‘Too much of a good thing’ is something we usually say about over-indulging in rich food or having too many alcoholic drinks, few people would say it about running on a treadmill – but the same principle applies!
Over-training can put your body under stress and create problems. In this post, we will discuss the dangers of overdoing things and give some guidance on how to use the treadmill appropriately.
How often should you use a treadmill to lose weight?
So, how can you go about safely training on a treadmill? If your goal is to lose weight, the treadmill offers a good setting to burn calories. The natural temptation is to use it as often as possible, for as long as you can bear – especially when you have one in the convenience of your own home.
However, this is not necessary. The key is to make your workouts smarter, not harder.
Best treadmill workout to burn the most calories
We recommend using the treadmill for calorie-busting running sessions no more than 3-4 times per week. Make sure to warm up with at least 5 minutes of brisk walking before starting to run.
Some people like to do HIIT on the treadmill by alternating intense speeds with active recovery breaks. Remember, these intense periods are the most stressful for your joints and so should be done carefully for short periods only.
Other people prefer to run continuously for a set period of time. Jogging at a moderate pace can be safely done for much longer than highspeed spurts of sprinting. A 30-minute HIIT session or jog is enough to burn calories while protecting your joints.
What is HIIT treadmill training?
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Avoid overtraining on the treadmill
Overtraining on a treadmill can occur if a person does excessively long sessions or pushes themself too hard to reach a faster speed. It can also be the result of failing to rest adequately between sessions, for example by training every day. Over-exertion can lead to a variety of short- and long-term problems.
Occasional overtraining will leave you feeling weak and achy for a day or two. If you rest and allow your body to recover, you will get over this quite quickly.
Regularly overtraining, however, can be harmful to your health. Running is a high impact exercise because it puts stress on weight-bearing joints. This can cause lasting damage that results in knee or ankle pain.
Some people ignore the early signs of overtraining – which are joint pain and stress fractures – and continue to damage themselves by training while injured. This can permanently damage the joints and lead to lifelong joint problems.
Can you use a treadmill on a rest day?
You can still use your treadmill on rest days by taking active rest days. Brisk walking is a low impact exercise that burns calories and can be done for longer than jogging or running because it is so gentle.
On active rest days, you could walk for 45 mins – an hour. The pace should be fast enough that you feel warm but not so fast that you are out of breath.
Walking sessions on the treadmill also provide an opportunity to work on your mental health because the movement of your body is so easy and natural; plus, you can safely switch off from your surroundings because there are no other pedestrians, road hazards or changeable weather conditions to pay attention to.
This provides an ideal setting for practising guided meditation or simply taking some time to focus on yourself.
Does running on a treadmill build muscle?
Running on a treadmill is an excellent way to burn calories, which is essential to weight loss, but does not offer much by way of strength training.
Running offers no benefits to the upper body and only offers endurance training to your glutes and calves. Endurance training builds your stamina and allows you to perform the same action for longer, but it does not increase your muscle strength in terms of weight-bearing.
For this reason, runners who do not strength train are often thin and lack definition because they have reduced their bodyfat but have little underlying muscle tone.
Weight loss is about more than just the number on the scale. For most of us, it is about attaining a slim physique that looks healthy. Running by itself will only help you shrink, it will not give you shape.
Does using a treadmill burn muscle?
It should therefore be only one part of your exercise routine and not the entirety of it.
We recommend combining 3-4 treadmill sessions with 2 strength training sessions per week.
You might prefer to begin with cardio before doing weights in a single long session or to do weights on active recovery days. It is all about what works for you and what fits with your lifestyle.
Combining treadmill and strength workout
A final tip is to incorporate light strength training into your treadmill routine by holding light dumbbells – something around 0.5-3kg depending on your ability. This will activate the muscles in your arms and slightly increase the intensity of the walk or jog (because you are artificially increasing your bodyweight).
References & Further Reading
- Statista.com – Number of people participating in running in the UK
- Study: Running can lengthen our life
- Pubmed – A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running
- Are treadmills bad for you?
- NCBI – Study: Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk
- Take care of your running machine – How to lubricate a treadmill