Why use a treadmill?
Treadmills are a hallmark of fitness equipment because they’re versatile and effective. They’re iconic because they make it possible to run however you want in any conditions — saving you from snow, rain and wind.
The advanced features and state of the art design make the modern treadmill more than just a place to run. There’s pre-programmed workouts that help guide your running experience, where you can fine-tune your challenge, and even offer structured warm-up and cool-downs.
The treadmill is both a tool of convenience and one of the best pieces of fitness equipment.
What are the ways to exercise on treadmills and how can they fit into your routine?
Whatever your level of experience or fitness, you can use a treadmill. Both the safety features and the starting levels are appropriate for all ages, fitness levels, and even different goals.
This versatility is what has made treadmill training so popular. We’re going to break down the 4 different, most important ways you can use a treadmill and what they offer.
Walking: getting started and warming up
If you’re new to fitness training or need a gentler introduction, walking is the place to start.
Simple as it is, doing more walking is associated with better metabolic and cardiovascular health. It also helps strengthen muscles, connective tissue, and bone without putting huge amounts of stress on the body.
Whether you’re just getting into structured workouts, or you’re trying to increase your step count to lose weight, walking is a great place to start. It’s also going to be a great form of exercise after an injury, in older people who need to take care of their joints, or as a warm-up and cool-down exercise.
Having a treadmill at home means you can incorporate walking into normal daily activities (like watching TV) or build a flexible workout routine on your schedule.
Read more our ultimate treadmill walking routine for your every day here.
Running on a treadmill: fitness and health
Running is a deeply human activity that explains who we are as a species and how we’ve done so well in the world. It’s also a high-calorie form of exercise and a popular sporting activity.
Treadmills are popular with everyone from beginners to elite runners for their versatility and adjustability. You can set the exact pace you want to run on a treadmill, change the incline (which we’ll talk about later), and set up structured workouts, all in the comfort of your own home.
Indoor running is a much more convenient approach that helps you build fitness, strength, and health without depending on good weather conditions. It lets you control the training experience and ensure that you’re running at the pace and incline you want, whenever you want.
If you’re running on a treadmill at home, there are very few things that can interrupt your workout schedule. While gyms require you to fit around them, a good treadmill is ready to go whenever you are!
Inclines on a treadmill: uphill to better health
Using incline on the treadmill is a huge deal — it changes the challenge, the muscle-development, and lets you control the pace of your workout.
Inclines are a feature of good treadmills and can be customised either before a workout (with pre-programming) or ‘on the fly’. This lets you turn up the difficulty or prep for real-world conditions more easily.
Inclines are also great for walking, where they help adjust the difficulty of the walk without pushing the pace too much. This also makes them a great way to build better strength in the quads and hips for running, as well as warm up the legs before a higher-pace run.
Inclines help you control the terrain of your run — something that is impossible when road-running. If you’re sick of the hills near your home or wish you had more uphill for running, incline training is a great way to build stronger knees and a better stride.
Sprinting on a treadmill: speed and power for everyone
If you’re looking for speed, sprinting is the place to go. Treadmills have you covered, here, too.
High-speed sprinting on a treadmill is a great way to build speed, power and make the most of your workouts. While it’s high-impact, it’s also very time-efficient and helps you burn up calories at a ridiculous rate.
Sprinting is a great form of exercise, especially in intervals of high- and low-intensity where you pair it with running. Sprinting offers a high-stress workout that walking and running might not, building up different areas of your fitness and helping you become more explosive.
Believe it or not, this kind of training is also really useful for older people. Power, from things like sprinting and jumping, helps us prevent falls, builds up bone density, and can improve muscle and joint strength when used at appropriate levels compared to experience.
Sprinting takes a good warm-up, a reasonable pace, and an eye for detail. However, once you get going, you can turn minutes of sprinting into years of better health with a treadmill at home!
Getting the most out of treadmill workouts
Treadmills are for walking, running, and sprinting. Anything after that is a bonus but those 3 simple movements account for most of human existence.
You can start a treadmill routine with walking, especially if you’re feeling inexperienced or bewildered. If you’re adding 30 minutes of well-paced walking to your day, you’re going to adapt to that and become fitter and healthier. This is why the treadmill is one of the best beginner fitness purchases since the results are so accessible and easy to scale to your needs.
Most beginners can actually start a treadmill routine with simple intervals of running and walking at their own pace. Alternating a minute of each for 20-30 minutes offers an easy place to get started where you can adjust the amount of time spent running or walking, the total minutes used, or the pace as a way to progress.
Thinking about taking up running on a treadmill? Why not try the Couch to 5k? Check out our guide here.
Top tip: you should work at whatever pace you are comfortable with and able to maintain for a workout. There’s no prize for being the fastest person on the treadmill in the first week — pace and distance come with time and practice.
Key lessons for better workouts
Respect the pace of different workouts
Different workouts also have their own paces.
Walking, running, and sprinting are obviously ascending in terms of speed. You can walk quickly but eventually, you’ll need to run and, eventually, that run turns into a sprint if you keep adjusting the pace upwards.
Your workout should start with a slower warm-up, proceed to faster work, and then cool down slower, too.
Inclines can make an impact: how much difference does incline make on treadmill?
An incline can work for all 3 paces: walking loves an incline, running at an incline can be quite challenging and add a new dimension, while sprinting is best at very small inclines or even declines.
Treadmill inclines are specific to needs and experience, so it’s not about one “golden incline”. Each degree added will slow you down and make each stride more difficult and muscle-intensive. Keep this in mind and use it to make workouts more difficult, or easier, depending on what you need in each training session.
Sprinting on a treadmill isn’t track-racing
You can perform sprints on a treadmill but, remember, they’re not the same as track sprints.
If you want to be a sprinter, you should definitely invest in a treadmill for conditioning and regular at-home practice. However, it’s not going to be identical to running in spikes on a track — even if it carries over at a physical adaptation level.
Real competitors need plenty of real-world training — especially closer to events. Don’t try to become Usain Bolt on the treadmill without getting your track-kilometres in!
Treadmills are so iconic because they provide consistency, versatility, and complete control over your walking, running, and sprinting workouts. They make running easy in any weather, in the comfort of your own home, and to the beat of your own schedule.
We’ve looked at some of the major factors that make treadmill workouts so popular — and how you can use them to improve your own fitness. By now, you should understand the basics of how to get the most out of a treadmill of your own — and you can figure out which one suits your needs best with our Treadmill buying guide.
Start at your own pace, build patiently over time, and experiment with all the variables: pace, incline, intervals, and different structured workouts. A treadmill can completely change your health and life — and it starts with that first step!