5 Tips for Safely Using a Treadmill

Running is one of the best workouts around. According to Runner’s World’s calorie calculator, a 150-pound person burns 113 calories for just one mile completed in 10 minutes. The exact number fluctuates based on body weight and speed, but that’s pretty impressive. Better yet, all you need is a decent pair of shoes (a watch can be pretty useful too) to step out the door for a workout. Sometimes going outside isn’t always a good option, though. Treadmills offer a great way to escape ice, heavy rain, or extreme heat. For others, it’s a way to stay safe. One woman told Women’s Running she now completes about 80% of her mileage on the piece of equipment after being attacked on a run many years ago.

Before you ditch the roads for good, keep in mind that treadmills carry risks of their own. A simple workout proved to be fatal for Dave Goldberg, SurveyMonkey’s chief executive, earlier this year. The New York Times reported Goldberg passed away from blood loss and head trauma after collapsing on a treadmill while on vacation. It’s not that far fetched. Many people get distracted and step partially off the belt while they’re running. Follow these 5 tips and you’ll be able to get a great workout and keep yourself safe at the same time.

Source: Thinkstock


1. Start out slow

Even if you’re a veteran runner, it’s unwise to start banging out 6-minute miles the first time you step onto a treadmill. The Washington Post suggested starting out at the lowest setting and gradually increasing the speed. The key is to get comfortable using the equipment, so take your time and forget about running for your first go-around. In the article, exercise physiologist Mike Bracko said, “running on a treadmill is so much different than running on a trail or a sidewalk.” If you’re craving more of a challenge, increasing the incline is your best bet.

Once you get the hang of things, start working your way into your usual running pace. Keep in mind that you don’t ever want to jump right into a fast speed. Livestrong suggested starting off every workout with a 5 minute walk to loosen up your joints and gently raise your heart rate. If you’re a morning exerciser, it’s also a good way to make sure you’re fully awake before you get going.

treadmill, headphones, music

Source: iStock

2. Keep distractions to a minimum

It’s tempting to distract yourself on a run with things like TV shows, talking, texting, or reading, but those activities could be disastrous. Runner’s World recommended taking care of setting up music and lacing your shoes before you start. And checking your emails and sending messages to friends is definitely a bad move. A 2006 study from The University of Utah found using a cell phone while driving was nearly as dangerous as driving drunk. You would never try to work out wasted, so keep the cell phone on silent and out of sight.

In addition to the potential for harm, distractions can prevent you from getting the best workout. PopSugar said, “your cell phone seriously disrupts the communication signals between your mind and body.” It’s pretty hard to pay attention to your form and effort if you’re completely engrossed in a conversation, so hang up for your sweat session. The same goes for TV and magazines.

treadmill console

Source: iStock

3. Get familiar with safety features

The people who make treadmills understand that there are hazards associated with working out on the equipment. They install safety features for a reason, so take a little time to see what options you have before you’re in desperate need of an emergency stop. About.com recommended users test out the safety stop button to ensure it’s working properly before getting too wrapped up in a routine.

Modern treadmills also come equipped with safety clips as an added precaution. They’re usually left dangling or wrapped around the handrails, where they can’t do much good. Philly.com explained that if you fall, the string sends a signal that automatically stops the belt. You might still get some bumps or bruises, but that’s a lot better than what could happen if you go flying off the back.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

4. Keep speed in check

It’s wise to push the pace to increase your calorie burn, and keep your workout fresh. What’s not wise, is cranking the speed so high that you have to clutch onto the sides of the treadmill to keep from falling over. Runner’s World explained this means you’re going too fast, and you increase your risk of injury from that improper form. If letting go makes you feel unsafe, it’s time to slow down.

Even if you’re going hands free, it’s possible to be a little too ambitious. Don’t try to maintain marathon-record pace if you’re only used to heading out for the occasional jog. You can still get an effective workout as long as you focus on what you can actually do. Family Circle offers a great walking interval workout for beginners. It incorporates regular recovery segments so your body won’t get too fatigued from the hard efforts. As you get fitter, you can apply the same formula to running speeds.

treadmill, gym, water

Source: iStock

5. Slow down before stepping off.

When the need for water wins out over your desire to keep pace, make sure you slow the treadmill down before stepping off. Plenty of people hop off to the side and leave the belt going at full speed, but that can be extremely dangerous. Health explained there’s a decent chance you could fall or even twist your ankle. While you might add a minute or two to your total workout time, it just isn’t worth the risk.

You also want to avoid coming to an abrupt halt once you’ve completed  your exercise for the day. Going from super fast to absolutely nothing will cause you to collide with the front of the machine. It’s also not good for all of those muscles that were just working so hard. PopSugar explained a cool down helps to gradually lower your heart rate and prevent cramping. The article also suggested a 3 to 5 minute walk followed by some stretching.

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