Never Get Injured on a Treadmill: 5 Things to Know

Every year, 24,000 Americans visit the ER with treadmill injuries. Here's how to stay safe.
Every year, 24,000 Americans visit the ER with treadmill injuries. Here's how to stay safe. Lear Miller / Getty Images

Treadmills are an ideal training tool to control your running speed and avoid foul weather, but they also send roughly 24,000 Americans to the emergency room every year. That sounds scary, but for reference, that's still less than half of all annual bicycle-related injuries. David Goldberg's high-profile death from a treadmill fall is a very uncommon occurrence with an average of just three every year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

"It's very rare that someone falls off a treadmill," says John Henwood, the founder and CEO of TheRUN indoor running studio. "Instead of worrying about the worst thing, just relax and have fun."

Still, it's best to play it safe. To make sure you don't wind up at a hospital, we reached out to treadmill-training experts to get their advice for finishing every training session on your feet.

Face Forward
This seems obvious, but avoid any lateral skips or sideways footwork says Debora Warner, the founder and program director of the Mile High Run Club. And look straight ahead into the monitor, mirror, or space in front of you, says Henwood.

Know When to Slow
When the pace start to feel unsustainable, listen to your body and slow down, says Warner. She recommends limiting max efforts to one minute. Henwood says his workouts rely on a perceived exertion scale of 1-10. "If you hit a 9 out of 10, dial back." That's like the end of an interval, with a comfortable run being a 5. 

Another sign Henwood tells his instructors to look for is runners drifting to the back half of the machine's tread. If you can't stay comfortably in the middle, knock down your speed. 

Slow Down Manually
Resist the urge to jump onto the sides after a sprint — you might miss or your sweaty hands might slip on the handles. And don't hit the emergency stop for a quick halt. Instead, both Henwood and Warner recommend manually slowing the treadmill. 

Only Run When You're Mentally Focused
"If you feel faint or dizzy, you shouldn't be on a treadmill," says Henwood. Just like driving a car or riding a bike, you wouldn't take on a potentially hazardous activity if you're feeling unwell. 

Don't Rely on the Emergency Clip
The red clip on a string that turns off the tread might seem like a failsafe, but if you really need it, you're already in trouble, says Henwood. "It'll stop if you come off, but you'll be safer and have a better time if you're not thinking about an emergency."