Running on a Treadmill for Aerobic Exercise: iTrainer How to Guide

Treadmills to buy: if you need to buy a treadmill and are looking for guidance on the best one to buy, check out the iTrainer Treadmill Buyer's Guide.

Not all treadmills are the same, however, so depending on your situation, a different treadmill may make better sense for you. Therefore, check out the iTrainer Guide to Buying a Treadmill for more information and to see what your options are.

Click Here to Read About Popular Running Apps for Your Phone

If you are looking for a personal fitness trainer to help you start a training program for speed or endurance running, check out the iTrainer Personal Fitness Trainer Directory for a trainer in your area.


Who Should Read This Guide

Every personal fitness training program should include cardiovascular exercise. Running is one form of cardiovascular exercise. This guide will be helpful to anyone who is following a fitness training program, at any level of fitness. Competitive runners and recreational runners can benefit from the information in this guide regarding running on a treadmill for cardiovascular exercise.


Basic Guidance

Everything Else to Know

Running Apps for Your Phone

Muscles Involved in Running

Running Shoe Selection

Getting on the Treadmill

Running Clothes Selection

Hold onto the Treadmill Handles

Stay Properly Hydrated

Treadmill Running Skills

Breathe Properly During Your Run

Emergency Stop

Warm Up and Cool Down

Cleaning and Maintenance

How Often, How Long, and How Intense



Compared to running outdoors, running indoors on a treadmill is easier and allows you to be more focused when you train. You can adjust your speed and the incline or elevation of the treadmill at any time you want. This allows you to specifically control your workout always, which is one great benefit of running on a treadmill.

Another benefit of running on a treadmill is that landing on the belt allows for a softer impact compared to running outdoors. If you are older, are rehabilitating from an injury, or are just starting a running program, running on a treadmill is a good way to workout.

Running is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, is physical exercise of low to high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. Aerobic literally means "relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen," and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. Generally, running, as a light-to-moderate intensity activities that are sufficiently supported by aerobic metabolism. can be performed for extended periods of time.

Before you start a running program, you may want to consider consulting with a doctor, especially if you have a physical limitation due to injury or disability.

For help with creating your running program and training advice, you may also want to hire a personal fitness trainer. A personal trainer can give you great advice on your running program, and assist you in building your plan while considering certain factors such as your (i) available schedule, (ii) physical abilities, (iii) level of fitness, and (iv) preferred activity.

Note: check out the iTrainer Personal Fitness Trainer Directory to find a trainer in your area.

Basic Guidance

Running Apps for Your Phone

There are a variety of great running apps from major brands such as Under Armour and Nike. Most running apps are loaded with great features such as GPS tracking, leaderboards, and challenges to other users.


Under Armour iPhone apps:


·         MapMyRun Trainer

·         UA Record

·         Endomondo

·         MyFitnessPal

·         MapMyFitness



Nike apps:


·         Nike+ Run Club

·         Nike+ Training Club

·         Nike+


Apple Watch also has a great running tracker integrated into its Workout app.

You can track up to five workout metrics — distance, pace, active calories, heart rate, and elapsed time — all at once. You can highlight your most important metric, mark segments, and label workouts. Your Apple Watch even automatically pauses on a run, like at a stoplight, and resumes when you do. 

Back to Top

Running Shoe Selection

Choosing good running shoes is a key decision as part of your training program. Properly fitting running shoes ensure that you can run efficiently and in a safe manner.

A good pair of running shoes:

·         Are comfortable

·         Provide good cushioning

·         Provide stability

·         Are sufficiently flexible

For your running shoes, of the foregoing be sure to choose a pair that has maximum cushioning especially if you are a high impact runner. This is because your foot strikes impact with great force, multiple times your body weight.

Once you have chosen running shoes, you must replace them over time. The soles of running shoes wear out after approximately six (6) months, even if there is no outward appearance of wear. The material that comprises the sole of the running shoe breaks down due to compression from each foot strike.

