7 Sneaky Mistakes You Make on the Treadmill

These habits could lead to an injury or make your workout less effective.

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It might seem impossible to mess up the treadmill: You just get on and jog, right? That’s what makes this machine such a classic and why so many people are willing to invest in one in their own homes or log hours of sweaty hours on them at the gym.

But bad form on the treadmill is surprisingly common. Using the treadmill incorrectly can cause you to run with poor posture or an awkward gait, which can lead to injuries down the road. Other little treadmill mistakes can derail from your getting as good a workout as possible, dialing down your intensity or potential calorie burn.

Here are the most common mistakes Robert Warren, certified trainer at Crunch Fitness in New York City, sees on the treadmill:

  1. Treadmill mistake: You hang on to the machine. Don’t grip the side rails or latch on to the front. Instead, pump your arms as you would if you were running outside. This improves your overall form, and you’ll be able to run faster with the momentum from your arms.

  2. Treadmill mistake: You crowd the front of the machine. You won’t be able to take full, proper strides if you’re stepping at the very front of the machine. You’ll get a more natural stride if you stay at the middle of the treadmill belt. Don’t worry: You won’t fall off!

  3. Treadmill mistake: You look down while you run. Whether you’re flipping through the latest gossip mag or simply watching your feet as they jog, trainers prefer that you look straight ahead. This is better for your spine and your neck.

  4. Treadmill mistake: You swing your arms. To be efficient and not waste energy and effort, keep your arms mostly parallel to your body. This will provide the best momentum and keep your hips forward.

  5. Treadmill mistake: You stay at the same speed your entire workout. While staying steady at 5.5 miles per hour won’t necessarily put you at a risk for injury, you will get a more effective workout by switching up your speed every now and then. That’s because your body is always looking for ways to adapt to a situation to make it less difficult. The best strategy, according to Warren, is to alternate speeds every minute. Try sprinting for 60 seconds, followed by a light jog for 60 seconds. These are known as interval training and can make your time on the treadmill a little more interesting (and you can burn more calories this way, too).

  1. Treadmill mistake: You start without adding in your weight and other personal details. Taking the time to add in your details will give you the most accurate readings during your treadmill workout.

  2. Treadmill mistake: You don’t set a goal for yourself. Whether you want to set a distance, speed, or time to pursue, make sure to enter that in before you start running. You’ll be more likely to stick it out when you get tired if you can see how close you are to reaching your goal.

Remember, proper form on the treadmill will yield better results and potentially prevent injuries. Plus, make sure you cross-train your workout and add some strength-building exercises to supplement your cardio. Try this 15-minute, full-body workout that you can do with zero equipment.