Tips for Treadmill Workouts

We put together our tips for treadmill workouts in response to many of you who have a treadmill collecting dust after a few months. Some of you just don’t seem to get an optimal workout from it. You may have bought a treadmill and then quickly got bored; or maybe you haven't seen the results you were expecting. In both instances, the problem isn’t the treadmill. The problem is understanding treadmill exercise und staying motivated.

Common Problems with Treadmill Workouts

One common mistake with treadmill exercise is simply stepping on and walking or jogging at the same speed for twenty or thirty minutes. This will quickly make you very tired and very bored. It also doesn’t make for an efficient workout.

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Another common mistake is starting out at the pace you want to maintain without warming up and without pacing yourself. Treadmill exercise like this will quickly lead to sore muscles and possibly injuries, not to mention frustration. It also means you aren’t using all of your lower body muscles effectively.

Tips for Safe Treadmill Workouts

There are several important elements to effective treadmill exercise. A few things to keep in mind are:

Treadmill Workouts

  • Always warm up. It is essential to stretch your muscles and warm them up slowly by walking at a speed of no more than 1.5 to 2 mph for a minute or two. Switching from the heels to the toes for thirty seconds each, then stretching out your stride for another minute will help stretch all muscles properly. If you’ve increased your level of fitness after a time, you can increase the speed of your warm-up to as fast as 4 mph, which is basically power-walking or a light jog.
  • Increase your workout slowly. You should stay at one level for four weeks before moving on to the next level of difficulty. Any faster and you risk over-tasking your muscles or sustaining an injury. This is one of the most important tips for treadmill workouts to keep in mind. Burn-out is frequently the result of trying to rush to results.
  • Always cool down. Hopping off the treadmill after running and sitting down is an invitation for muscle cramps or worse. You need to slow down the pace and allow your muscles and heart rate to return to normal while you are moving.

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Treadmill Exercise that Gets Results

Now let’s talk about getting results – safety is fine, but we know what you really want are tips for treadmill workouts that will help you lose fat and sculpt your body efficiently. One of the keys to efficient workouts on a treadmill is varying your speed. This not only provides a better cardiovascular workout, it will work different muscle groups as your stride changes.

No matter what kind of treadmill exercise you decide to pursue, always do a warm up, cool down and some stretching. In between, you can choose between different types of workouts depending on the results you are looking for. While all of them will yield results in each area, you can certainly target your approach.

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Cardiovascular Treadmill Workouts

Treadmill Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise depends on your heart rate – you want to focus on keeping your heart rate up without pushing it too high. Heart rate monitors are important with this type of workout. Ideally, you want to spend most of the time on the treadmill breathing hard but not gasping for air. You should be able to talk, but not as easily as if you were simply standing around.

Walking is the key to good cardio treadmill workouts. For the first four weeks, you should try for twenty minutes of walking at a pace of about 4-8 mph, depending on your comfort level. Adding ten minutes for the stretching, warm-up and cool-down, you’ll spend a half-hour each time. For the next five weeks of treadmill exercise, add ten minutes to your walking time. Do this until you are spending a total of sixty minutes on the treadmill at a time. To keep it interesting, you can change the incline slightly but adjust your speed accordingly to stay in that target heart rate range.

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You will get cardio benefits from these treadmill workouts, but they will also give you a more effective calorie burn and work more groups of muscles.

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Studies have shown that varying your heart rate and the intensity of your workout actually increases your metabolism more than exercising at the same rate for a prolonged length of time. What that means for you is that you should vary how fast you are walking or running when you are on the treadmill.

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The intervals can last anywhere between one and five minutes each, but each interval should be either faster or slower than the interval before. Here are some examples of incorporating interval training in your treadmill workouts.

Treadmill Workout

  • Sprint Intervals – After your warm-up, walk at a moderate speed for three to five minutes at a time, with one minute intervals in between where you increase your speed to either a fast walk or a sprint. Alternate your pace for a half-hour until your cool-down. Every four weeks, increase the sprint intervals by one minute until they reach 3-4 minutes each.
  • Incline Intervals – These involve using the incline settings on your treadmill, so they are more suited to treadmills that have automatic incline adjustment. With these, you focus on varying the incline on which you’re working. After warming up, walk for five minutes, then raise the treadmill incline about 5° or 6° and continue your treadmill workouts at this incline for five minutes. (Read our article on treadmill hill training).

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You may have to slow down slightly when the incline is raised, but you will be working harder. Alternate your treadmill exercise until you’ve worked for a half-hour plus your cool-down. Every four weeks you can increase the incline by a few percent. With this type of exercise, you don’t lengthen the time you spend working out (unlike the Sprint and Cardio Workouts), but you will be increasing the difficulty.

Put Variety Into Your Treadmill Workouts

After three or four months of following these treadmill exercise guidelines, you should be experienced enough to begin varying them yourself. Some ways to “mix it up” include:

  • Increase your speed during a few of the intervals every four weeks. If you only do this with one or two intervals, you will be more apt to be successful over time. The best time to push yourself with an interval is mid-way through your treadmill workout.
  • Try varying your stride during the flat incline intervals periodically. By stretching out your legs to an unusually long stride you will be using muscle groups that may not otherwise “see a lot of action.”
  • You can combine sprint intervals and incline intervals. For instance, five minutes of moderate treadmill walking, a two minute sprint, five minutes of walking, then five minutes at an incline, then another sprint, etc.

Going Online for Treadmill Workouts

Personal trainers are always an option for a custom-designed workout, but most of us can’t afford one. There is an alternative solution that you can now use online that provides a very good set of treadmill exercise guidelines tailored to your needs.

If your treadmill is iFit compatible, you can let your VCR, CD or MP3 player automatically control your iFit compatible fitness equipment. If your treadmill is not set up for iFit, you can exercise with the help of this treadmill workout DVD. You will get the most out of your workouts and enjoy the motivational coaching.

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If you have an iPod or MP3 player check out Yuri Elkaim's Treadmill Trainer™ Running Programs. Yuri is Canada's top trainer; he provides audio guided instruction and motivation alongside heart pumping music which you can enjoy while running on your treadmill or outdoors. The Treadmill Trainer running workouts are so effective because of their interval design. Bouts of high and lower intensity allow the runner to get a better training effect with less time running.

The most important tip for treadmill workouts we can give you is this – keep at it every day! In a few months, you’ll look in the mirror and realize that it was worth every minute.

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