Unsurprisingly, the treadmill is the most popular piece of fitness equipment on the market. It sure does come in handy when you aren't up for walking or running outside during cooler or rainy weather or when you're at the gym for a good workout. Using the treadmill may seem simple, but you could be making some mistakes that form bad habits and could even lead to injury. Prevention put together expert advice on treadmill mistakes and how to correct them. Make sure your next jog or walk on the treadmill is safe and healthy to get the maximum benefit from your workout!
Wearing the wrong shoes: This is not a good time to be vain — so when selecting your sneakers, go for function before style, says Michele Olson, PhD, CSCS, professor of exercise science at Auburn University. Look for shoes with extra padding in the soles to protect your heels and foot bones from the high impact of each foot strike. Keep in mind, however, to use them only for walking or running—not dance or cardio classes. "Higher-soled running shoes can increase your risk of turning over an ankle in dance class," says Olson. "If you do hill or speed walking, look for a more moderate height in the outer sole, such as the Nike Free Runner."
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Looking at your feet: Looking at your feet while walking on the treadmill can cause you to lose your balance, says Olson. "It can also strain the back of your neck and misalign the rest of your body, causing your hips to poke out behind you”—which stresses your spine, hips, and knees. Gaze straight ahead and keep your shoulders level and chest open. Your hips, knees, and low-back will follow, making a relatively straight line from the head to your feet.
Landing incorrectly: Landing flat-footed can cause muscle strain. "You end up leaning backward as the belt goes forward, which strains back muscles from the force generated through your hips and back," says John Higgins, MD, associate professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and director of exercise physiology at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. "This could also cause you to lose your balance." Be as vertical as you can and walk or run as you would normally. Land on your midfoot or the ball of your foot—not your heel.
Doing the same routine: It may be comfortable doing the same treadmill workout day after day, but over time you'll burn fewer calories as your body adapts and muscles become more efficient. Every four weeks change at least one aspect of your workout, suggests Olson. Try the elliptical or the stair climber, or take your walk outside. "Routine changes also help prevent muscle and joint strains from the repetitive stress of pulling and pushing the muscles at the same angles over and over again," says Olson.
Head to Prevention for more tips about correcting treadmill mistakes. Practice makes perfect to correct old habits and form new ones. Correct posture, form, and technique will greatly improve the efficiency of your workout!
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