Don’t Sabotage Your Workout With These Treadmill Mistakes

Whether you love or hate the treadmill, you’ll find that if you’re serious about fitness it’s an essential part of your routine. Even if you only use a treadmill on occasional days when you can’t get outdoors, make sure you don’t make the following mistakes, which can sabotage your workout. Fitness experts all agree across the board: treadmill mistakes can mean you’re wasting your time at best, headed for injury at worst.

We surveyed several experts from the fields of fitness and health. They all have tons of experience in gyms, and have observed all sorts of gym-goers from newbies to professional athletes. When asked what treadmill mistakes they commonly saw, and pet peeves they had, we found a common thread. Here are the worst errors you can make on a treadmill, direct from the experts who’ve seen it all. Are you making these common treadmill mistakes?

1. You Don’t Push Yourself Hard Enough

Believe it or not, most people are wasting their time on the treadmill. That’s right- if you’re not pushing yourself then you’re not doing much for your cardiovascular system, you’re not burning much fat, and you’re not increasing your endurance either. How do you know you’re pushing enough?

Your breathing rate will increase because your heart rate is going up. Also, chances are you’ll break a sweat.

Too many people hop on the treadmill and either walk too slowly or don’t spend enough time walking or running. If it’s comfortable enough to talk on the phone then you truly are wasting your time.

2. You Hold the Bars

This was number one most common pet peeve with trainers in gyms. When using the treadmill, people very often make the mistake of holding onto the bars…usually in front of them. Sometimes they hold the top of the control panel, too. If you’re supporting your upper body by holding onto the treadmill bars, then you’re taking weight off your legs. Therefore, you’re reducing the impact of your treadmill workout by making it easier on yourself (see Treadmill Mistake #1 for why this is a problem).

The worst offenders are the treadmill users who use an incline in their workout routine, yet hold the bars. They have the right idea by adding “hills” to their routine, but they’re cancelling out most of the impact by holding on.

3. Your Posture is Bad or You Crane Your Neck

One of the most overlooked benefits of using a treadmill is that you can see your form and correct it if needed. You will see right away in the mirror if any part of your body is not in line. You’ll see if you’re holding your arms in the correct position. Proper form when running or walking is crucial to not only getting a great workout but also to injury prevention.

That’s why it pains personal trainers to see gym-goers on treadmills all twisted up. Sometimes it’s the gym’s placement of TVs. When TV screens are too high in relation to the treadmill area, walkers or runners must look up to see. That’s very bad on the neck anyway, but combining it with exercise is just asking for trouble.

Looking up to see a TV screen while exercising on a treadmill is just asking for trouble…

Not only will you possibly strain your neck, you’ll also put yourself in danger of stepping off the treadmill and hurting yourself. Either forget TV while you’re on the treadmill or ask your gym to lower the screens.

4. You Have Too Much Faith in the Control Panel

Newbies love the calorie counting function on treadmill control panels. Wow! I burned 700 calories in 20 minutes and I didn’t even break a sweat! Chances are, you haven’t really burned as many calories as the computer is telling you. It takes an hour of strenuous activity like running to burn 700 calories, and that’s if you’re lucky and push yourself very hard.

What’s the harm in feeling good that you’ve burned all those calories, even if you haven’t? It means you won’t push yourself hard enough in future workouts. It can also mean you’ll overeat later. After all, if you can burn 700 calories so easily, why limit your calorie intake at all? Again, this common treadmill mistake circles right back to mistake #1, which is not pushing yourself hard enough.

Other control panel “data” you should ignore: the “fat-burning zone” and the heart rate monitor. The readout on treadmills is based on averages: what’s a fat-burning zone for one person may not be for another person. And even though you must put your hands on the grips so the treadmill can “read” your heart rate, don’t trust it. If you really need to monitor your heart while working out then get a real monitor.

5. You’re Trying to Multi-Task

Do yourself a favor and leave your phone in your gym bag. If you are constantly distracted by calls or texts, you’re not ever going to get yourself into a “zone” for achieving good results from aerobic activity. Running and exercise walking are also mental activities, in which you empty your brain of distractions, clear out the cobwebs and just focus on your workout.

If you can’t achieve the proper mental focus for a treadmill workout, chances are you’ll get bored pretty quickly and end your workout prematurely. You’ll also forget to push yourself hard enough (Treadmill Mistake #1) if you’re too busy with your phone or even reading a magazine. TV-watching can also be a huge distraction, not to mention a pain in the neck (Treadmill Mistake #3).

If you’re talking on the phone while exercising on a treadmill there are several other mistakes you’re making, all at once! Here they are:

  1. You’re bothering gym-goers around you- it’s rude and annoying
  2. You’re putting yourself in danger by becoming distracted by a phone while on a machine with moving parts- you could fall off and get hurt
  3. If you can talk on the phone you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. In other words, you are wasting your time.