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Step Up: Treadmill Workout for Beginners

Get comfortable on the machine and improve your cardiovascular health with this 40-minute workout.

by goldsgym

“You must learn to walk before you can run.” That saying definitely holds true for beginners who are interested in incorporating the treadmill into their fitness routine. Try this quick treadmill workout for beginners to up your cardio game.

“Running is one of the most popular cardiovascular activities we can do,” says Cris Strong, a Gold’s Gym fitness manager. One of the main reasons for its popularity is the myriad health benefits it provides — heart health chief among them. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for overall cardiovascular health.

“When we are running, we increase the strength and efficiency of the heart, which pumps more blood with less effort,” she says. “And when we do that, we’re lowering our blood pressure.”

Running also helps us burn fat (especially if it’s done after a weightlifting routine, when the body is primed to tap into its fat stores).

“For beginning runners, the treadmill is a safe way to start,” Strong says.

Besides being easy to use, treadmills put you in complete control of your workout and the environment around you — the weather and personal safety issues you have to consider when running outside don’t factor into an indoor treadmill workout.

Treadmill safety

Here’s a look at what you’ll see on a typical treadmill dashboard.

treadmill illustration

Before you press the start button, remember to:

  • Identify the emergency stop button. Make sure you know where it is in case you need to immediately stop the machine in instances such as feeling pain or dizziness, losing your balance or dropping an item onto the belt.
  • Stay hydrated. All treadmills are designed to hold a water bottle. Use one – preferably a style with a top that doesn’t need to be unscrewed for every drink.
  • Secure your device. If you want to watch TV or listen to music while on the treadmill, the safest option is to use a machine with a built-in screen. If one isn’t available, be sure your device is resting on the small shelf or holder near the dashboard. Even better, tuck it in your pocket or an arm strap where it will be less likely to fall.
  • Double check your gear. Wear comfortable clothing, but nothing so loose that it could get caught on the equipment. Make sure your shoelaces are tied. Have a towel handy.

The Treadmill Workout for Beginners

For healthy adults with no risk factors, Strong suggests doing the following treadmill workout for beginners three to five times a week.

Step onto the treadmill and push the Quick Start button to begin walking. Warm up for at least five minutes at a comfortable pace. Then change to these settings:

  • Incline: 1 percent — This is comparable to running on the road.
  • Speed: 3.5 mph
  • Program: Variety — Strong says this option (called “Random” on some machines) is ideal because it gives beginners a good feel for the equipment. “Both the incline and speed vary throughout the program, but neither becomes extreme,” she says.
  • Duration: 30 minutes

Walk for three minutes at these settings. After that, evaluate how your body feels. If the intensity is moderate — you’re breathing heavily but you can still carry on a short conversation — try adding resistance by bumping the incline to 2 percent and increase the speed to 4.5 mph. Stay here for three more minutes and evaluate again.

Continue this pattern — increasing the incline by 1 percent and speed by one unit every three minutes — until you’re breathing hard, speaking requires maximum effort or you’ve reached the point of discomfort. At first, you may reach this point while at a walking pace; however, with each workout, you will get closer to a manageable running pace.

“Listening to your body is key,” Strong says. “The goal is to find a level of intensity that is challenging yet sustainable. Muscle fatigue is normal. Keep pushing! Sharp pain is not. If you feel it, stop immediately.”

She recommends not exceeding a 5 percent incline for at least the first four treadmill workouts for beginners, even if you are still able to speak effortlessly. Pushing yourself beyond that steepness too quickly may result in shin splints – micro tears in the muscles in your front lower legs.

“If you feel fine after four workouts at 5 percent incline, you can continue to increase from there,” Strong says.

At the end of the program you selected, the machine will automatically switch to cool down mode. This will gradually slow your pace and reduce the incline for five minutes before coming to a complete stop. Now grab some water and pat yourself on the back, you completed this treadmill workout for beginners.


Stay tuned for intermediate-level running tips and check out more full-body and targeted workouts:

Leg Progression: Power Moves for Muscle Growth
Chest Progression: Increase Strength With Precision
Resistance Machines Progression: Stand Up to Build Strength
Back Progression: Strengthen Stability Muscles



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