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9 Terrible Treadmill Mistakes that Make Trainers Cringe

To get the most out of this constantly popular piece of fitness equipment, make sure you're avoiding the mistakes that could sabotage your workout.

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Not warming up

Most personal trainers and group fitness instructors will tell you the most important part of class or a workout session is the warm-up. Yes, even your super-fit spin instructor will likely explain that a quality warm-up will loosen up your body, prevent injury and discomfort, and set the tone for your workout. Since runners are notorious for skipping warm-ups, there are apps to remind you to warm up before you run. (Try i.Run) And, yes, a cool-down is just as important.

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Warming up on the treadmill

At least you’re warming up, right? “Wrong,” says Michael Moody, Chicago-based personal trainer and author of Redefine Yourself: The Simple Guide to Happiness. “While ‘warming-up’ on a treadmill may increase the blood circulation to your muscles, it limits your range-of-motion even as you seek your full stride.” This is a problem because, as he says, you may strain the muscle you hope to open, which will result in less range of motion. What Moody suggests instead: low-impact exercises including body weight lunges, squats, and hip thrusts before hopping on a treadmill to run, jog, or power walk. Here’s an easy stretching routine to try.

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Leaning on the handles

Don’t mistake the handles on your treadmill for the banister along a stairwell. They’re not there to bear your weight but for you to hold as you check your pulse or grab on in an emergency (make sure you wear the safety clip too though). If you notice you’re holding on during your workout, Moody says, “You probably need to reduce your speed so you can maintain your natural form” since, he adds, “By holding onto the sides or front of the treadmill, you may restrict the natural hip movement.”

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Jumping on and off the track

A classic treadmill workout mistake is to jump on and off of the moving track instead of constantly changing the settings for intervals. “Although you may minimize the downtime with this practice, it is NEVER safe,” says Moody. “Stop and restart instead, and the 15 second ramp-up could even be beneficial to your workout, so you get adequate rest and recovery in between intervals.” These gym hacks will make any workout less of a chore.

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Pushing through pain

One of Moody’s top treadmill tips: Don’t grin and bear it. “Most runners and walkers push through pain or discomfort when they should listen to this physical signal and respond appropriately,” he says. “Instead, determine the root of the signal, and perform the necessary exercises to restore the balance of strength and flexibility” to avoid further injury. Here are the hidden muscles that could be causing your pain.

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Using the treadmill too much

The treadmill has been a mainstay in every gym for decades for a reason: It can be an effective tool for fitness and weight-loss. And yet a healthy fitness routine includes cardio, strength, balance, and flexibility. Moody says it’s worth the time and effort to find the most efficient approach to achieve your goals, so spend time on the treadmill but don’t spend all of your time on the treadmill.

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Not switching up your speed or incline

In recent years, intervals have become one of the most popular forms of treadmill exercise, and that’s because “interval training will always improve your overall endurance more than the long runs,” says Moody. “Train your body to adapt to varying speeds and inclines to maximize your fitness.” Here are more reasons you could be hitting an exercise plateau—and how to overcome them.

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Ignoring heart rate

Your heart rate offers valuable feedback on your workout effort, so don’t ignore it, even if your treadmill’s monitor isn’t working. “The monitors are a quick and effective indicator of your heart rate, but nothing competes with a two-finger self-check of the pulse,” says Moody. “Definitely monitor your heart rate periodically through your activity to maximize your endurance.”

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Trading outdoor runs for treadmill time

It’s true that you can mimic the effects of running on diverse outdoor terrain by varying the speeds and inclines on your treadmill run. That said, there are a number of external factors that you can never account for, like weather conditions, so do your best to log some outdoor miles on some days, even as you work the treadmill on other days. Whether you run indoors, outdoors or both, here are a few things that start to happen when you take up running.