If you’re like me, there’s something lonely in the corner of your gym. It’s a treadmill, but, unlike the others, there’s not a queue of people trying to use it. In fact, I think I’ve only seen anyone on it once. And the reason, it’s curved – and, frankly, everyone’s a bit scared of it! I was too – so I asked a few experts for advice.
What is a Curved Treadmill?
When I first wrote this piece, there was only one curved treadmill on the market, The Woodway Curve but since then lots of different types of curved treadmills have appeared – but, to make it simple, if stuck in the corner of your gym, is a treadmill with a curved, or scooped out looking belt (some people call it a banana treadmill as the belt is curved like a banana) that’s the machine we’re talking about here.
It’s known as a self propelled treadmill or a self powered treadmill as it’s your efforts that make the belt move. That’s right, no setting the speed and just following what the machine tells you.
With this, the faster you run, the faster it goes (and vice versa) and this, they claim, creates a whole heap of curved treadmill benefits.
The Main Benefits of Using a Curved Treadmill
The fact that you make the belt move yourself means it gives a harder workout than the motorised treadmills normally found in the average gym – in fact, they say you’ll burn 30 percent more calories than normal and recruit more muscles on the back of your legs (excellent).
Plus, because it’s not motorised it can also have a softer tread than the normal treadmills making it particularly good for long distance running as the impact on your joints is lessened.
‘Curved treadmills are also great for interval training as you can control your speed to a millisecond,’ says movement specialist Vanessa Leone from Sydney. ‘This also makes it much more related to outdoor running where your pace varies and is much less dangerous than fiddling around with speed levers on electric treadmills. To speed up you run closer to the front of the belt and to slow down you move towards the back and slow down your cadence.’
My Experience on a Curved Treadmill
I was very keen to have a play and hopped on happily. In theory, as Vanessa said, it’s simple, the closer to the middle you stand the slower it goes, the nearer the top you stand the faster it goes….unless you’re like me, who normally runs right at the top of the treadmill near the control panel.
Then you spend your time on the Woodway Curve alternating between a state of slow speed but high anxiety as you’re not close enough to grab the front if you fall off and a state of high speed and absolute terror as you forget and head back to your happy place close to the front only to find the thing speeding up to 13+kph.
Seriously, I think I burned more calories via anxiety than through leg movement. And I’m pretty sure that photo above is so blurry because I was shaking.
I’m not sure it’s for me, not least as when I do run on the treadmill I tend to go into zone-out mode – and on this I can see high potential for that ending in humiliation and nose bleeding. It’s a workout that needs concentration.
But, if there’s one in a gym near you do give it a try. It’s definitely intriguing – and as the comments below show, a lot of people REALLY love it!
So to make it easier, I asked a couple of brilliant trainers for their top tips. Vanessa you’ve already heard from above, and Fiona Gilbert an exercise physiologist and biohacker based in California. They’ve come up with some great tips on using the Woodway Curve – or any other kind of curved treadmill.
Nine Tips To Make Using a Curved Treadmill Easier
Number One: How to Get Onto a Curved Treadmill
- Step up on it from the side. ‘The Curve is quite tall, so if you are short like me, this can seem daunting,’ says Fiona. ‘Use the side rails to help you and step up onto the side of it next to the belt. Once you are stable, step onto the middle of the belt.
- The middle of the belt is the “neutral” zone. The closer you are to the display console, the faster the belt will go. To go slow, you want to be positioned between the middle and the back of the machine. Just think of the shape of the Curve, the closer you are to the top, your body weight and gravity will naturally pull you faster.
- Keep your hands on the side rails (not directly in front of you like on a normal treadmill because that will speed up the belt) as you start walking slowly on the Curve. It’s going to feel a little weird because of the shape of the machine.
- Breathe. You are in control of the speed. If you get nervous, just step off the belt onto the sides again. The Curve will stop. Alternatively, you can stop walking and you will “drift” towards the rear of the belt and the belt will stop.’
Eight Other Top Tips for The Curve.
- Don’t look at your feet. ‘This can be hard for nervous users but I have found that when people look at their feet, they tend to get more nervous and end up walking closer to the front of the belt, which makes it go faster. Look ahead and keep your hands on the side rail,’ says Fiona.
- Avoid the front rail. ‘Don’t hang on to the rail in front of you like regular treadmills where the heart rate sensors usually are. If you do, it will put you too high up the Curve, which will make the belt go faster,’ says Fiona. If you have to hold on, think sides.
- Watch your Posture: Look ahead, pull your shoulders back, breathe – which will also help stop you looking at your feet.’
- ‘The key to finding your rhythm on a curved treadmill is to stay relaxed,’ says Vanessa. ‘The more tension you have in your core, shoulders, neck and arms the harder it will be for you to move. Being nervous while trying these treadmills initially is perfectly normal. However, nerves equal tension so taking a few deep breaths will help you relax.’
- Start by walking only on the surface at a pace that you feel comfortable and try shaking your arms to loosen your body. ‘Stay as close to the middle of the belt and the middle of the curve as possible. This is the best position on the curve to have an instant effect on your speed and cadence’ says Vanessa.
- As you feel more comfortable walking, start to increase your speed into a natural jog. ‘You want to mimic as close to a natural jog outside as possible. Don’t forget that standing too close to the front of the curve will increase your speed dramatically so unless you want to sprint you want to try and stay in the middle of the belt,’ says Vanessa.
- She then says to try and streamline your running technique by using your arms and driving them with your stride to achieve a 90/90 posture. This means one hand will be right in front of your face while the other is bent at the elbow and pointing out behind you. Try to be as tall as you can and place your feet as softly as you can while maintaining this upright posture. Breathing is extremely important so try and get into a rhythm with this to match your stride.
- Lastly. Fiona suggests that once you are more confident, engage Beast mode: Remember, the makers of the Curve claim you burn 30 percent more calories on their machine because of the level of muscle recruitment. If you want a truly challenging workout, quite literally, head to the top of the Curve! You’ll run harder and faster.
Looking for a Curved Treadmill Workout
So, now you’ve got the hang of using the Woodway Curve, or whatever kind of curved running machine your gym has, what should you do on it. Well, one of the major benefits of a curved treadmill is that it’s absolutely brilliant for doing intervals on as you can just change your speed yourself by running a bit closer to the top. So, Fiona Gilbert put together this curve workout for us…
Walk 2 minutes (warm up, get comfortable)
Jog/Run 15 seconds
Walk 45 seconds
Repeat jog/run/walk for 10 minutes
For Intermediate Users
Walk 2 minutes
Jog/Run 30 seconds
Walk 30 seconds
Repeat jog/run/walk for 10-15 minutes
For the superfit and those used to the Curve
Walk 3 minutes
Easy jog 2 minutes
Run 1 minute
Easy jog 1 minute
Rest 15 seconds
Repeat run/jog/rest for 20 minutes