6 Treadmill Workouts for Beginners

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The treadmill can be either a scary place or a refuge for new gym goers and home gym owners. These workouts are designed to help you become confident when using the treadmill and keep it from getting boring. These treadmill workouts help give your workout shape and direction, so you can better reach your goals. I’ve divided this page into a section for new walkers and new runners.

Treadmill Workouts for Beginners Horizon T101

The Horizon T101 is a great beginner treadmill due to its affordable price and nice training features.

How to Use a Treadmill

  • 1. The Safety Key: Clip the safety key to your clothing before getting started. Most treadmills should have safety keys. This key will shut the treadmill down if you fall or can’t keep up. Make sure the cord is unwound but out of the way so you don’t pull it out accidentally. It’s important to practice treadmill safety whether you are new or experienced with treadmills.

  • 2. The Buttons: Treadmills have drastically different consoles, but I will do my best to share the most widely applicable information possible. Most consoles have a start and stop button. If you just press start, this should put the treadmill in quick start or manual mode. You will have complete control over the speed and incline without any preset settings. Locate the number and arrow or plus/minus buttons to adjust the speed and incline. Some treadmills have dials or switches for adjusting the speed and incline instead.

  • 3. The Programs: There are likely program buttons, too. You can use the other treadmill controls to set up a preset program if desired. In addition to the below workouts, these are great for getting started.

  • 4. Where to Stand: Most treadmills start at 0.5 mph. If you set up a program, it may accelerate rapidly to the speed setting you input. While many exercise organizations and treadmill manufacturers instruct you to stand on the footrails until the treadmill is up to speed, most users find that standing on the belt as it accelerates is easier. I recommend standing on the belt and accelerating with the treadmill.

  • 5. Where to Walk/Run: I tend to run closer to the console. Do your best to stay centered on the belt. I tend to move from side to side a lot. This may or may not be a sign that you have a weakness on one side.
Treadmill Workouts for Beginners NordicTrack 1250 Full Concole

Try doing an easy walk while familiarizing yourself with the treadmill’s console features and buttons.

What Speed and Incline to Choose

If you aren’t sure what speed and incline to use, try conducting a speed and incline assessment. Start at 1 mph which should be very slow for most people. Keep the incline flat. Use the rate of perceived exertion scale (0 to 10) to rate the difficulty of the pace. Increase the treadmill by 1 mph and rate again. Repeat one more time.

Then, slowly increase ( by 0.1 mph at a time) from 3 mph to 4 mph. Can you walk at this speed or are you at a jog? If you are still walking, increase the speed until you reach a jog. Note down the difficulty. Continue to slowly increase the speed, noting down the speed that corresponds to each RPE level until you reach your maximum running speed or sprint speed. If you do not want to run, add incline instead until you reach your maximum effort.

When incorporating incline into your training, back off your speed more than you think is necessary before tackling a steep grade, especially if you aren’t used to running hills. Over time, you will get a better idea of how fast you can run up a certain incline. For example, when aiming for a RPE of 8 on an incline grade of 5% or less, run at the speed you previously calculated as your RPE of 5 on a flat grade. At very steep grades, try to the pace you normally transition from a walk to a run. You might find that it is still a run at a steep incline.

Treadmill Workouts for Beginners Bowflex Treadmill 22 Matthew Walking Inclined

It’s okay to slow down when the treadmill inclines. You are working harder than you would at a flat grade.

Tips for Treadmill Beginners

  • Go slower than you think you should when starting out. This will give you time to get used to the treadmill and become more comfortable.
  • Join a walking or running social group in person or online, sign up for a fitness training platform, or connect with a coach. Learning from more experienced exercisers and interacting with your training peers is a great way to get more comfortable and feel more confident in what you are doing.
  • Get dedicated walking or running shoes and don’t use them for anything else. You don’t have to have dedicated shoes for walking/running inside and outside, but some users find having treadmill-only shoes helps keep their treadmill clean.
  • Find what type of treadmill training you enjoy. There are preset treadmill workouts, training apps, and onscreen classes. You could also prefer to watch TV or read while training on the treadmill.
Treadmill Workouts for Beginners Sole F63  walking

Walking can be just as challenging of a workout as running and is low impact.

Treadmill Workouts for Beginner Walkers

Use this warm-up and cool-down for each of the following workouts.

Warm-up: 2 to 5 minutes of walking or light movement off the treadmill. If walking, progress from an easy pace to a harder pace in preparation for the workout.

Cool-down: 2 to 5 minutes of walking or light movement off the treadmill.

RPE: RPE or rate of perceived exertion is a scale for determining an exercise’s intensity. It ranges from 0 to 10 with 0 being no exertion and 10 being your most challenging exertion. These workouts use RPE to provide guidance for how hard you should train. Your RPE of a set speed could be impacted by the length of the interval and the amount of incline.

Unfortunately, every walker and runner is different so it is impossible to prescribe an exact training pace for each workout segment. Don’t worry if you have to change speeds a lot more often to find the right intensity while you are new to treadmill training.

The Redemption Workout

This is the simplest and easiest workout of them all. Walk at a challenging speed (RPE = 6 to 8) for as long as possible. You don’t have to walk to complete failure. Walk until you feel like you need to slow down and then cool down. Remember what time and pace you achieved. Write it down or put it in your phone. Then, try to improve next time.

Give yourself plenty of recovery time between attempts of this workout, repeating it every other day at most. You need time to recover and become stronger before successfully completing the redemption workout by improving on a previous attempt.

