How to Keep Your Sanity (And Safety) Running Indoors

Treadmill Running

If you dislike colder or inclement weather because it means transitioning from running in the glorious sunshine to the dreaded treadmill, take heart. There are ways to make running indoors more enjoyable, and to use treadmill workouts to improve form, speed, and endurance, which really helps you in the end.

Running Indoors vs. Out

First things first: In general, running on the treadmill is not much different than outdoor running. If you don’t have much experience with a treadmill, ask a staff member at your gym to show you the basic functions—especially the safety feature. This is usually a clip that you attach to your shirt so that, in the event of a fall, the belt will stop immediately.

While running, keep your gaze forward, either on the screen or wall or window ahead of you. Avoid turning your head to the side as this can cause you to drift toward the edge of the belt. And don’t run too close to the front of the treadmill, because this can cause you to shorten your typical stride and arm swing. Keep a comfortable distance from the rail and run with the confidence your machine is keeping pace.

Perfect Your Form Indoors

The treadmill can help you work on form because your pace is regulated by the machine, allowing you to focus more on your body. During one of your sessions, warm up at an easy walking or jogging pace for five minutes. Then begin by directing your attention to your neck and shoulders. Your neck should be relaxed and your shoulders loose and not “in your ears.” Next, think about your arms. They should hang loosely at your sides and your hands should be curled into a soft fist, as though you were holding an egg and trying not to break it.

Now turn your attention to your hips—perhaps the most important part of a runner’s body. The best way to move from a heel to a forefoot strike is to imagine that a string is tied around your hips and is pulling you forward from the point just below your navel. Letting your hips lead the way helps your feet land flat under your body, rather than your heel coming down in front of your body.

That brings us to knees, ankles, and feet. Your knees should come up slightly, as though they were going to hit the ceiling, and your ankles should be flexed. After your foot lands softly on the belt, your foot should spring back up behind you.

If you want to work on form, choose only one aspect (e.g. shoulders) and concentrate on it. Set your pace, cover up the screen with a towel, consider running without your headphones to avoid distraction, and focus on your body. If you can recruit a friend or partner to record you running from the back, side, and front, you can make even bigger improvements in your form by seeing what your body is actually doing while you run.

Make Running Indoors More Entertaining

After you’ve perfected your form, here are some tips to make indoor running less tedious and more fun:

  • Do speed intervals using the television, music, or a program on the treadmill. If you’re watching a program, pick up the pace to 75-85% of your threshold during the commercials or at least one of them, then slow down when the program returns. With music, alternate running one song fast and the next song at a recovery pace.
  • Catch up on past seasons of a TV show or listen to a book while running. To learn about becoming a better runner, try “ChiRunning” by Danny Dreyer, “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, or “Meb for Mortals” by Meb Keflezighi.
  • Carefully add non-running steps like skipping, high knees, butt kickers, or side steps to your workouts for variety and working additional muscles. Again, be careful! Practice these at a slower tempo to avoid injury.
  • If none of the above sounds like enough to help you enjoy treadmill running, buy new shoes. You may still be bored, but at least your feet will feel and look great!

 Happy running!

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Wendi Wheeler is a certified personal trainer working at Anytime Fitness in Grand Forks, ND, and a certifiably crazy runner. She completed her first marathon one week before her 40th birthday and started training for her second just one week later. She’s trained for nine and completed seven marathons, learning a lot about injury and recovery in the process. When she’s not running or working, she’s sewing or watching television shows about aliens or Bigfoot. Wendi holds a degree in communication studies.