When switching to a treadmill, first, be mindful of safety. Familiarize yourself with the width of the belt, length of belt and the features of the treadmill (many have a screech noise if your foot placement is close to the back, and comes with safety clips that will shut off the belt). Second, play around with the feel of your stride on the belt and try to make it as natural as you can. Gradually progress to not holding on to the hand rails, because your body needs to move the arms to distribute the torque forces that you are generating.
On a treadmill, and with a shorter stride length, there is only one way to maintain the same speed that you would have if you were off of the treadmill and that is to increase the rate of each foot strike. Pace is a simple equation because it is just the rate of each foot strike multiplied by the distance covered with each strike. So, if your stride length naturally shortens on a treadmill then to maintain the same speed you make up that decrease by striding faster with each step.
This, as you might imagine, can be a significant shift to the body as the muscles are contracting more frequently and every foot strike is slowing your momentum as the force of foot strike pushes back against you, thus making it even harder to overcome. And the shorter stride is not using as much muscle as a longer stride.
So, when you shift to a treadmill be mindful that it is not the same to your body, and to adapt your body will require adjustments. If you are on a treadmill with a long enough deck, safely take bigger steps. Focus on pushing through and elongating your stride because this will engage more muscle as well as lessen the new stresses that the treadmill is bringing to your exercise.
Regardless of how much you like being on a treadmill, your gait will be different unless you consciously override your body’s natural tendency. Paying attention can hopefully make your transitioning to and from treadmill exercise days easier, as well as increase the benefits to be gained even if all of your walking and running is done on a treadmill.
As always, let me know how I can help.