How To Use Proper Form On A Treadmill (6 Helpful Tips)
By Simon Gould
Treadmill running must be the easiest of exercises. We've been running since we were a young child so we know what to do. You lift one foot and put it in front of the other and repeat. However running on a treadmill is slightly different. The ground moves beneath you and is powered by a motor, the running deck is small.
We need to make sure we run with proper form to make sure we get no aches and injuries. We need to take care outside as well, as running without good form can do the same. Over time we may develop bad habits and this can affect our performance. This is especially the case on a treadmill where you're confined. So here we go through how to run with good form.
6 Tips for good treadmill form
1. Look Ahead
Only use the hand rails to balance or in an emergency. You need to look straight ahead and not at the ground/floor. This needs some concentration especially when you start running on a treadmill but not looking down is better for you and your performance. You wouldn't look down when you're running naturally outside and it's the same on a treadmill as well.
If you're worried about your safety, the emergency stop safety key should be attached to you. This means if anything happens, the treadmill will stop. This prevents any injuries that may occur from a moving belt. By all means look at the console occasionally, that's what it's there for, but keep your head up and stand tall. Stay this way even if you're feeling fatigued.
2. Relax Your Arms
As you run, relax your arms and shoulders. You don't really want to tense up any part of your body as you run. Your arms will need to swing but they do that from your shoulders and it should feel like a natural motion. You shouldn't clench your fists either, this will use far too much energy especially in long runs and is not something you need to.
There will be a bend in your arms from the elbow. Maintain the bend at the same degree as you run and it should feel comfortable and use no additional energy. Whether you're walking or running, don't hold on to the handrails. Your form is affected if you do and your workout is less effective. You'll burn less calories and you could injure yourself.
3. Land Mid foot
This is especially the case on a treadmill. With the belt moving beneath you, you don't want to land on your toes, you could easily lose your footing and fall. The same can be said with landing on your heel, either may feel more comfortable but if you want to run quickly and/or for long distances you need to run in the most natural motion possible.
Landing on your mid foot is the largest surface area of your foot and then you push off from the toes. Runners tend to land mid foot outside, so it's what you should do on a treadmill as well. If you're walking then you go heel first. This is obvious and something we all do. Make sure you do this on an incline as well.
4. Check Your Posture
This should really be accomplished by doing the first recommendation, looking ahead. You need to run straight and upright, you need to stand tall as you run and not hunch your shoulders. Keep your back straight and allow yourself to breath as and when you need to. Treadmills can sometimes be in front of mirrors and this makes it ideal for checking your posture as you run.
You can always position a cell phone to record you as you exercise. Then you can see if anything looks unnatural in the way you walk or run. You could even ask a friend or family member if anything about you looks unusual as you exercise. If you start feeling any soreness or pain, your posture could be the reason. So it's something worth thinking about.
5. Maintain a Good Stride
Don't lift your feet too much off the ground. This is especially the case for long, slow running. If you're running a longer distance you don't need to use extra energy by picking your feet up too high. If you're sprinting then you will naturally have a high foot pick up and quick stride turnover. On a longer distance you need to conserve energy and that is by a stable, low to the ground stride but not too low, keep it natural feeling.
Whether you're walking or running, avoid unusual stride lengths. Don't make unnecessarily short or long strides. You need to maintain a rhythm, the deck isn't going anywhere, so be confident in every step you take. After a while, exercising on a treadmill will be something you get used to, but we just need to make sure no bad habits creep in.
6. Breath As You Need
Some magazines say breath every stride or concentrate and make your breathing rhythmical. The thing is with breathing when exercising is not to think about it. Don't think you're breathing too fast or slow or you should be breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Breath as you feel you need to, your body will naturally inhale and exhale as much and when you need to.
With running you need to allow your body to get it's oxygen as it needs and don't try to force it in any way. As with your stride, you will breathe in a rhythmic way. By maintaining your speed, your breathing will regulate. If you're out of breath when you don't feel you should be, then stop. Take care of your health first and your breathing is a good sign of how your body is coping.
After a while good form is not something you need to think about too much. Once you do it properly you can relax and enjoy your running. If you do develop any niggles, aches or injuries then your form may be something to look at. Just tick every box and make sure it's not affecting you adversely.
Good form is something that you need whether you run outside or on a treadmill. If you run with other people you may be able to see how form can affect other runners if they're not doing it right. Form is often something that goes when you try and run with an injury. To compensate your form will suffer and you'll develop bad habits. So just keep an eye on it and you'll be fine.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? See my top 3 recommended treadmills for 2022