Treadmill Tips for Beginners

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A treadmill is a good tool in any runner’s arsenal. Whether you’re entirely new to running or you’ve been running for a long time on the road, training on the treadmill is a good way to burn calories, maintain your fitness, and lower the impact of your workout.

But if you’ve never really worked out on the treadmill before, there are some do’s and don’ts you should adhere to to have a strong, safe workout.

Here are our top treadmill tips for beginners to maximize your workout. Implement these tips from the start, and you’ll see results quickly.

Is Running on the Treadmill a Good Workout for Beginners?

The treadmill is an excellent workout for beginner runners. Everything from the “terrain” to the speed at which you run is under your control, so your scope for training is very wide.

Treadmills are slightly more low-impact than running on the road, which reduces the risk of injury. Another big bonus to treadmill running is that you have more flexibility to run than outdoors.

If the weather is bad, it’s always nice on a treadmill. It can be safer if you live in a place where it’s hard to find safe running routes. Plus, you can run whenever the mood strikes, whether it’s first thing in the morning or late at night.

Where to Run on the Treadmill

One of biggest mistakes on a treadmill is running in the wrong place on the deck. Many runners position themselves too far forward on the treadmill deck, which can cause them to run with incorrect form.

You should be running as much in the middle of the treadmill deck as you can. This will allow you to run with proper form, land with your front foot underneath your pelvis, and swing your arms comfortably as you run.

Running With Good Form

You should run with the same form on the treadmill as you do outdoors. Keep your core engaged and your posture upright while trying to relax your neck and shoulder muscles.

Lean slightly forward as you run, ensuring your front foot doesn’t land ahead of your body. Avoid looking down, as this will throw your form off. Look ahead of you as much as possible.

The treadmill is a controlled environment with no surprises, so it’s the perfect place to work on your form. Take the opportunity to work on your form at least once a week actively, but you should assess yourself regularly to make sure your form is still good.

How Often Should You Run on the Treadmill?

Your ideal running volume depends on your general fitness level, goals, and preferences. If you’re already used to following a running plan, stick to it; just shift onto the treadmill.

Those who don’t have a schedule should aim for 3 to 5 runs per week, and do cross-training on 2 to 3 days.

Cross-training could include a different form of cardio or strength training. We recommend doing strength training twice weekly—one upper body and one lower body session.

However you structure your workout, make sure you get at least one full day of rest per week. That means no running and no cross-training—just your regular daily activities.

How Fast Are You Running?

Most treadmills show your speed in miles per hour. Unless you’re using a smartwatch to measure your pace, you won’t get that info on the treadmill, so you’ll need to match it up with your treadmill speed to ensure you’re hitting the right speed.

When you’re on the treadmill, you don’t have the natural resistance of wind working against you. But, you also don’t have unpredictable terrain to slow you down, so your speed on a treadmill should be pretty close to your outdoor running, minutes per mile pace.

Treadmill Speed 

Real-World Pace 

5 mph  12-minute mile 
5.5 mph  10:55 mile 
6 mph  10-minute mile 
6.5 mph  9:14 mile 
7 mph  8:34 mile 
7.5 mph  8-minute mile 
8 mph  7:30 mile 
8.5 mph  7-minute mile 
9 mph  6:40 mile 
9.5 mph  6:19 mile 

Treadmill Tips for Beginners

Ready to get on the treadmill and start training? Here are some handy treadmill tips for beginners to help you start off right.

1. Create Your Running Schedule

Having a schedule will set you up for the best success possible. If you’ve already been following a running program outdoors, you can simply continue with it on the treadmill. Or, you can create a new schedule that works for you and your goals.

Set your schedule for 3 to 5 days per week. If you’re training for race purposes, you want to include tempo runs, easy runs, long runs, and some speedwork in your training.

If weight loss is your main goal, incorporating different runs is less important. In this case, you may be more inclined to focus on calorie burn.

Create a routine that’s suited to your goals, and then stick to it consistently.

2. Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals is essential for progress. Your goals should be based on your current fitness level and your routine.

For example, if you’re entirely new to running, you might be working your way up to a 5K. But if you’re an experienced runner, you might be planning on training for a marathon on a treadmill.

It’s important that you set realistic goals for your level of ability. Rather set many smaller goals that you can tick off on your way to bigger ones than aim for a goal that’s not within your current reach.

3. Warm Up

You still need to warm up before your treadmill workouts. Your muscles need to be primed for your exercise and warming up will get the blood flowing.

This is as simple as doing a gentle walk for 5 to 10 minutes before you get into your workout, and you can even do some dynamic stretches before you even get onto the treadmill.

4. Choose Your Workout

You should be able to choose a workout based on your created schedule easily. You can either put together your workout just before running or choose a built-in program that suits your goals for that particular session.

Most treadmills come with several onboard workouts that you can choose from. It’s as simple as choosing one based on your goals and pushing the start button.

5. Find a Comfortable Pace

You don’t need to go all out. Find a comfortable pace and stick to it throughout your workout. You should be challenged but not push yourself to the limit.

Increase Your Pace Gradually

If you have a good workout and decide to increase your pace next time, don’t be too ambitious. You should increase your pace gradually—by 5 to 10 percent each time—so your body can adapt.

