Trainers Share Their Top Treadmill Safety Tips To Use When Working Out at Home

Photo: Getty/ Thanakorn Phanthura / EyeEm
In light of some pretty tragic, and frightening, news concerning treadmill recalls, we thought it rather important to have a little check-in regarding treadmill safety. After all, these are serious pieces of equipment. Though more and more people have home gyms now, thanks to the pandemic, we don’t always remember that gym equipment can be dangerous, particularly if it's being used improperly (especially if you’re not paying attention or distracted).

Knowing this, we’re going in with a little more reverence for the treadmill—and the rest of our home gym equipment, for that matter. Ahead, treadmill experts and certified trainers share the best safety tips to always keep in mind before you step onto one for another sweaty, heart-pounding run.

Safety tips to use on the treadmill

1. Clip in

We typically think of clipping in with stationary bikes, but not as much with the treadmill. The clip is actually super important! "Always ensure the automatic off safety clip is attached to you,” says Liz Letchford, PhD, ATC, injury prevention expert and personal trainer. If you happen to fall off, this clip will cue the treadmill to stop.

“Know the controls well,” says Yusuf Jeffers, instructor at Mile High Run Club treadmill studio. “Some treadmills have shortcut keys and emergency stop buttons, rings, or tags that attach to the runner.” Figure this out before you start your workout, before you even turn on the treadmill.

2. Go slow

“Increase your speed slowly,” says Letchford, who advises starting on a lower setting (after you clip in, of course) before ramping up to your top speed. Starting out the gates with a high speed puts you at a higher risk of injury.

3. Keep it turned off

Personal trainer and gym owner of nearly two decades, Garry Jedkins, creator of aktv (a mobile app where you can earn money for exercising), had some advice here, too—and it sounds like a no-brainer, but oftentimes isn’t. “The best and first tip that comes to mind when operating a treadmill is to make sure you turn the treadmill off when not being used,” he says. “It sounds like the most obvious thing, but you have no idea how often I’ve seen injuries caused to someone who walked onto a treadmill, thinking it was off and suddenly being thrown backwards. I’ve been a personal trainer for almost 20 years and it has even happened to me.”

Jeffers echoes this sentiment. “Try to avoid jumping on or off an already running treadmill,” he says. “And if it’s absolutely necessary to do so, always hold on to the safety railing.”

4. Be EXTRA cautious

Erica Stenz, trainer and VP of Fitness Development at Barry’s Bootcamp—notorious for their incredibly challenging treadmill workouts—says that even if you’re a treadmill pro, it’s important to still be as cautious as a beginner. In fact, she likens it to driving. “Running on a treadmill can be like driving a car; the more you do it, the easier it becomes,” she says, noting that self awareness is crucial. “You are propelling your body on a powerful machine. Similar to a 16-year-old first-time driver on the road, they'll take it much slower to make sure their safety is [prioritized] and their form is in check.”

Essentially, pretend you’re a newbie. Stenz has been coaching treadmill-centric classes at Barry's for seven years of the 12 years she’s been a trainer, and notices that her newbies at Barry’s are “much more cautious and self-aware when walking, jogging, or running—especially sprinting—on the treadmill.” But, she says, the more frequent fliers can be a little more cavalier—which can be dangerous. “After hundreds of classes, you can lose that critical self-awareness, so it's important to ground yourself in the basics and surroundings.”

You’ll get a better workout by paying attention to your body, though. “Better form means better runs, and even as you rack up more classes you should keep your form top priority along with your safety,” says Stenz.

5. Focus, focus, focus

Be in the moment, know what’s going on around you, and try to eliminate any distractions. “Always make sure shoe laces are tied, preferably double-knotted before running,” says Jeffers. Are there kids around you? Pets? Let’s make sure they’re in a safe place and aren’t going to come near a large, running, high-speed machine.

“Try to always be aware of your surroundings!” says Jedkins, reminding us that knowing whether or not the machine is off is part of this. Jeffers also recommends that you “limit distractions by not using cell phones or other handheld devices while on the treadmill.” So… no TikTok or texting for now. Focus on your workout.

And you know… if all else fails, Letchford says there is another, super simple option. “Run outside.”

Now that's outta the way, give this tread workout a go:

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