Further, your running shoes may wear out sooner, depending on the distance that you run. A good rule of thumb is that you should replace your running shoes after 350 to 450 miles. You can track the distance that you run on the treadmill using an app (see below for iTrainer recommended training apps).

The design of your running shoes should have maximum cushioning and lesser lateral stability. In addition, your shoes should also be appropriate for your foot strike. Generally, there are three types of foot strike:

·         Overpronating (foot strike on inside edge of foot)

·         Underpronating or supination (foot strike on outside edge of foot)

·         Neutral (foot strike on middle of foot)

Considering the different types of foot strike, running shoe manufacturers design three types of shoes:

·         Straight

·         Curved (toe area turned slightly inward)

·         Semi-curved (toe area turned significantly inward)

Here is a guide for choosing which running shoes to buy depending on type of foot strike:

Foot Strike

Shoe Design


Straight with motion control


Curved, flexible, max motion, flexible


Semi-curved, medium motion

If you do not know your type of foot strike, you may want to consult with a podiatrist for an exact evaluation and recommendation on the best running shoe design that you should consider.

Back to Top

Running Clothes Selection

You must ensure to wear proper running clothes when working out. For indoor running, the environment will likely be comfortable–not too cold nor too hot. Therefore, you should wear light, comfortable clothing when running indoors on a treadmill.

Back to Top

Stay Properly Hydrated

You must drink a significant amount of fluids when engaging in prolonged cardiovascular exercise such as running. While running, your core temperature, heart rate, and feeling of exertion increase when as you become dehydrated. Staying properly hydrated by replacing lost fluid in a timely manner will keep your core temperature, heart rate, and feeling of exertion lower.

The best choice for fluid replacement is water or a sports drink.

Water is perhaps the best fluid to drink to stay hydrated. Water delivers nutrients, such as glucose, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids throughout your body. Water is essential to the proper functioning of your muscle cells at the molecular level. Water cushions and lubricates your joints.

Sports drinks consist of water and contain added electrolytes, including sodium, and glucose. Sports drinks also allow for fast water, electrolyte and glucose replacement.

If you run for more than an hour, you may find that a sports drink is a better fluid replacement than water. While running intensely, you may lose between 2 to 4 quarts of fluid every hour. Conversely, your body can only absorb around 1 quart an hour. Hence, you must hydrate adequately before, during, and after your run. Importantly, you must start hydrating before the onset of thirst, since you may not feel thirsty while running. When you run in a hot environment and intensely, you will need to replace more fluid than when you go for a low or moderate intensity run or run in a cooler environment.

Back to Top

Breathe Properly During Your Run

A good rule of thumb to remember is that you should be able to carry on a casual conversation while running.


Your breathing while running at a low or moderate intensity should not be labored. When you start a running program for the first time and are not in the best shape, you may breathe intensely during a workout. In that case, try to scale back your running intensity so that you can breathe regularly and in a comfortable manner.


Advanced runners following intense training programs, on the other hand, may include intense and alternating breathing rates as part of their regimen. For instance, high intensity interval training causes intense breathing and rapid changes in heart rate compared to target heart rate training which results in steadier breathing rate.


If you have difficulty breathing through your nose while running due to a deviated septum or allergies, you may want to consider wearing a Breathe Right nasal strip to open your nasal passageway.

Product guide for breathing during run, article on breathe right for sale, or high altitude mask for sale

Back to Top

Warm Up Before and Cool Down After Your Run

It is essential to warm up and cool down properly before going for a run.


To warm up effectively, you should start low intensity walking or jogging, or jumping jacks, along with stretching your muscles. You should warm-up for at least 5 to 10 minutes to elevate your heart rate and increase blood circulation. This prepares your body for the intensity of your run and improves body function during the workout.


Similarly, you should cool down for at least 5 to 10 minutes in order for your heart rate and blood pressure to return to normal resting levels before stopping your workout. Stretching during your cool down is also important.


Back to Top

How Often, How Long, and How Hard to Run Each Week

If you are out of shape and just starting a running program, it may be best for you to start at a low intensity for shorter periods of time.


If you have been working out for a while or are in decent shape, then you should go for moderate or intense runs.


