Walking or running on treadmills can help you reach and maintain a healthy body fat percentage, reduce your heart disease risk, increase your stamina and boost your mood. But over time, if you stick to the same treadmill workout, your body will adapt and your fitness gains will plateau. Incorporate these tips to maximize your treadmill workouts so that you're burning more calories and more effectively developing your cardiorespiratory system.
Respect the Warm-Up
While you may be tempted to hop on the treadmill and immediately get going on your workout, you'll have a much more effective training session if you take 5 minutes to go through a proper warm-up. Warm-ups are designed to wake up your nervous system and increase your body temperature and breathing rate so that your body is prepared to work at a higher workload. If you pass on your warm-up, the first few minutes of your workout won't burn as many calories or develop your cardiovascular system as effectively.
Begin each treadmill workout with a 3-minute walk at a relatively brisk pace - think 2.5 to 3 mph. Then, jog for 2 to 3 minutes at a slightly slower pace than you're your regular run. If you run at 5 mph, for example, set the pace at 4 or 4.5 mph for jogging.
Increase the Incline
When you're on a treadmill, the ground moves underneath you rather than your legs having to push off the ground to propel your forward. Running on a treadmill with no incline is similar to running slightly downhill outside. Studies have shown that heart rate doesn't increase to the same rate when running on a treadmill compared to running outside at the same pace.
You can help better mimic the stress of running outside by slightly upping the incline on the treadmill. An ideal incline for mimicking running outside is 1 to 2%. Begin with a 1% incline setting for your treadmill workouts and see how you feel. After a couple weeks of regularly working out at that setting, consider bumping up the incline to 2%.
Using treadmill intervals, rather than running at a steady pace, are more efficient for burning calories and boosting metabolism. Not only will you burn more calories during the actual workout, but also your metabolic rate remains elevated for the rest of the day, thereby burning even more calories even when you're at work or resting at home. Intervals, which involve regularly changing the speed throughout the session, are also effective at increasing running speed.
Interval workouts can be structured in many ways, but here's a simple interval session for those just starting out. This workout will be done at a set incline of 1%.
0-3 minute: jog at 4.5.
5-6 minute: jog at 5.0
6-7 minute: run at 6.0
7-8 minute: jog at 5.0
8-9 minute: run at 6.5
9-10 minute: walk briskly at 4.0
Repeat this structure three times for a complete 30-minute interval workout.
Gradually Increase Your Speed
On the days you're not completing intervals, boost the number of calories burned by gradually increasing your treadmill speed throughout your training session. Running faster burns more calories, but you won't be able to maintain a fast speed the entire workout. After your warm-up, begin your treadmill workout with a brisk walk at 4.0. Every three to five minutes, increase your speed slightly, like a 0.5 to 1 mph bump, so that you finish your session running near your top speed.
Finish with a Burner
Many treadmill fans do prefer to maintain a steady pace throughout their workout because they feel like they can zone out. If you're someone who prefers the treadmill because it can be methodic and mind tranquilizing and aren't interested in fussing with intervals or worrying about gradually increasing the speed, consider adding in a burner at the end of your workout. A burner is a short, high-intensity bout of exercise tacked onto your workout. They have been shown to effectively increase metabolic rate, thereby supporting the reaching and maintaining of a healthy body fat percentage, and can also boost mental toughness.
After you finish your steady-state treadmill workout, add on three to five minutes of a mix of high-intensity sprints and high-incline walks. For the first minute, increase the speed on the treadmill to an intensity that requires you to sprint. For the second minute, slow down the speed to 4.0 mph, but increase the incline to 5.0%. For the final minute, flatten out the treadmill incline and bump up your speed again to a sprint.
Once you're finished with the burner, reduce the speed on the treadmill to 2.5 to 3 mph and walk for 3 to 5 minutes to allow your body to safely and properly cool down to resting levels.