7 Tips for Effective Treadmill Running

7 Tips for Effective Treadmill Running


Treadmill running is popular with athletes of every ability allowing runners to control pace and gradient at the touch of a button. This year, for the first time ever, home exercise gyms such as treadmills have emerged as a global fitness trend.(1)

Training on a treadmill has always been a popular winter alternative when it’s too cold and dark outside, but as many have discovered during the pandemic, treadmill running offers access to exercise whenever the outdoors are off limits. So what are the benefits? 

Benefits of Treadmill Running

  • Control – Easily adjust exercise intensity, pace and incline
  • Feedback – Monitor performance with features such as heart rate measurement
  • Fitness – treadmill running is an effective way to build aerobic and anaerobic capacity 
  • Cost – Treadmills are becoming more affordable as demand increases
  • Space – Treadmills take up relatively little space
  • Access – Your treadmill is available whenever you need it
  • Cushioning – treadmills are easier on the joints than hard outdoor surfaces
  • Versatility – Walk, run or complete a HIIT workout – all on one machine
  • Lifestyle – train anytime whilst continuing a conversation or enjoying a movie!

Elite runners use treadmills to fine tune training stimuli in a controlled environment. Runners with joint pain or injury use treadmills for recovery. Thanks to the cushioned surface, treadmill running is more gentle on joints than tarmac or concrete. 

Whatever your reason for training on a treadmill, the 7 tips below will help you get the most from your workouts.

1. Start Easy

If you are running on a treadmill for the first time, start at a moderate, controlled pace. As with any new training stimulus, give your body time to adapt to the environment and running surface before increasing the intensity.

2. Account for Air Resistance

Treadmill running usually feels easier than running outdoors at the same pace. The main reason for this is the absence of air resistance. To compensate, set the treadmill gradient to 1%. This is an effective way to simulate the energy cost of outdoor running on a level surface.(2)

3. Watch Your Posture

The treadmill’s consistent, evenly cushioned surface along with the lack of external stimuli like air resistance and passing scenery can alter our perception of pace, causing changes to our running gait. 

Treadmill running can also cause runners to look down at the display in a hunched posture. Look ahead as you run and pay attention to your posture and stride length to avoid injury and pain. 

4. Stay Hydrated

Treadmill running is usually hotter and more humid than running outdoors, where wind and air resistance provide natural cooling. In addition, indoor spaces are often poorly ventilated and shared with other exercisers.  

Put simply, treadmill running makes you sweat! Compensate for the extra fluid loss with regular hydration. The treadmill is a good place to practice drinking while running.

5. Go Light

The well-cushioned, rolling belt of the treadmill changes the way you strike and push off the running surface. Compared with outdoor running, you don’t have to push off as hard or for as long to generate forward propulsion.

This means you can dispense with heavier, thick soled running shoes and let the treadmill take care of the cushioning. Consider a light, low-profile running shoe instead for improved sensitivity and a more dynamic running style. 

6. Mix It Up

Running on a treadmill allows you to train under the same conditions every day. There are no headwinds, no hills and the surface is smooth and level. Though this can be an advantage, it can also be boring. Add variety to your treadmill workouts by including inclines and intervals.

7. Run Outdoors

Though it might seem counterintuitive, going for a run outdoors is a great way to boost your treadmill training.

Outdoor running can enhance fat burning, help relieve the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and improve mood and mental health through exposure to cold, sunlight and green spaces.(3,4,5,6,7,8,9)

Outdoor running is also important for improving push-off and negotiating varied terrain – something that is lacking in treadmill running due to the consistent, rolling surface. For the ultimate training stimulus, combine treadmill running with outdoor workouts.

HIIT Treadmill Workouts

Alongside home exercise gyms such as treadmills, high-intensity interval training is another important fitness trend – and for good reason. 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a well established way of improving cardiorespiratory fitness whilst saving time and burning extra calories. The benefits of HIIT include improvements in heart and lung health, body composition and running performance. (10,11,12,13,14,15

Once you are feeling comfortable with treadmill running, you might want to combine the benefits of HIIT with the advantages of treadmill running and try a HIIT treadmill workout. 

If you feel ready for HIIT treadmill workouts, make sure to balance interval and recovery duration. Intervals that are too long with insufficient recovery lead to fatigue and demotivation as well as increasing the risk of illness and injury. Fortunately most running machines like the treadmill allow you to easily track intensity using heart rate or pacing. 

3 Ways to Set Your Treadmill HIIT Intensity

1. Heart Rate

Run your treadmill HIIT intervals at 80-90% of maximum heart rate (HRmax). You can calculate HRmax approximately by subtracting your age from 220.

2. Perceived Exertion

Rate your treadmill HIIT intensity using a 10 point scale where 1 equals ‘very, very easy’ and 10 equals ’maximal’. Run your treadmill HIIT intervals at 7 or 8 out of 10, that is, ‘hard’ to ‘very hard’. This scale is used by exercise professionals and equates well with 80-90% HRmax.

3. 5km Race Pace

If you know your average pace for a 5km race, use this to set your interval intensity. Most runners average 80-90% HRmax at 5km race pace.

Tip:

Running at high speed on a treadmill increases the risk of accident and injury. Take time to acclimate to higher treadmill speeds, making sure that you can maintain a smooth technique, even while reaching for your water bottle or adjusting the running speed. Consult a health professional before beginning a HIIT workout program.

