on the treadmill, it's still important to make sure you're doing a proper warm-up and cool-down.

Stepping off While Moving

Treadmill runners

One of the biggest causes of injuries on treadmills is jumping off a fast-moving treadmill. If you need to run to the bathroom, grab a towel, or get some water, slow the machine down to a very reduced pace and lower the incline. Better yet, try to make sure you have everything you need — towel, water, headphones, etc. — before you start your run, so you won't be tempted to hop off.

Running at the Same Pace for Your Entire Run

Young woman running on treadmill
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It's not a good idea to hop on the treadmill, set a pace, and stick with it for the entire run. First, you should be varying the pace by warming up with a 5-minute walk or easy jog. You should also be finishing your run with a 5-minute walk or easy jog.

Also, when you're running outside, you're running at different speeds because of different factors, such as the wind, hills, traffic lights, and changing weather conditions. So, to mimic outdoor running conditions, try varying the pace and/or the incline throughout the run. It will also help prevent you from getting bored on the treadmill.

Running the Entire Workout on a Steep Incline

Man running on a treadmill at an incline
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Some runners assume they're getting a great workout if they challenge themselves by running their entire run on a steep incline. But that much straight hill running is never a good idea and could lead to injuries. Think about it: Would you ever find a 3-mile hill at a 5 or 6% incline?

You should avoid running at a steep incline for more than 5 or so minutes. You'll get a much better, safer workout if you alternate between running a few minutes with an incline and running a few minutes without an incline.

Also, you should also avoid going above a 7% incline because it places too much strain on your back, hips, and ankles.

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