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If you’re just a beginner starting out on your fitness journey, you’re probably wondering how to correctly use a treadmill. Maybe you’ve considered hopping on a treadmill at your local gym or buying one for your home gym.
A treadmill, or running machine as some people call it, provides all the benefits of running without some of the problems that outdoor running brings, such as dealing with inclement weather, traffic, pedestrians, dogs and more. And it ticks all the boxes for building cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance and overall health.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll provide you with all the information you need on how to use a treadmill and how it can supplement or replace your outdoor running or walking.
In this article you’ll learn:
Components and features of a treadmill
Depending on the brand and model you have in your home gym (or are considering purchasing), features can vary. The more entry-level treadmills have all the functions you need to start a treadmill workout, while the higher-end models have some very cool features that’ll enhance your overall experience during a treadmill session.
A treadmill is a stationary piece of exercise equipment which has a moving belt that you stand on. This belt is powered by a powerful and quiet motor, which moves at the speed you set on the display, ranging from less than 1 km/h up to 16 km/h. The belt sits on a sturdy reinforced steel frame that holds up 129 kilos (285 lbs) and can be up to 130 cm long and 52 cm wide, giving you plenty of room to use the treadmill safely.
Treadmills can have many different features to make your training more enjoyable. The less expensive ones usually have some slight incline control. Treadmill incline allows you to simulate running or walking uphill or downhill. The higher-end models have up to 15 incline settings ranging from -2 to +12 degrees, which can help burn more calories and give you more variety in your fitness routine. And let’s face it, doing the same workout over and over gets boring, so staying motivated is key to any training session.
Pre-built exercise programs
Most treadmills have preset exercise programs that you can choose from. These programs set the duration, speed and incline to help you get the most out of treadmill workout, based on different degrees of difficulty.
Being a beginner, it can be intimidating when first jumping on a treadmill. Not knowing what workout options are available can make your workouts less effective. But pre-built settings make it easy for anyone to get started. We recommend taking some time to get familiar with all the settings and options before you even walk. This way you’ll have a complete sense of all the workouts available to you on the treadmill. Depending on your fitness level you’ll want to start at a walking pace and then gradually increase speed. We cover more about this later on in the article.
Heart rate monitor
Some other excellent features include a heart rate monitor, which helps you understand your beats per minute (bpm) during warm-up, cool down and interval training. This allows you to reach your desired pace without pushing yourself to the limit. If these monitors are present on a treadmill, they’re often on the handlebars and require your hands to be in contact with them for several seconds to check your pulse.
Water bottle holder
Hydration is super important when doing any cardio exercise and having a water bottle holder close at hand ensures you don’t need to stop your workout to grab some water. Most treadmills have a holder just in front of the handles. We recommend a water bottle that has a leakproof flip top lid or using one with an integrated straw.
Safety features on a treadmill are important to ensure your workout is injury free. One of the biggest concerns beginners have when using a running machine is slipping and falling off while the belt is still running. Thankfully most treadmills, no matter the price, include a safety clip that attaches to you and stops the belt automatically if you fall.
Treadmills can take up a lot of space in your home gym. But many treadmill brands have a foldable design that locks out so it doesn’t accidentally open when moving it around. Thankfully, these foldable treadmills also have wheels, making it super convenient to move out of the way when needed.
Not all treadmill machines have all the features noted above, but no matter what one you choose, you can be guaranteed that if used with proper form and follow our general treadmill tips, you’ll burn more calories, lose weight, avoid injury and reach your fitness goals.
How to use the treadmill safely
When first starting out, you’re probably wondering how to use your treadmill safely. It’s important that you follow our step-by-step instructions to prepare for exercise. If you’re unsure about how to use a treadmill after reading our article, it could be worthwhile asking a personal trainer at your local gym for tips to avoid injury and get the most out of your workout. We also recommend watching this video which includes our pro tips for beginner runners.
Clearance around the running machine
As with many home gyms, space may be at a premium. But having some clearance on the sides and behind the exercise equipment, ensures that if you fall off, you won’t hit anything and make your slip worse.
Always use the safety clip
Always attach the safety clip to yourself when walking or running on a treadmill. Even the most seasoned people can trip and having the belt stop when this happens is key to your well-being.
Straddle the belt
Getting on the treadmill safely is your next step, literally. Don’t stand on the belt before you turn it on, but instead straddle it by standing on the edges whilst holding on to the handles. Now you can safely turn it on, preferably at the slowest speed. Step on with both feet to start your warm-up, going at a slow pace and increasing to a moderate pace as your body gets in the rhythm.
Don’t look at your feet
You should have good posture, keeping your head up and swinging your arms slightly to maintain balance. Finally, you should never step off a moving treadmill. When you’re finishing your cool down, go to the settings and shut the machine down. The belt will slow down gradually, allowing it to come to a complete stop before you hop off.
Keep kids and pets away
This is an important safety tip if you have dogs, cats or kids running around your house. As with any exercise machine with moving parts, there’s the possibility of an accident happening. Keeping little ones away from the machine while you’re doing your workout will allow you to focus on the task at hand and not have to worry about fingers, clothing or paws getting caught in the moving belt.
Set incline or speed, not both
When you want to increase either of these, it’s better to only change one setting at a time. Get comfortable with the new pace or incline and then change the other setting when ready.
Stay within your ability
Each person has different skill levels but it can be easy to think you’re going to go from a moderate walking pace to maximum speed when you might not be ready for it. Avoid pushing yourself too hard so you can avoid injury.
Beginner treadmill workout tips
The treadmill is a fantastic way to boost cardiovascular health, build endurance, increase energy levels, lose weight, and more. As with any exercise routine, it’s important to only use a workout plan as a guide and make adjustments where necessary to go at your own pace. Using a treadmill effectively can ensure you reach your fitness goals.