Don’t be impatient here. Increasing too fast will put you at risk of injury and overtraining, so take your time,

6. Use the Incline Settings

Even a small incline can add a surprising amount of challenge to your workout. Like pace, don’t go for a high incline upfront—start small and increase gradually.

Many built-in programs automatically adjust the incline for you during the run. If your treadmill doesn’t, make sure to include incline runs at least once a week in your training program.

7. Make Your Runs Interesting

Unfortunately, treadmill runs can be boring. But because you’re in the comfort of your own home, you can make your runs more interesting in a number of different ways.

Run Anywhere With a Virtual Run

Some treadmills have interactive virtual experiences built into them. If yours doesn’t, you can do a “virtual run” by following along with a route on your tablet, phone, or TV.

This is a great way to add some excitement to your run. You can choose a route anywhere in the world to run virtually, keeping things interesting and adding variety to every run.

Listen to Audiobooks or Podcasts

It can be difficult to listen to music on a run outdoors as you’re unable to hear traffic. But it can also be tricky to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, because the external noise might make it difficult to hear.

The treadmill is the perfect opportunity to listen to podcasts or audiobooks. You don’t need to use earphones—you can play it through the treadmill speakers or your home sound system.

Catch Up on TV Shows

If audiobooks and podcasts don’t do it for you, you can always catch up on your favorite TV shows. This is particularly helpful for long runs, where you can go through a few episodes at a time and keep yourself distracted from the pain of the run!

8. Keep an Eye on Your Progress

Tracking progress is the best way to stay motivated, as you can see how much you’re improving. Most treadmills will save the data of your past few workouts, but it’s a good idea to also use a smartwatch or training log to keep track.

Track Your Distance, Time, and Pace

Tracking these 3 things will help you to keep track of how you’re progressing through your training schedule. As you begin to run faster, longer, and farther, you’ll be able to compare with previous workouts and set new, realistic goals.

You can also track things like any aches and pains you experienced, how you felt emotionally, what you did during your workout—watched a TV show, listened to music, etc.

All of this information can help you spot patterns that might improve or diminish your performance. This data can help you to optimize your running environment for the best performance.

Use Fitness Apps or Wearables

Treadmill data isn’t always accurate. It’s highly advisable to wear a fitness tracker or a smartwatch and use/track that data instead, because it’s calibrated to you and is much more accurate than your machine.

If you don’t have a smartwatch, you can get a good running watch for a decent price. Whatever your running goals, this is an investment you won’t regret.

9. Stay Hydrated

Don’t assume that just because you aren’t training outdoors in the sun you don’t need to drink. You should have enough water with you during the run that you can stay properly hydrated without having to get off the treadmill to refill.

You should be consuming between 4 and 6 ounces every 20 minutes. If you’re planning on running for an hour or more, it’s a good idea to consume an electrolyte tablet to prevent electrolyte imbalances.

10. Cool Down Properly

If you get off the treadmill without cooling down, you might feel dizzy, like you’re still on the machine. This can also cause your heart rate and blood pressure to drop quickly, leading to lightheadedness, sudden nausea, or even fainting.

Cool down by slowing your speed gradually until you’re able to walk for a few minutes before stopping. This should take you 5 to 10 minutes in total, and you can also do some stretches once you’ve stopped if you’d like to.

Staying Safe While Using the Treadmill

Just a few considerations can make a big difference to your safety when running on a treadmill. You can never be too careful, and remember—it takes just a few moments to implement these safety tips but they can save you weeks or months of injury recovery.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Your clothing should allow you a full range of motion. Avoid tight clothing that can restrict your movement, but also overly loose clothing that could get in the way or catch in the moving parts of the machine.

Attach the Safety Clip

Don’t neglect this safety step. It might seem silly, but trust us—if you lose your footing, you really don’t want to get your hair or finger caught in a fast-moving belt. This will ensure that if you do fall, the safety pin is pulled out, and the treadmill comes to a stop as quickly as possible.

It takes just a second to clip it to your shorts or waistband, but it could be the thing that prevents you from being injured.

Be Cautious When Adjusting Settings

Whatever settings you want to change, do it gradually. Don’t try to go from flat to the highest incline in one movement or go from a light jog to a sprint immediately. Increase gradually and allow yourself to adjust until you get to where you want to be.

Remember, you have to match what the treadmill is doing. So if anything increases or decreases too fast, it’s difficult for you to match it step for step. This makes it much easier to lose your balance and fall, or tweak an ankle.

Keep the Area Around the Treadmill Clear

If your treadmill is wedged between other things, it will be much harder to get on and off it safely. There should be ample space around the treadmill in all directions so there are no tripping hazards or things that could fall onto it while it’s running.

Make Sure the Treadmill is Stopped Before Getting On or Off

It might sound obvious, but this is one of the most common causes of treadmill-related injuries. Whether you’ve finished your workout or you need to stop to go to the bathroom or get some more water, slow it down to a stop and lower the incline before getting off.

The same is true for getting on. No matter how slowly it seems to be going, don’t attempt to get onto the machine while it’s moving. It only takes a few seconds, so don’t neglect this!


If you are a new runner, the best way to get started is with a Couch to 5k Training Plan. You can even do our Couch to 5k on a treadmill!

Use the box below to download your free copy!

download our FREE couch to 5k TRAINING PLAN PDF

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.