Start a Treadmill Training Plan

Ready to start treadmill training but not sure where to start? Choose a treadmill workout that suits you from our Treadmill Training Plan for All Fitness Levels.

If you’re wondering how long you should run on a treadmill, or how to warm up and cool down, this training plan is for you.

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Return to Running After an Injury

Return to Running After an Injury


Twisting your ankle while running can occur in the blink of an eye, and a lot of runners don’t even notice the injury or just ignore the problem. If left untreated, a sprained ankle can become an ongoing problem, depending on the severity of the injury and the quality of the rehab. It’s best to treat ankle pain correctly to prevent future injuries and sprains from happening.

What is a sprained ankle? 

Since sprained ankles are a common injury for runners, it’s important to know what a sprain feels like and determine how to treat the injury.

Often runners will return to running after an ankle sprain before the ankle has had time to fully heal. Since the body reacts to protect the damaged tissues, your normal stance may be altered without you even noticing – affecting your hips, knees, and ankles. This can cause you to develop imbalances that can harm your running technique and make you more susceptible to future ankle sprains.(1)

Caution

Untreated ankle injuries can also lead to other problems like Peroneal Tendonitis and Posterior Tibial Tendonitis which may result in long-term recovery and surgery in more severe cases. So it’s important to care for the initial injury and give yourself proper recovery time.

Ankle sprain prevention: How you can prevent a sprained ankle

While there is no guarantee that you can avoid a sprained ankle, there are a few things that you can do to improve ankle stability. (2)  

  • Incorporate 15-30 minute warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after your run. These exercises are recommended for preventing all types of sport-related injuries, including a twisted ankle.(3) 
  • Perform exercises designed to promote flexibility, strength, and balance that are great for preventing sprained ankles and other injuries – including stretching, balancing, power, and agility techniques.(4) Try this 8-week yoga program on the adidas Training app to build strength and flexibility! 
  • Consult a specialist if you have a history of ankle injuries or issues to have expert advice to improve ankle stability. 

What to do after an ankle sprain

Ankle sprains can vary in degree – the injury can range from a twisted ankle to a ligament tear. You should always let a professional assess your injury, especially if:

  • you are in a lot of pain
  • you can’t walk
  • your ankle is still swollen after 48 hours

The first line of treatment will involve waiting for the swelling and the pain to decrease.

As soon as the foot is pain free and not very swollen anymore, you should add some light exercises to speed up recovery. Don’t go running yet! Try the exercises suggested below, take a walk, go swimming, cycling…any activity that doesn’t cause pain while moving!

Exercises to restore mobility, balance, strength, and flexibility

The following exercises are focused on three key aspects of recovery after an ankle sprain and include:

  • mobility exercises to release any tension
  • stability exercises that require controlled strength
  • stretching exercises that restore flexibility in the affected and surrounding area

Release tension, restore mobility

Exercise 1: Knee circles

How to do the exercise:

Stand with your feet together so they are touching. Bend your knees slightly while keeping your chest lifted and place your hands on top of your kneecaps. Imagine your kneecaps drawing a circle as you move your lower body in a clockwise motion 10 times, and then counterclockwise 10 times. This rotation of the knee and ankle joints is a great warm-up before exercise as well.

Exercise 2: Pronation / Supination

How to do the exercise:

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Now simultaneously turn both of your feet outward (supination). And then inward (pronation). One repetition includes both pronation and supination. Repeat 10 times.

Increase flexibility

Exercise 1: Achilles tendon & calf stretch

How to do the exercise:

Stand on the edge of a step with your heels not touching the ground. Lower the heel of the injured foot towards the ground to stretch your calf, keeping your knee straight. Bend the knee to stretch the muscles closer to your ankle. Do both or choose the one that feels better for you. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times.

Exercise 2: Heel sit

How to do the exercise:

Kneel down and sit back on your heels with your feet extended. You should feel the stretch along your ankles and shins. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 rounds. If you want to increase the stretch, pull your knees up towards your body.

Restore balance & strength

Exercise: Single Leg Stand (versions)

How to do the exercise:

Stand on one leg and try to keep your balance. Once you can hold the position for 30 seconds, try a more challenging variation: move your head sideways or close your eyes. You can also try lowering your hand to touch the ground in front of you, behind you, or to either side of you, while standing balanced on one leg.

Exercise 2: Single Leg Squat

Man doing Single Leg Squats

How to do the exercise:

Stand up straight. Lift the uninjured foot up from the ground in front of you, keeping the knee extended. Push your hips back and bend the knee of the standing leg to do a squat. Go only as low as you feel comfortable without losing your balance. Push the heel of the standing leg to the ground to rise back up to standing position. Do 5-12 reps, and repeat 2-3 times.

Consider this:

If time allows, single leg exercises should be done on both sides, not only on the affected side in order to work towards symmetric strength. Make sure to always start with the injured side first.

Sprained Ankle: When can you start running again?

Once you are successfully moving the foot and walking without any pain, you can do a light test run. If you still have pain while running or are not completely ready to start, you can focus on the above-mentioned rehab exercises to restore your tissue capacity before taking up running again. If everything goes well, you can slowly increase the distance per day.

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