The Beginner’s Guide to the Treadmill

By Brittany Risher |

Stay safe and get better results with this five-step plan.

Walking is hard to beat when it comes to staying active every day. It's a natural movement that helps strengthen your body while also burning calories. And when you can't get outside, a treadmill is the perfect alternative.

Depending on how you use it, this machine can provide cardio, strength, and conditioning benefits, says fitness expert David Jack. Watch the video above, and follow this plan to get started.

Step #1: Attach the Safety Clip (It’s There for a Reason)

Step onto the sides of the treadmill rather than the belt, and attach the safety clip to a piece of your clothing. If you lose your balance or fall back, the clip will pop off and the treadmill will stop immediately.

Step #2: Look for the Quick Start Button

Confused by all the buttons? You're not alone. That's why most treadmills have a big Quick Start button front and center. All you have to do is press it, and the belt will start to move slowly.

Step #3: Set Your Foundation at a Slow and Steady Pace

Place your hands on the rails when you first start walking. Once you find your balance, gradually increase your speed up to 3 mph. Stay here for a few minutes to warm up.

Step #4: Increase Your Speed for a Cardio Challenge

When you're ready, increase the speed to a pace that's still comfortable but challenges you to keep up with the moving belt. If you feel safe, let go of the handrails and swing your arms as you walk.

Step #5: Or Increase the Incline for a Strength Workout

If speed isn't your game, slow down and increase the incline to 5 and then maybe 10 percent. You'll engage more of your glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles walking on an incline vs. walking on a flat surface.

Want More of a Challenge? Your Action Plan

Once you feel comfortable enough on a treadmill that you could carry on a conversation with the person next to you, it's time to ramp up the intensity. That means increasing either your speed or your incline.

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For speed, a good rule of thumb is to increase your pace by about 10 percent. So if you usually walk for 20 minutes at 2.2 mph, try walking 20 minutes at 2.5 mph. Continue gradually upping your pace until you feel challenged.

If you want to play with incline, try this simple interval plan:

  • Walk at your normal speed for 1 minute at 0 percent incline.
  • Walk at your normal speed for 1 minute at 2 to 5 percent incline.
  • Continue alternating—1 minute at 0 percent incline, 1 minute at 2+ percent incline—for as long as you can without ever changing your speed.

Whatever you adjust, if it feels too hard at any point, decrease your speed or incline. You can always challenge yourself for a few minutes, and then finish the rest of your workout at your normal speed and incline. Every little bit of progress counts.

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