How to get the most out of your treadmill: 5 Top Tips from a PT
There’s no denying that a treadmill is a fantastic training platform, whatever your fitness level. When we think of a treadmill workout, it’s easy to picture someone chugging away at a constant, flat speed. Not only can this be somewhat unappealing, but it also doesn’t do the grand old treadmill justice! There’s a reason every gym contains treadmills as standard – and it’s not just because running is the most “obvious” exercise. Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your treadmill workouts.
1. Entertain mind and body
As with anything in life, it’s great to mix things up. We don’t read the same book over and over again, and so performing the same old treadmill routine is also not going to get the best results. In order to progress - build endurance and stamina, speed and overall fitness – it’s important to change up what you do. Play around with speed, incline and time to keep things interesting. For example, you could power walk on a low incline for one minute, then run fast and flat for 30 secs, repeat and then walk on a higher incline, etc. It all makes for a more fun and effective workout!
2. Go virtual
Many treadmills come with a range of programmes or apps, such as NordicTrack’s iFit which opens up a world of exciting programmes - and you can run real-life routes to keep things interesting. The treadmill will change your speed and incline to emulate the route so that you get that outdoors feel, but without the impact. Programmes will mix up the intensity so that you are never running at a continuous pace. The result is a far more effective workout, keeping your body guessing and having to work harder.
3. Get walking
You might think that getting on a treadmill and not running or jogging is a wasted session. I beg to (strongly) differ. One of the best workouts you can put your body through is walking. Of course, there’s a little more to it than that, and this is where the incline function comes in. By increasing the incline, you are making your lower body work much, much harder. Additionally, at a decent gradient, you will absolutely get the heart rate up, but at a slower, more manageable pace. The beauty of this is that you can start with a lower incline and speed and gradually (or quickly if you are happy to) increase these. You can also take these settings up and down throughout a workout to have intervals, allowing some recovery periods.
4. Work in your target heart rate zone
Knowing that you’re training in the right zone for YOU is a fantastic way to get the very best out of your workout. Many treadmills come with built-in heart rate sensors. Even more effective and accurate is a heart rate monitor watch or strap. To work out your target heart rate, you first need your maximum heart rate. A simple calculation. Simply minus your age from 220. So, if you’re 40 years old, maximum heart rate would be 180 beats per minute. Generally, it’s advised to work between 50 and 85% of your MHR, so a 50% level for a 40-year-old would be half of 180 – 90bpm. It can be helpful to know where you are so that you can ensure you’re challenging yourself sufficiently. It will also help you to learn when you’re perhaps pushing yourself too far too! That said, using an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale also works well. Usually, this ranges from 1-10, with 1 being low. As you exercise, you periodically ask yourself where on the scale you are. If you feel you’re getting close to a 10, that’s another sign to slow down a little!
5. Complement your workout with strength training
As a PT, I am always encouraging clients to work on both cardio and muscular strength. Keeping your muscles and bones strong will help you to run better, whilst decreasing the chance of injury. So, enjoy your treadmill workouts, but make sure you bring in some total body strength training 3 times a week too. These can be just 20 minutes using some free weights such as dumbbells, resistance machines or body weight exercises. You’ll increase your metabolism and encourage strength and tone.
When it comes to exercise, it’s important to ensure you ENJOY what you’re doing. Therefore, ensuring you mix things up and keep yourself challenged paves the way for success.