There’s a reason why super-fit celebs like Sandra Bullock, Amanda Seyfried and Kim Kardashian reportedly love hot treadmill workouts like Barry’s Bootcamp - the treadmill gets it done. The popular gym machine can burn up to 600 calories an hour (more if you incorporate sprints) and it’s also a super convenient way to sweat, since you can find one in just about any fitness club or home gym.
Problem is, if you hop on without a plan, the treadmill can also be boring. So we wanted to know: How can you make the most of your time on the tread?
To find out, we tapped founder of Running Strong Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., and her 25 years of experience with athletes. Hamilton’s response when we asked her what the ultimate treadmill workout might look like: “To answer a complicated question in the simplest way, best practice is to run a variety of workouts throughout the week.”
The good news is that you don’t have to run fast for a long period of time to see results.
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“You should run at a hard effort, followed by a recovery for the best calorie expenditure,” Hamilton said. A “hard” effort can be achieved by either increasing your speed or upping your incline, Hamilton notes, and by taking the time to fully recover, you’ll be ready to go again at a maximum effort and - more importantly - you’ll remain injury-free.
Oh, and don’t skimp on the first or last minutes of your treadmill session, either.
“Warm-up and cool down are vital, and the less experience you have on a treadmill or with running, the more of a warm-up you will need,” Hamilton said. She suggests at least a five-minute warm-up for intermediate level runners, and three to five minutes for more advanced runners. During these easy-pace portions of your workout, you should be able to easily carry on a conversation.
Ready to transform your cardio sessions? Hamilton helped us create the ultimate, modifiable treadmill workout that will change and grow with you. Like we said, the only treadmill workout you’ll ever need.
Change the Ratio
Keep your warm-up time the same, but change how much recovery you need. Go hard for two minutes and recover for one. As your cardio endurance improves, add one minute to each hard effort and recover for an equal or shorter amount of time.
Instead of recovering for two minutes on the treadmill, hit the pause button and do two minutes of an upper body strength move. Incorporate bicep curls, tricep extensions, or push-ups - anything that doesn’t put any additional strain on your legs is fair game. Then, get back to those treadmill intervals and repeat.
Change the Speed or Intervals
As you progress with this workout, you’ll notice a strength gain in your legs and extra air in your lungs. Typically, after doing it consistently for three to six weeks, you’ll be ready increase the challenge. You can do that by slightly increasing the speed, or by changing the interval durations so that you are doing a three-minute hard interval and a two-minute recovery interval, or even a 3:1 ratio.
“Be wary of doing too much too soon,” Hamilton said. “You should feel invigorated at the end, and not completely exhausted.”
Take things slowly at first, listen to your body, and recover properly after each hard effort.