Treadmill Walk or Run Practice

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Run or Walk, rain or shine...

A treadmill offers a great cardio workout that allows you to control and play with the workout difficulty level, based on your level of fitness and how your body feels from day to day. It's a great alternative to running outside when the weather is bad and treadmill running is usually easier than outdoor running because it can be gentler on your joints. Most treadmills allow runners to change pace, incline, and resistance so they can simulate outdoor running and vary their workouts to prevent boredom.

There are certain elements to consider for this practice. Specifically you will want to determine the length, frequency and intensity of your treadmill sessions. Next, you can figure out how you will mix it up and keep your workout fresh by adding variety to your practice. Find the speed and percent-grade that challenges you, that gets you out of breath, that makes you sweat-yet at the same time, that you can handle without cheating (holding the handrails).


Screen shot 2011-06-03 at 6.25.29 PMYou can expect: increased energy

Level of Effort: Easy to Difficult - you make the choice

Time Involved: 30 minutes (or more)


Getting Started:

  1. Determine the length and intensity of your treadmill sessions
  2. Understand how to vary the intensity of each workout
  3. Figure out how you will mix it up and keep your workout fresh by adding variety to your practice.
  4. Determine frequency of practice and schedule your workout
  5. Warm up and Cool down with each workout
  6. Write in your activity journal


What to Consider:


1. Determine the length and intensity of your treadmill sessions

Length of workout

The length of your workout is up to you but the National Institutes of Health recommend at least 30 minutes of cardio, 5 times a week. Depending on the number of activities you build into your overall daily body practice and your intensity for each session you can decide how long to make your workout.

  • Workout Duration. Determining how long you should workout per week and per session can be done in many ways. Use the button below for some suggestions:

Workout Duration

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) You can also calculate the number of calories your body actually needs in order to function. If you understand the amount of calories your body needs to function then you can determine how many calories are needed to maintain your current weight and then how many to lose weight. There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you're trying to lose, maintain or even gain weight. Knowing your BMR can also help you think about how much exercise you are willing to do.

Calculate Your BMR



Vary the intensity of a workout with speed (pace) or with incline (grade). Aim for medium to high intensity. Monitor your exercise intensity by knowing your target heart rate and interpreting your perceived exertion.

Exercise Intensity


2. Understand how to vary the intensity of each workout


You can walk, jog or run in your workout but more than likely you will do all three in a session. The important thing to remember is to keep challenging yourself. If you are new to the treadmill, start slow with your walk and build up to a jog, with bursts of running intermixed. While speed varies for people based on level of exertion a few general MPH guidelines might help:

  • 3.5 = Walking
  • 5.0 = Jogging
  • 6.0 = Running
  • 9.0+ = Sprint



Running on the treadmill is physically easier than outdoor running. To simulate the resistance you would feel when running outside, set the treadmill at a 1% incline.


Incline Benefits:

  • Because an incline challenges the heart at a slower walking pace, this means less impact on knees and hips.
  • Recruits lower back muscles to keep your body erect
  • Provides a stretch to the calves and Achilles tendons

A steep incline simulates hiking. 3 mph is very slow on a 0 incline. But it's very grueling for some people as a sustained pace at 15% incline (without holding the handrails). Incline walking causes increased motion at the hip, knee and ankle joints. This means your lower body must work harder. So don't underestimate the benefits of slow walking on an incline. Go the pace and incline that's right for you. Depending on your level of fitness pay attention to how your body feels, and use that as your gauge.

Learn more about incline challenge...


Basic Treadmill Workout - Walking Hills

  • Always warm up, either level or with incline, for 5 minutes.
  • Then experiment with various speeds and inclines to find the setting that challenges you, yet is manageable enough to sustain for 30 minutes, plus or minus small adjustments here and there.
  • If you're new to inclines, your calves will probably burn out before your lungs do.
  • Throughout the course of the session, do faster walks at low inclines, and very slow walks at higher inclines, for variety.


3. Adding variety to your practice

Activity variety

The treadmill offers you a way to walk or run and build up with each. You can also consider adding intervals to your workout where you move the intensity up and down in one workout.  Use the pre-programmed workouts on the treadmill, design one yourself or use one of the resources below to find a workout that works for you. See the "Discover More" section below for other Internet resources that provide treadmill workouts.



An interval workout includes speed and incline changes throughout the workout to help you burn more calories, build endurance and, even better, keep you from getting bored. The idea is to get your heart rate up during the intensity changes and then hold a steady state for about 5 minutes. The interval you choose is one that will bring you to a high level of exertion, then a recovery interval to catch your breath.


Basic Interval Workout Tips

The speeds and inclines listed are only suggestions to provide a basic framework.  Feel free to go faster, slower, higher or lower according to your fitness level. Use the Perceived Exertion Scale to determine how hard you're working:

  • Intervals can last 30 seconds to 10 minutes.
  • The shorter the interval, the tougher it should be; hence, the reason for its shortness. Thus, the one-minute interval should have you gasping after only one minute.
  • Recovery intervals are easy enough to allow you to catch your breath, and can last 1 to 5 minutes.
  • Some treadmills have interval programs, but depending on the model, only the incline changes, not the speed. Furthermore, depending on the model, the incline range is limited. For example, if you want both very high and low inclines in one program, and you set the program for varying grades, the variation may range by only 6 percent; this means no program will offer both very high and low grades.
  • Manual manipulation may be the best route.
  • Repeat intervals 3 to 10 times depending on the length of your workout.


4. Determine frequency of practice and schedule your workout


Based on the length of your session, intensity and other workouts you are doing you can determine how often you want to perform your treadmill practice.


Schedule it

Now that the elements are determined, schedule your workout. If you set aside the days and times you will perform your practice you are more likely to stick to it. Remember the idea is to make it a habit, so schedule at least 4 sessions, don't miss or change them and you are on your way.


5. Warm up and Cool down with each workout


6. Write in your activity journal

Track your activity, duration, intensity and how you felt before and after the activity. Learn More...



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Buying your own treadmill

If you are considering buying your own treadmill there are many things to consider: Learn more...


Using good form

Regardless of the elements decided above it is important that you use proper form when using a treadmill. It will ensure that you are actually getting the full benefits of the exercise and it will keep your body injury free. Below are a few tips for proper form:

  1. Look Ahead - your eyes should focus on the ground about 10-20 feet ahead of you.
  2. Keep your posture straight and erect. Your head should be up, your back straight, and shoulders level. Your shoulders should be relaxed and square, but not hunched over.
  3. Relax your hands and keep them at your waist. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle and positioned to lightly brush your hip.
  4. Keep your stride quick and short to help minimize the impact transferred to your legs. Try to maintain a mid-foot strike to make sure you're not heel striking and sending shock to your knees.
  5. Don't hold the handrails: it forces you to hunch over, an inefficient running form that can lead to neck, shoulder, and back pain.  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. Most people overestimate what they can handle, and end up clinging to the machine for support. This cheating will get you nowhere. Instead, humble yourself and slow down.


Additional Resources and Articles

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