Plodding Along: Making the Treadmill Work for You

By Megan Cox

The treadmill and I are best friends these days. Okay, so “friends” may be an exaggeration. It’s more like we’re colleagues with the same goal—getting this mama of two little ones in shape for her December half marathon. Okay, colleagues may be an exaggeration too. Master and slave is probably more like it, and you can guess which one I am!

To be honest, I can’t wait to get some outdoor runs under my belt, but I’ve been waiting until I can comfortably run three miles on the treadmill because let’s face it, gearing up to go outside needs to be worth the trouble. Besides, I don’t want my neighbors to see me struggling to keep a jogging pace that doesn’t look like an exaggerated power walk!

But if I’m going to be working out on the treadmill for a few more weeks, it means I need to ensure that I’m doing it properly. Otherwise I won’t be ready for the outdoors, and maybe even worse, I could injure myself. No need to give myself excuses not to workout. So it’s time to talk about training on the machine that epitomizes the term “necessary evil.”

I found a couple of great recommendations at and from Coach Jenny at First—and this is a rule I break so, so often—I should not hold onto the handrails when running. Using the handrails to help me maintain a higher speed does me no favors. A better idea? Get over my pride and decrease the speed.

Secondly, I’ve got to keep my arms in and swing them at alternating fashion with my legs. This is fairly natural and not difficult to achieve. Also, keeping my shoulders back and not hunching is also very important. And I’ll tell you what— this too is natural based on one condition: I can only hunch over if I’m clutching the handrails!

Finally, while running on a 1% to 2% incline is supposedly the same as running outdoors, Coach Jenny from Runner’s World recommends using a hill program on the treadmill to simulate the varying intensities of an outdoor workout. Apparently, running at the same incline on a treadmill for an extended amount of time can lead to injuries, so I should imitate an outdoor run as much as possible. That’s news to me, but it’s some much needed advice.

So there it is. Now I just have to remove the plug protector that keeps my two-year-old from electrocuting herself, power up my treadmill, and get revved up for some non-scenic training. But you know, the torture will be worth it. Eventually.

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

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