'Step Back' from the Treadmill

By Jenna-Caer Seefried

Step back from the treadmill!

I'm actually saying "step back" not "step off". The treadmill is a necessary training tool for a lot of us, especially right now in the Northern Hemisphere where it's starting to get cold. However it can also be a useful tool for time efficiency and short speed work, even when the weather is runnable.

One thing I see too often at the gym is runners running too close to the front of the treadmill.

Why is this a bad thing? A few key things change in your form when you are too close to the front.

  1. Most people will tense up in their upper body and hike up their shoulders because they are subconsciously worried about hitting their hands on the display. Any extra tension in your upper body is wasted energy and can leave you sore. So if your upper back is sore after a treadmill run, you’re likely guilty of this.
  2. Since you are close to the front, the tendency is to shorten your stride to the extreme so you don’t hit the front belt cover. This prevents you from fully extending your back leg, leading to less glute engagement. This can cause extra stress on your feet, ankles and quads if you are not extending properly.
  3. Any time you significantly change your stride, there is a higher risk of injury. You are taking hundreds, even thousands of steps; if you are throwing off your gait, that can lead to injury pretty quickly.
Left: running too close to treadmill front. Right: proper position on treadmill.

I promise the treadmill belt is longer than you think; there is plenty of space to move back. If you are worried about falling off the treadmill, use the hand rail as a guide. When the treadmill is stopped, see where half way on the belt is and where that leaves your body in relation to the hand rail. Then use that as your guide and give yourself some peace of mind; if you are at that point, you still have room.

It’s getting to the time where a lot of us are going to spend more time on the treadmill. Just be aware of your placement on the belt and make sure you aren’t risking injury by changing your run form.

Bottom line: the treadmill is a useful and often necessary tool. Take advantage of it and make sure you stay injury-free as you transition to more time on the treadmill.

Jenna-Caer Seefried is a Triathlon Coach for MX Endurance as well as a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Creator of the Endurance Fit App - Strength Training for Endurance Athletes.

(Header photo by Intenza Fitness on Unsplash.)