How to Run Properly on a Treadmill (Steps)

A treadmill is one of the most versatile pieces of cardio equipment you could install in your home gym.

While some users refer to these machines as “dreadmills”, they are remarkably effective whether you want to boost your circulation, build strength, train for an endurance event or lose weight. If you use a treadmill correctly while also eating healthy, low-fat foods, you could lose up to 2 pounds a week

How do you run on these machines effectively, though?

We’ll run you through this today. We’ll be showing you how to prepare properly, how to set up your treadmill, and how to run efficiently so you get the most out of your equipment.

In case you need some convincing to hop on that treadmill, here’s a snapshot of the leading benefits of working out on these machines.

Benefits of Using a Treadmill vs Running Outside

  • Ideal when you can’t go outside: Whether it’s dark, raining, or you simply don’t like running alone, treadmills give you the freedom to hit your cardio goals year-round regardless of the weather or conditions
  • Low-impact exercise: Running is great exercise and can help you hit a range of fitness goals. Unfortunately, when you run on concrete, the impact on your joints is considerable and, over time, potentially harmful. Treadmills deliver low-impact cardio workouts without diminishing the fitness benefits you reap
  • Controlled environment allowing for rapid change: Start running outside in a hilly environment and you’ll need to keep on pushing yourself. When you’re using a treadmill, you can control the machine easily using the ergonomic controls. Go from flat to incline running in an instant at the push of a button
  • Focus on form no distractions: Running outside, especially on city streets, is distracting. With so much going on around you, it’s tough to focus on form. When you’re running on a treadmill, though, you can concentrate on your stride above all else. As with all exercise, proper form minimizes the chance of injury while allowing you to maximize your gains
  • Helps you train for hill climbing events: If you live somewhere with flat terrain all around, how can you train for a running event with lots of hills? On a treadmill, of course!

You’re tempted, right?

Well, before you get carried away and start shopping for treadmills, remember the importance of preparation.

Running on a Treadmill: Preparation

You should speak with your healthcare provider before using a treadmill if you have any problems with your back or joints. Your doctor will advise you if using a walking treadmill would be better for your circumstances.

If you don’t already have some running shoes, now’s the time to invest. You shouldn’t rush this decision either. Make sure the shoes you choose are padded, cushioned, and specifically designed for running. You need some room at the end for your toes and plenty of arch support. The best running shoes, contrary to popular myth, don’t need breaking in. You could wear them daily indoors for a few days to soften them up, but great running shoes should be comfortable out the box.

Get some thick crew socks to avoid blisters as much as possible.

Make certain to stay hydrated when you’re running. Aim to drink just under a liter of water in the hour leading up to your treadmill workout. You should also look to consume a half-liter of water as you run.

Hit the bathroom before you hop on the treadmill so you don’t need to break off mid-workout. This will diminish the aerobic benefits you gain from training.

So far, so good.

How do you set up a treadmill if you have no idea what you’re doing and you’ve never used one before?

Setting Up Your Treadmill

Every decent treadmill has an emergency stop function. This is typically a magnet fixed to the treadmill with some thin rope. Whenever the magnet is pulled off, the treadmill stops.

Before doing anything on your treadmill, experiment with this emergency brake so you can stop in a hurry if you need to.

Always start slowly when you’re training on a treadmill. Explore the speed and learn how to quickly and easily fine-tune your pace. Controls should be ergonomic and within easy reach.

Examine the incline settings on your treadmill. Slopes will be measured by percentage. As an example, the average hill you encounter outside is somewhere between 5% and 8%.

OK, feeling comfortable with your equipment yet?

It’s time to get running ­– but not until you’ve warmed up!

How To Run Properly on a Treadmill in 6 Easy Steps

  1. Never Skip Your Warm-Up
  2. Pay Close Attention To Your Stride
  3. Make Use of an Incline
  4. Leave The Handrails Alone
  5. Look Straight Ahead As You’re Running
  6. Cool Down At All Costs


The most crucial step of all, warming up will help you get more from your cardio routine while also reducing any chance of injury.

When you warm up properly, your heart rate will climb and oxygen is pumped to your muscles so they become warmer and more efficient.

Accomplish this by walking or jogging for 5 minutes before embarking on your routine. Then it’s time to pick up the pace and/or incline depending on what type of training you’re engaged in.

Pay Close Attention To Your Stride

Form is everything. With no distractions and a controlled set-up, you can focus on your stride as you pound your mill.

Count how many times one foot hits the treadmill belt in 60 seconds. You should, of course, have a timer front and center on the console of your mill. Doubling this figure gives you an accurate approximation of your stride count.

How can you improve your stride count if the figure seems a little low, then?

Keep your feet close to the belt as you run. Take quicker and shorter strides. See how close you can get to the 180 steps per minute a professional athlete can manage.

Make Use of an Incline

Want to make your workout more challenging?

Set the incline starting at 1% or 2%. This should replicate running outdoors on level ground since you get no wind resistance indoors to slow you down.

You should ratchet up the incline as well as part during at least part of every routine. The exception here is if you are just starting out, or you are exceptionally unfit. Never go over the top until you feel fit enough to cope.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to combine hard exercise with rest to enhance the benefits of your cardio routine. This allows you to increase your pace without going flat-out the whole time you’re running. The only proviso? Never perform HIIT training on two consecutive days. Your body needs time to rest and recover.

Related: Best Treadmills for Heavy Guys

Leave The Handrails Alone

The handrails on a treadmill are in place to help you mount and dismount.

Why should you not hold these rails as you’re running?

Firstly, you’ll hunch slightly when you grab the handrails. This is not an efficient way to run and can even trigger back pain or neck pain. Instead, keep your back straight and your posture erect. Raise your head and keep your shoulder nicely level. Hold your arms 90 degrees from your body just like when you’re running outdoors.

You might get the impression that grabbing these rails helps you work harder. The truth? You’ll reduce the load and make things easier not tougher.

How about if you feel worried you might topple over? Chances are that you’re running too quickly or using too much of an incline for your needs. Dial both back and see if you feel safer.

Look Straight Ahead As You’re Running

With your posture and form locked on, make sure to look straight ahead as you run.

Avoid the temptation to keep looking down at the console or your form will take a nosedive.

If you start struggling with form when you pick up the pace, slow back a little then gradually step up the speed as you feel more comfortable taking proper strides.

Cool Down At All Costs

How to Run Properly on a Treadmill in 6 Easy Steps

Last but not least, you should always warm down before stepping off the treadmill.

After your run, jog and then walk on the treadmill until your heart rate falls below 100 bpm.

Stop suddenly and you might feel light-headed and dizzy.

Aim for 5 minutes of warming down. Mix in some stretching if you feel stiff.


We very much hope today’s tips to run properly on a treadmill have shown you how easy it is to use these machines the right way.

Bookmark our site before you head off treadmill shopping and we’ll see you soon!