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Treadmill basics — step by step tips to get the most out of your workout

Walk on a treadmill to create a more structured workout than just taking a walk.

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise because it’s easily accessible — you can walk inside, outside, for long distances, short distances, and fast or slow. Or, you can head into a gym (or that workout corner in your house) and walk on a treadmill to create a more structured workout.

The treadmill is great because you can adjust the speed and incline manually or choose a preset workout.

Health and fitness expert Stephanie Mansour is photographed mid-stride on a treadmill at HiFi Fitness at 820 N. Orleans.
Health and fitness expert Stephanie Mansour walks on a treadmill at HiFi Fitness at 820 N Orleans.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Today we’re explaining the treadmill basics for a manually set workout.

First, with the treadmill “off,” step onto the footbed. Then hit “start,” which is usually at the center of the machine’s console.

You can hold onto the treadmill handles for support, or you can walk normally with your arms pumping forward and back at your sides.

Pull your navel in toward your spine as you step with your heel and then toe, on each foot.

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Relax your shoulders but keep your shoulders back instead of rounding forward.

When walking on a treadmill, pull your navel in toward your spine as you step with your heel and then toe, on each foot.
When walking on a treadmill, pull your navel in toward your spine as you step with your heel and then toe, on each foot.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Increase the speed to a comfortable walking speed. This may be anywhere from “2.0” to “3.5.”

At the onset, keep the incline setting at “0.” This will mimic your regular everyday walking, but since you don’t have to pay attention to environmental factors like uneven pavement or different terrain, you can focus more on your form.

To turn this into a treadmill workout, I recommend doing 1 minute slow and then 1 minute fast. So walk at a slower pace (perhaps “2.0”) and then speed it up to a higher pace for the next minute (perhaps 3.5). Alternate back and forth between the setting for a 20-minute walking workout.

Alternatively, if you’d like to keep the walking speed the same but make it more challenging, you can start changing the incline on the treadmill. Keep your walking speed the same, let’s say at “3.0”and keep it at that incline and speed settings for one minute.

Then, for the next minute increase the incline up to “3.0” (or higher if you are comfortable with the upward pitch of the treadmill). Walk on this incline and really work the quads and glutes more as you fight your way uphill! Then lower the incline down again and repeat this alternate incline of “0” and then “3.0” for a total of 20 minutes.

If you’re keeping track of your heart rate, the target heart rate for a workout requires a little bit of math. It’s recommended that you exercise within 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for at least a minimum of 20 minutes to get the best results from aerobic exercise.

Treadmill consoles provide manual settings or pre-set workout preferences.
Treadmill consoles provide manual settings or pre-set workout preferences.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

So, how do you find your maximum heart rate? Subtract your age from 220. If you’re 50, your maximum heart rate would be 220 minus 50 or 170. So stay within 55 to 85 percent of 170, which comes out to approximately 94 to 145 beats per minute (You can also use a fitness tracker which will do all the calculating for you.)

Take your pulse by placing two fingers on your neck or on the inside of your wrist and counting how many beats you feel per minute. That will let you know what your heart rate is, and then you can determine if you’re within the optimal heart rate to get the maximum cardio benefits from your walking workout!

NOTE: Stephanie Mansour was photographed on location at HiFi Fitness, 820 N. Orleans.

Stephanie Mansour wants you to ‘“step up” your fitness regimen. Mansour coaches private clients in weight loss, provides fitness/health/lifestyles advice on national TV shows, and offers her free 21 Day Challenge online. Check out her fitness tips every Thursday in the Well section of the Chicago Sun-Times. And visit her website at stepitupwithsteph.com.