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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

4 Treadmill Workouts that Are Actually Fun

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When it comes to exercise, the treadmill is a reliable go-to option for cardio. Problem is, the second your foot hits the speeding belt you’ll remember: Running in place can be really boring.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to mix up your indoor run to engage your brain and maximize results. “The treadmill is convenient and allows people to exercise in all sorts of climates,” says Bill Pierce, director of the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training and author of Run Less, Run Faster. “And you can be creative with how to use it.” Here, running and fitness experts offer suggestions for how to spice up the time you spend on the treadmill.

Pick a Card Patti Finke, an exercise physiologist and certified running coach with the Road Runners Club of America at Team Oregon, has a card game that she plays with the runners she trains.

Grab four index cards, and on each write the word run, run fast, jog, or walk, she suggests. Place the cards in an envelope, which you can keep on top of the treadmill’s control panel. Warm up for a mile and then pick a card. Do what the card says for 3 to 4 minutes. If the card says run, start at an easy training pace; if it says jog, stick to your warm-up and cool down pace. Run fast means to go fast enough to push yourself, but never so fast that you’re going all out.

“We’ve done variations of this workout for years. People like the variety and not knowing what they’re going to get,” Finke says. “We all know how easy it is to get stuck running one pace.”

Total-Body Workout This routine, designed by Melissa Paris, a personal trainer in New York City, requires you to get on and off the treadmill, but boasts benefits for your arms, legs, and belly. “You’ll get cardio as well as some strength training,” she says. Plus, because the running portions involve quick bursts of sprints, you’ll burn plenty of calories, and the circuit takes only 35 minutes. You’ll need light, 3- to 5-pound weights nearby.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Warm up for 5 minutes with a light jog on the treadmill.
  • Hop off and do 15 pushups.
  • Get back on the treadmill. Run for 1 minute. Bump up the speed by about 1 to 1.5 mph and sprint for 30 seconds. You’ll repeat this interval pattern 3 times (1-minute run, 30-second sprint, 1 minute-run, 30-second sprint, 1-minute run, 30-second sprint).*
  • Hop off and hold a plank for 1 minute. Do 20 bicycle crunches.
  • Repeat the treadmill work. (Run for 1 minute, then sprint for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.)
  • Do a side plank, holding the pose on each side for 30 seconds. Complete 15 overhead press reps with a light weight.
  • Repeat the treadmill work. (Run for 1 minute, then sprint for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.)
  • Do 15 triceps dips on a chair or bench and 20 squats.
  • Cool down with a 5-minute jog

*Beginners can modify the treadmill portion so that they’re doing a 1-minute walk followed by a 30-second run, instead of running and sprinting.

Ladder This classic speed drill gradually increases the length of your interval by 1 to 2 minutes, rather than calling for a series of equal-length intervals. You’ll have some recovery time between each of your fast runs and then you’ll decrease your intervals by the same steady increments.

Here’s one way you could structure your ladder workout:

  • Warm up for 1 mile
  • Pick up your speed for 2 minutes (Finke recommends a 10-K pace for pickups, but you can choose a pace that feels like you’re going fast without going all out.)
  • Slow down and recover for 2 to 3 minutes
  • 4-minute pickup
  • 4- to 5-minute recovery run
  • 6-minute pickup
  • 6- to 7-minute recovery run

Depending on your fitness level, you may want to keep increasing your intervals. But you’ll eventually want to head back down, decreasing the length of your interval times in steady increments:

  • 6-minute pickup
  • 6- to 7-minute recovery run
  • 4-minute pickup
  • 4- to 5-minute recovery run
  • 2-minute pickup
  • 2- to 3-minute recovery run
  • Cool down

“This tends to be everyone’s favorite speed workout,” Finke says. “People love increasing distance and coming back down, because after you work hard, the workout keeps getting easier. People feel very good about that.”

The recovery period should be at least as long as your pickup, Finke says. Longer recovery times train your body to produce less lactate at each speedup, and lower lactate levels can allow you to run for longer without reaching exhaustion, which can lead to better performance.

TV Workout The television on your treadmill can be used for more than a distraction to pass the time. It can also help structure your workout. If you’re watching a half-hour show, the program should last about 22 minutes, with 8 minutes of commercials. “You could run hard for 22 minutes and take breaks during commercials,” says Pierce. “A lot of folks will also use music this way by running to the beat of music. They’ll go hard for one song and then slow down for the next.”

How do you feel about treadmill runs? Think you’ll try one of these not-boring workouts? Tell us in the comments!


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