Here is a guide:



2-5 times per week


Low, Moderate, High


20 to 60 minutes


While you are running, it is helpful to keep track of your heart rate. One form of training is heart rate training, where you strive to keep your heart rate at a constant level or in a close range. Another is HIIT, or high intensity interval training, where your goal is to raise your heart rate near your HRmax maximum heart rate for short duration, recover, and the repeat for the entire workout.


To effectively monitor your heart rate and incorporate it into your running program, you need to know your maximum heart rate. One calculation is 220 minus your age. Then, using that number as your HRmax, you can aim to achieve a maximum percentage of your HRmax during your run. Note, however, that using the formula 220 minus age is not necessarily accurate. The best way to calculate your current maximum heart rate is to perform a medically-supervised cardiac stress test.


Back to Top

Everything Else to Know About Running on a Treadmill for Cardiovascular Exercise

Muscles Involved in Running

When you run, you are primarily working the following lower body muscles:


·         Gastrocnemius

·         Gluteals

·         Hamstrings

·         Iliopsoas

·         Quadriceps

·         Soleus

·         Tibialis anterior


As a total body exercise, running also works your neck, back, arms and torso, but to a lesser extent than your lower body.

Getting on the Treadmill

When you onto the treadmill belt, you must practice extreme care, especially if you chose to start the treadmill before stepping on.


One approach is to stand on the treadmill with the speed set to 0.00 mph. Then, when you are ready, increase the speed to 3.2 maximum, which is a brisk walking pace. At that point, you can walk until ready to run, and then when ready increase the speed to your preferred running speed, and start your run.


Another approach is to straddle the treadmill belt, holding onto the handrails, and increase the belt speed to your preferred running pace. Then, you make a very athletic move and jump onto the treadmill at full speed. This is a disfavored approach because it greatly increases the risk of injury. It is unnatural to go from 0.00 to full running speed. Rather, it is probably better on your joints and muscles to ease into your run. As an alternative, you can increase the speed of the treadmill from 0.00 to your max speed immediately and then you will attain your running speed rapidly, achieving the same effect.


Here are good tips for a beginning runner on how to run a treadmill for cardiovascular exercise:


Before starting the treadmill:


·         Hold onto the handrails and straddle the belt

·         If you start the belt before stepping on, step onto the treadmill one foot at a time, and then start walking. It may be helpful to step with one foot a few times balancing on the other foot off the treadmill until ready to step on with the other foot

Holding onto the Treadmill Handrails

If necessary for balance and stability, you may choose to hold onto the treadmill handrails while you are running.


If you do, you should hold the handrails with a strong grip to maintain balance, but no stronger. Once you find that holding the handrails is unnecessary, you can then let go and swing your arms in a natural walking or running manner.


Back to Top

Treadmill Running Skills

Running on a treadmill, necessarily, is different than outdoor running. You are not propelling yourself forward along the ground. Rather, you are striding at pace with the treadmill belt and are stationary.


Also, there is no wind resistance, so as opposed to outdoors when you may face a headwind, or the resistance of the air itself when you are running forward, when you run on a treadmill you do not experience wind resistance.


Thus, running on a treadmill takes less energy than running outdoors. To compensate for that difference, you should increase the incline of the treadmills to a 1–2% grade. This will make the run harder, to better simulate an outdoor run.


Treadmill Body Location:


·         Run toward the front of the treadmill at the control area

·         Pay attention to your location on the treadmill belt and the treadmill

·         Avoid drifting backwards or to the left or right side of the treadmill belt, so that your feet do not miss the belt causing you to fall


Stride Length and Frequency


·         Do not overstride. Overstriding occurs when your foot strikes the ground outside the front of your center of gravity. This happens when you extend your leg too far to increase stride length. Typically, overstriding will slow you down, because you will increase the height of your center of gravity and therefore spend more time in the air rather than moving forward This can cause injury due to a harder foot strike impact.

·         Do not understride. Understriding occurs when your foot strikes the ground inefficiently, without enough stride length. This results in short choppy strides that slow you down or cause braking. Thus, you are not efficiently advancing your body with each stride.

