How Do I Begin Using a Manual Treadmill?

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A manual treadmill is a budget-friendly workout option that's also efficient on space and requires no electricity. Beginning your exercise program with a manual treadmill can present its own challenges and benefits, but if you plan ahead by knowing what to expect, keeping your safety in mind and learning how to use the monitoring devices, you can walk your way to a leaner, healthier body.

Expectations

  • The main difference between a manual treadmill and a motorized version is that you provide the power. If you're just starting out with your manual treadmill, don't expect to jog or run on it, since the machine requires quite a bit of effort to operate just at walking level. For beginners, this may be just fine, since you don't want to overtrain as you initially start your exercise program.

    A manual treadmill won't have as many program options as a motorized version, either. While electric treadmills at the gym have several pre-programmed workouts that involve repeated changes in difficulty and incline, a manual version will only move as fast as you can, and may have a limited number of incline settings to choose from. Once you realize what you can expect from your machine, you can realistically plan your workout.

Safety

  • Bad posture, such as holding the rails too tightly or hunching over while walking, can affect the quality of your workout. This can especially impact walking on a manual treadmill, since you'll be using your own force to power the belt and may rely too much on the support bars while you push with your feet and legs. Doing this can give you less benefits than if you can move your arms back and forth, adding aerobic value to the session.

    If you need to hold the bars, stand up straight and grip the sides loosely to avoid strain. Some models are more difficult to move than others, but your treadmill session should make you feel those muscles working yet not put you in any overwhelming pain. One positive safety aspect of a manual treadmill is that you don't need the emergency switch worn around the wrist which stops the machine if you stumble; since you power the treadmill, a stumble will automatically stop the belt.

Monitoring Gear

  • Most treadmills, both manual and motorized, have some sort of battery-powered monitoring device attached to measure heart rate, miles traveled, how many calories you're using and how fast you're going. Become familiar with this device before you start by reading the manual and know how to use it.

    Research what your target heart rate and activity zones should be; your highest heart rate should be the number 220 minus your age, and your target range should be up to 80 percent of that highest number. Knowing this information allows you to work out and stay safe, especially since you're exerting much more effort to walk on a manual treadmill. Of course, it's always best to consult your doctor before starting an exercise program to protect your health and ensure the optimal results from your workout.

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