All too commonly, treadmill users rest their hands on the rails at their sides while they work out. Although this might seem, at first glance, a harmless nod to keeping one’s balance, it most often progresses from a resting hand to a gripping hand, and one that supports some of the exerciser’s weight during the workout.
Leaning on the treadmill rails while you work out will significantly decrease the positive effects and benefits of your workout, so it’s to your advantage to wean yourself from the practice. Having said that, many exercisers find it harder than they predicted to let go and run hands-free, so here are a few thoughts to help you let go.
Treadmill Rails as “Security Blanket”
Plenty of treadmill users simply feel uncomfortable with the idea of letting go. Perhaps fueled by cartoon-like television images, they might even imagine themselves being flung off the back end of the treadmill when they lose their balance or slow down on the tread.
If you find your hands returning reflexively to the rails with feelings of fear, maybe it’s time to stage your own version of “Treadmill MythBuster.” Set your treadmill at the speed you usually use, and simply stand on it. Yes, it moves you backward until you need to hop off, but it didn’t fling you across the room, did it? If the treadmill hasn’t injured you while you stood still on it, it’s not going to buck you off when you’re walking or running, either–even if you do fall behind pace for a few steps.
If you still feel uncomfortable with the hands-free approach, start slower and get comfortable at a lower-than-workout speed before you kick the machine back up to its accustomed settings and start your real workout.
Your Handrail Habit May Have Affected Your Settings
Consider for a moment why the handrail habit is detrimental to your workout. Not only are you running or walking without your full weight on your feet, but you’re missing the added aerobic element of arm movement, which actually increases calorie consumption by a significant amount. Essentially, you’re making the workout easier for yourself–which may, in turn, mean that you have been working out at a higher treadmill setting than what you can truly handle without the handrails.
Although some exercisers balk at the idea of dialing back their workout settings, the end result will be entirely beneficial. You’ll be working at the level that actually pushes you (unassisted), and you’ll be gaining all the benefits of the workout which you were denying yourself when you used the handrails as your crutch. You can experiment with the different speeds, inclines, and intervals while keeping your hands off the rails, and if you feel uncomfortable at first, remind yourself that it’s merely because you’re accustomed to running or walking with your arms anchored. Think of it like taking off your treadmill training-wheels, and you’ll be training like a pro in no time!