·         Increase stride frequency. You increase your stride frequency by completing each step in a quick and relaxed manner, with soft foot strikes, and with your feet staying close to the treadmill.


Foot Strike

When distance running on a treadmill, you should use a foot strike where your heel strikes the ground first, then the ball of your foot. When you do so, you distribute the force of the impact across your entire foot as you rock forward onto the ball of your foot.


You should take care not to strike your heel to the ground with too much force. Also, you should avoid skimming on your forefoot by running with too light of a heel strike.


In general, it is best to think of running with minimum impact and to avoid bouncing. You should run with an emphasis on horizontal motion from stride to stride and keeping your feet close to the ground. This allows you to conserve energy and avoid injury.


Body Posture

When running, it is best to maintain an upright body posture where you are standing tall, that is, you have elongated your spine. Doing so makes you a more efficient runner, and reduces wear and tear on your spine and joints.


Here is what you should focus on:


·         Hold head up so that you are not looking at ground

·         Look straight ahead with your eyes

·         Relax your shoulders while keeping them back

·         Keep your shoulders over your hips


Arm Motion

To run efficiently and conserve energy, your action is key. Here is what you should focus on:


·         Your forearm, wrist and hand are the focus areas of your arm motion

·         As you move your arm with each stride, your elbow will close on the upswing in front of your body, and open on the downswing towards your waist

·         Keep your arms low. Your forearms should arc between your waist and hips, or as close to your hips as possible

·         Your upswing should keep your forearm below your shoulder, and your elbow close to your torso, as your hands come in front of your chest

·         Your downswing should bring your forearm close to your side so that your hand is even with your hip

·         Your hand and wrists should be relaxed. You should hold your hands slightly closed like holding a fishing rod, with each thumb resting on top of your index finger


Back to Top

Emergency Stop

When running on a treadmill, you must be aware of the emergency stop button. You may find that you need to step of the treadmill for health reasons or just to take a break and recover. Hitting the emergency stop brings the treadmill belt to an immediate stop so that you can exit the treadmill safely and at once. Each treadmill has a different emergency stop mechanism, but in general the emergency stop is a bright red button.


Some treadmills include a clip and wire that you can attach to your body and the treadmill stops if you remove the wire from the treadmill. This design allows for the easiest method to stop the treadmill, as it does not require you to locate a button while running at speed.


Regardless of the emergency stop system that your treadmill employs, be sure to know how to activate it.


Back to Top

Cleaning and Maintenance

Your treadmill will require cleaning after each workout, weekly and monthly.


·         After each workout. Wipe down the treadmill with a clean cloth to remove sweat, and use a disinfectant cleaning product.

·         Weekly. Clean the treadmill in a more comprehensive manner and clean the area around the treadmill.

·         Monthly. Each month you should thoroughly clean the treadmill. You should also inspect the treadmill and belt and make any maintenance repairs that are necessary. Consult the treadmill owner’s manual for further guidance or hire a repairman to complete the maintenance.


You may want to place a rubber mat under your treadmill to protect your floor or carpeting from sweat and other debris from the treadmill. This product is a good one that you can consider.



Back to Top


After reading this iTrainer Guide to running on a treadmill for cardiovascular exercise, you have learned basic guidance such as breathing properly, warming up and cooling down, and discovered good apps, running shoes and clothes to consider.

You also have learned what muscles are involved in running, how to get on a treadmill, and how to hold onto the handrails. You then learned the skills necessary for running on a treadmill, such as stride length and frequency, foot strike, body posture and arm motion. You also learned about the emergency stop system, and proper cleaning and maintenance for your treadmill.

If you are looking for a personal fitness trainer to help you design a running program, check out the iTrainer Directory for a personal fitness trainer in your area. 

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or go to the iTrainer running forum and post your question there.

We hope that you found this article informative and helpful. If you did, please share it and like it.

Happy Training!


Back to Top




Be the first to review this item!

Bookmark this

13 May 2017

By iTrainer