Workout Time: 30 minutes (if your workout takes longer, consider going faster or adding incline)

The 10-minute Pyramid

Start at a challenging walking pace (RPE 6 to 8). Every 30 seconds, increase the incline by (0.5 to 2%) and decrease your pace as needed. For the next 5 minutes, decrease the incline by the same amount, gradually speeding back up or surpassing your previous pace at that same incline level.

Workout Time: 10 minutes

The Easy as 1-2-3

This workout has a 1-2-3 pattern: 1 minute at a hard pace (RPE = 7 to 9), 2 minutes at a hard incline (RPE 6 to 8), and 3 minutes as easy as you would like. The pace during the incline should make it a challenging effort, but it should be slower than your 1-minute hard pace segments.

Workout Time: 18 to 30 minutes for 3 to 5 repeats

Treadmill Workouts for Beginners NordicTrack Commercial x32i action incline

Don’t be afraid to incorporate walking segments during running workouts, especially if the incline is steep.

Treadmill Workouts for Beginner Runners

Try these warm-ups to prepare for your workouts.

Warm-up: progress from an easy walk to a brisk walk or light jog over 5 to 10 minutes.

Cool-down: progress from a brisk walk or light jog to an easy walk for 5 minutes. Consider stretching or foam rolling once the workout is complete.

The Time on Feet

Set a reasonable running goal that you think you can accomplish within a 6-month or shorter period. It could be running for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, a mile, or a 5k. Distance goals are initially more difficult than time goals because walking the remaining distance will take much longer.

Run as far as you can at a pace easier than your goal (the RPE will probably be an 8 to 10 initially, but it should get easier as you get stronger and faster). Walk the remaining distance as slowly as needed. If you feel recovered and want to start running again, do so. Walk the remaining time or distance. The goal is to spend the same time or distance on your feet, even if you are just walking. As you repeat this workout, the time you spend walking should get to be less and less. Try to run for a long time rather than running faster (keep the same speed and let the RPE lower over time). Slow down if necessary.

Workout Time: I recommend choosing a goal that takes 30 minutes or less. If 30 minutes is too short, add 5 minutes once you can run for at least half of the workout time or distance.

The Countdown

Start with a 1-minute run at a self-selected pace, rate the difficulty on a scale of 1 to 10, walk the number of minutes equal to the RPE (RPE of 9 = 9 minutes of walking), run for 50 seconds, rate again and walk, repeat, subtracting 10 seconds each time you run until you are out or reach your desired workout time.

Ideally, your rest time is also decreasing each time, but it’s okay if it isn’t. Do not increase your walking or running speed during the workout. Try to stick to the speed you chose for the first 1 minute of running for every running speed and stick to the same walking speed for the recovery sections.

Workout Time: 50 minutes maximum but not recommended. Consider stopping at 30 minutes if the first 3 running intervals were rated an RPE of 7 or higher.

The Classic

This classic workout is perfect for beginners. I recommend the standard 30 seconds hard (RPE = 5 to 7) followed by 1 to 2 minutes easy (RPE = 0 to 2). You can adjust the ratios depending on your abilities. Even just 10 seconds of running followed by a full 3 to 4-minute recovery is a good starting point.

Workout Time: 10 to 30 minutes for about 4 to 10 repeats

Treadmill Workouts for Beginners ProForm Carbon TLX  iFit

Treadmills have guided training programs, speed and incline controls, and cooling fans.

Benefits of Treadmill Workouts

Training on the treadmill has a few benefits that you won’t get outdoors. We’ve highlighted just a few of the benefits of treadmill walking and runnning.

  • Safety: Working out indoors on a treadmill reduces the risk of being a victim of many crimes or accidents. For example, outdoor walkers and runners often have to compete for space with cars which makes it more dangerous.
  • Control Over Speed and Incline: You can mostly control your running or walking pace outside, but beginners may struggle more than experienced users. No one is controlling the incline without carefully planning their route. A treadmill gives you complete control.
  • Removes Training Obstacles: Treadmills are great solutions for those confined to their home. Whether it’s due to weather, children, or time constraints, treadmills help you overcome obstacles to your training.
  • Programming Reduces Mental Load: Using a preset workout or programming a workout into your treadmill before you get started can reduce your mental stress during an activity, improving your chances of seeing the workout to its end.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to use the treadmill every day?

Using the treadmill every single day when first starting out might not be the best option. Try starting with 2 to 3 workouts per week and adding more as you make progress. Not every workout should be at a high intensity. Try alternating low-intensity workouts with high-intensity workouts. If you are always training at a light intensity for a short amount of time, training every day is okay. For instance, most exercisers who are using their treadmill just to reach a daily step goal can do so safely at a casual walking pace.

Is 30 minutes on the treadmill long enough?

30 minutes on the treadmill is probably long enough. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five times per week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity 3 times per week. If you are just starting out, this goal may be too high. Even if you can only train for 5 to 10 minutes you will see benefits over not doing any walking or running.

How long should a beginner use a treadmill?

‘Beginner’ means a lot of different things. If you are new to exercise entirely or coming back from a significant injury or illness, a treadmill workout lasting 10 minutes or less may be appropriate. If you are relatively active, a 20 to 30-minute workout is a good place to start. If you are new to the treadmill but advanced in cycling, strength training, or other forms of exercise, you could train for a longer period of time, but it may not be necessary. If you are new to the treadmill but have been running outside, you can run the same amount of time on the treadmill that you would outside.