Taking a few minutes to warm up before you start will be the difference between having a productive workout and cutting it short due to tight or pulled muscles.
A warm-up routine should be done before each and every session. Even if you’re short on time to do your full workout, it’s better to reduce the duration of your main workout than skip the warm-up.
Here’s a basic treadmill warm-up routine for beginners:
Time: 2 minutes
Speed: 3 to 4 km/h (walking at a comfortable pace)
Once you’ve completed this, you can move on to the next part of your routine.
Correct treadmill workout form
Before we jump into running on a treadmill, we have to point out that this is somewhat different from outdoor running. Your stride and gait (your manner of walking) are slightly altered. You still put one foot in front of the other but instead of propelling yourself forward, you’re really just trying to stay in one place. Your running shoes are catching the belt as it spins under foot, which can be a strange sensation at first. But with the correct posture and keeping your eyes looking ahead, you’ll be running at a fast pace in no time, and feeling confident while doing it.
So what is the proper form?
You want to keep your feet about hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, your core engaged and standing in an athletic stance—meaning chest out, shoulders back and chin up. Swing your arms slightly with your palms facing inwards and your elbows bent at around 90 degrees. Don’t move your arms so much that it makes you twist your torso.
When treadmill running, you want to make sure you’re landing on the belt with the balls of your feet, not your heels, similar to running outdoors. Having good running shoes is key to having a pain and injury-free workout.
Better running stride
In order to have a better stride you'll want to run in the middle of the belt. This also stops your arms and hands from hitting the console and handles. Relax and get in the zone. Any outdoor runner will tell you that after your body warms up, running can be meditative as you lose yourself in the movement.
How to use a treadmill with incline
Treadmill workouts can have varying degrees of difficulty, based on the speed of the belt and the incline of the machine. With treadmills that have incline settings, like our X3 Premium Foldable Treadmill, you have up to 15 incline options, which allows you to set a -2 degree to a +12 degree incline during your session.
Using the incline setting can help build muscles quicker and burn more calories to improve weight loss as you simulate walking uphill or hill running. Preset workouts on your running machine are set to change the incline as you progress throughout your exercise. Just ensure as a beginner that you feel comfortable at the current incline before ramping up.
Still have questions about incline settings? Check out our article, The best incline for a treadmill running workout.
There are a ton of different workouts to choose from as a beginner. There are many to choose from online and on video-sharing platforms. We wrote the Beginners Guide to the Best Treadmill Workouts which we think gives you a perfect starting point for your treadmill workout journey.
But we’ll also give you a treadmill workout below so you can get started right away.
Walking no incline workout
Walking with no incline is the perfect beginner treadmill workout for someone just getting into the treadmill (or getting back into it).
Warm-up: Use our warm-up routine above
Time: 15 to 25 minutes
Speed: 5 to 7 km/h (walking at a moderate pace)
Time: 3 minutes
Speed: 2 to 3km/h (walking at a slow pace)
Taking time to do a proper cool down is something many people are guilty of not doing. You’ve just done a 5 km run or walk and once you’re done, it’s easy to just step off and call it a day. But after a run, it’s very important to end by walking at a slower pace. When doing this or any interval training, a cool down allows your heart rate and blood pressure to recover closer to your resting baselines and as endurance goes, as it regulates blood flow. So don’t skip it!
Depending on your fitness level, you may sweat a lot or maybe only a little. But no matter how hard you’re working, hydration is key to any workout. Hydrate 30 minutes before starting your workout and keep your bottle of water close at hand and drinking throughout the walk or run. This helps keep your joints lubricated and regulates your body temperature.
What should a beginner do on a treadmill?
Being a beginner doesn’t mean you can’t start getting all the health benefits from your treadmill workouts. Knowing how to use a treadmill is the first step and now you should start taking a few minutes each day, trying out the pre-set programs and just going for a walk. Your muscles will need to condition themselves to the movement and your body will thank you for taking it easy for the first couple of weeks. Easing into this training will help you avoid joint problems down the road. Again, if you have any questions about how to use a treadmill, talk to a personal trainer for professional advice.
How long should a beginner spend on a treadmill?
This depends on where your current fitness is at, but we suggest limiting your first month of workouts to no more than 25-30 minutes on the treadmill. If you’re just walking with no incline, you might be able to increase the time, but always listen to your body.
What is a good speed for a beginner on a treadmill?
Once warmed up, you’ll want to increase your speed to a moderate pace. For a beginner running on a treadmill, that’ll be around 12 km/h. This will allow you to get comfortable with the running motion on a moving belt and find your balance, stance and correct stride. Once you become more proficient, you can increase your speed.
Ascend treadmills for beginners
Ascend offers three models of treadmills to help you get started with your at-home workout routine. Each treadmill varies in features and you’ll find more features in each model as you work your way up from the X1 to the X3.
The X1 Foldable Treadmill is our lightest model with the smallest footprint when folded up while still offering everything you need to get in a treadmill workout routine at home. We recommend the X1 for beginner runners.
The X2 Performance Treadmill is the perfect medium between the X1 and X3 with smaller dimensions like the X1 but some premium features you’d find in the X3 such as the hydraulic folding system. The X2 is best for intermediate runners or those who are working their way up to becoming intermediate runners.
The X3 Premium Treadmill comes complete with every bell and whistler you could dream up for your at-home treadmill workout. The X3 is best for advanced runners or those who are working their way up to becoming advanced runners.
Shop our collection of foldable treadmills today and begin your fitness journey in the comfort of your own home.