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Treadmill running: 5 tips to safely run on a treadmill


Not every runner is a fan of treadmill running. Despite its reputation, running on a treadmill can actually be really beneficial your training. 

If you can’t always get outside to go for a run, or if you prefer running in a gym for safety reasons, then running on a treadmill is a great alternative.

It can be scary though if you’re used to running on a treadmill. From the machine itself to your running form, there are quite a few things to think about.

In this guide we’ll explore tips for running on a treadmill safely.

treadmill running

Treadmill running: 5 tips to safely run on a treadmill

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), treadmills cause more injuries than any other type of exercise equipment.

The CPSC estimates there were 24,000 treadmill-related injuries that required an emergency department visit between 2003 and 2012.

To help you conduct your training session safely, here are my top tips for running on a treadmill so you can make the most out of your session.

#1 Get to know your treadmill

Not all treadmills are created equal. There are many makes and models out there.

I’ve been to some gyms and the treadmill looks like a control panel from a spaceship. There are so many buttons and screens to look at!

If you feel daunted by the thought of trying to figure this out all yourself, ask a personal trainer at the gym to talk you through the treadmill’s main features.

Most treadmills have the same following features in common:

  • a heart rate monitor
  • a calorie burn calculator
  • a timer
  • a distance calculator
  • an incline programme
  • a speed programme
  • pre-set workouts and intervals

Related: The ultimate guide for running on a treadmill

#2 Don’t hold the handrail or console while you run

You will use the handrail and console to help you get safely on the treadmill, but they shouldn’t be held while you run.

Holding the handrail not only interferes with your balance while you run, but it forces you to hunch over, therefore causing inefficient running form.

This can also lead to neck, shoulder and back pain. 

Keep your hands off the handrail and instead keep them by your side at a 90 degree angle as you would if you were running outdoors. 

Proper arm swing on a treadmill is important too.

In fact, try and pretend the rails aren’t even there, as if you’re running outside. 

If you’re concerned about falling and need to hold onto the rails, you’re probably running too fast. 

Slow down and reduce your speed. Safety and proper running form are much more important.

running on a treadmill

#3 Don’t lean forward

When you run on a treadmill, your feet are pulled backwards, so it’s not necessary to lean forward like you would do when running outdoors.

Proper running form is still important.

Make sure you keep your body upright. If you find yourself leaning forward, again it’s probably because you’re going too fast. 

Slow down and check your form. Your body should be upright and your shoulders should be above your hips. 

#4 Don’t look down

I’ve learnt this the hard way a few times at the gym. Don’t look down because you will undoubtedly lose your balance.

Your running form will also suffer because you’re hunched over, staring at the console or your feet, instead of looking forward.

Looking straight ahead is the safest way to run on a treadmill. 

Pick a spot in front of you and try and keep your focus on this throughout your run. 

running on a treadmill

#4 Don’t step on or off while the treadmill is moving

Unsurprisingly, this is one of the biggest causes of injuries on treadmills – falling or jumping off a fast-moving treadmill.

If you need to get off a treadmill while it is moving, slow the machine down first and lower the incline, then stop off carefully. 

Do the same when you get back on. 

A good way to prevent frequent breaks on the treadmill is to take everything you need with you on the treadmill, such as your phone, water bottle, towel and headphones. 

Just be sure to store them safely on the treadmill to lower the risk of them falling off mid-run or falling onto the treadmill belt itself.

#5 Don’t make it too steep

Running on a treadmill takes a bit of time to get used to. 

The temptation is to set yourself a high speed and incline from the get go with a view of fitting in an intense workout, but be careful with this.

Don’t set the incline too steep. This will place too much stress on your back, hips and ankles.

Equally, don’t run on a steep incline for your entire run as this could lead to injuries. 

Instead, mix up incline running with flat running. This is a much better and safer way to complete your workout.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out my post on the best treadmill workouts for runners.

Alternatively, check out my post on the best hill running workouts which includes a bonus treadmill workout.

Caroline Geoghegan