When it comes to using the treadmill, most people don’t get close to maximizing their cardio workouts. Like so many other things in fitness, you get out of the treadmill what you put into it.
“Many of us are guilty of hopping on a treadmill and completing the same run we do every time,” says Cynthia Mendolia, an exercise specialist at the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital.
“These five basic tips are crucial to bringing out the results you want and keeping you mentally stimulated during your treadmill workout,” she explains.
- Think diversity — speed, effort and longer distance.
You can walk or run on the treadmill, but speed and length of time are not always going to be the final determination of calories burned.
You can slow down the belt speed to walk backward slowly, perform walking lunges or do side shuffles at a speed of 0.5 to 1.5 mph. This will help fire your prime muscle movers in your lower body — quads, hamstrings and glutes — and build a better foundation for a stronger lower body.
By doing this, the consistent pace of the belt works to your advantage by carrying you forward and helps you keep a strong pace. Also, slow down the treadmill at the end of your walk or run, and add a set of eight to 15 repetitions of lunges to burn more calories.
- Add time to your walk or run.
If you are an avid treadmill user, choose a longer time on the machine. Try to add more time, speed and incline twice a week in order to burn more calories. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds who adds 10 more minutes at 2.0 incline for 2 miles would burn 250 calories.
- Change up the incline.
Kick up your workout by increasing the incline. Try an incline up between 2 and 6 percent for one to two minutes; let your speed drop 0.1 or 0.2 mph; then bring your incline back down to zero for that same amount of time and repeat. Once you’ve mastered maintaining your effort on a hill, work to maintain speed.
- Create a circuit for yourself. Here’s an example:
• Warm up on the treadmill for 10 minutes at a speed of 1 to 1.5 mph.
• Get off and do squats, lunges and bicep curls.
• Get back on and move the incline up between 2 and 4 percent for 1 to 2 minutes, and let your speed drop 0.1 or 0.2 mph.
• Bring the incline back down to zero for that same amount of time and repeat.
- Consider add-ons.
• Listen to music from your personal playlist.
• Swing your arms while walking, as long as you feel balanced.
• Add light weights (1 to 2 pounds) while walking or running.
• Try not to socialize while on the treadmill — stay focused on your workout.
• Add a loaded backpack (2 to 5 pounds) for a short period of time.
“The body is designed to move every day,” Mendolia says. “With a few additions to your exercise time, you can burn extra calories at the same time.”