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How to Use a Treadmill

Treadmills are the motorized equivalent of walking or running in place. You simply keep up with a belt that’s moving under your feet. Treadmill workouts burn about the same number of calories as walking or running outdoors. The only exception seems to be running uphill. When you incline the treadmill to simulate running uphill, it’s somewhat easier than running up real-life hills of the same grade. But walking uphill on a treadmill is virtually the same as walking uphill outdoors.

Today’s treadmills are springier and more shock-absorbing than ever. Many have added flashy new features, such as Internet hookups so that you can run and walk with other treadmillers from all over the globe. Some treadmills can store up to 100 personal programs.

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Treadmills are among the easiest cardio machines to use. Still, treadmill users are not immune to poor posture. And if you’re not paying attention, you can stumble. On occasion you may see someone slide off the treadmill like a can of beans on a supermarket conveyor belt. Here are some tips to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  • Start slowly. Most treadmills have safety features that prevent them from starting out at breakneck speeds, but don’t take any chances. Always place one foot on either side of the belt as you turn on the machine, and step on the belt only after you determine that it’s moving at the slow set-up speed, usually between 1 and 2 miles per hour.

  • Don’t rely on the handrails. Holding on for balance when you learn how to use the machine is okay, but let go as soon as you feel comfortable. You move more naturally if you swing your arms freely. You’re working at too high a level if you have to imitate a water-skier — in other words, if you hold onto the front rails and lean back. This is a common phenomenon among people who incline the treadmill, and this position is bad news for your elbows and for the machine. Plus, you’re burning far fewer calories than the readout indicates. However, if you have balance issues, grasp the handrails lightly so that you feel steady and secure.

  • Look straight ahead. Your feet tend to follow your eyes, so if you focus on what’s in front of you, you usually walk straight ahead instead of veering off to the side. When you’re in the middle of a workout and someone calls your name, don’t turn around to answer. This piece of advice may seem obvious now, but wait until it happens to you.

  • Expect to feel disoriented. The first few times you use a treadmill, you may feel dizzy when you step off. Your body is just wondering why the ground suddenly stopped moving. Don’t worry. Most people only experience this vertigo once or twice.

  • Never go barefoot. Always wear a good pair of walking or running shoes for your treadmill workout.

  • Don’t read while on the treadmill. You risk losing your balance and stumbling off the side or back.

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