A lot of people buy treadmills for a lot of different reasons. This means that the ‘perfect treadmill workout’ for you might be completely different to the best for me.
Some readers will be taking their first step with home fitness equipment. You might be starting from scratch, or maybe just looking for a simple and regular way to stay fit and get trim. Other readers will be taking their exercise more seriously, looking at ways to maximize their cardio workouts or calorie burns via higher intensity workouts. There are also a lot of people somewhere in between.
This page covers the best treadmill workouts for different types of runner, with links to places to get more detailed information where relevant. The types of routine you will find below are walking, fat burning, cardio, high-intensity and mixed.
By way of a general disclaimer, you should always consult with a medical professional before taking on any new physical / fitness training activity.
One thing to cover before getting started with the different types of workout is the ever-present boredom factor. Treadmill running, especially at a steady pace, can get dull very fast. Even if you push through individual workouts, the chances of you keeping up the routine week-in-week-out will be small.
For this reason you need to vary your workout. This can be done via interval training (the most common way), or even mixing treadmill and floor exercises. It can also be worth investing just a little more in a treadmill with built in entertainment capabilities… they can certainly keep you running for longer. For an overview of what kind of treadmill you can get for your money, see the main Best Treadmill Reviews page.
Most routines which mix up activity rely on having an adjustable incline. You’ll need a top end treadmill to enjoy an automatic incline that changes automatically as part of your program. Most mid-range models have this as a manual adjustment. Without an incline your options are more limited (though this should not stop you!). Check out this list of popular home treadmills with inclines for more.
Walking on your treadmill is not only for those brand new to this format or ‘coming up to speed’. If you walk briskly it can be a fat / calorie burner in its own right. This is ideal for those who are older, or have been away from fitness training for a long time. Just because you are walking does not mean you can skip the warm-up / warm-down phases.
Once you have varied the speed of your walking workout, adding a light jog (and then moving on from there as your fitness improves) is an easy next step.
While there are specialist walking treadmills, most models will have the ability to move the belt slowly – so remember to buy a machine that has the capabilities to take you to the level you are targeting.
To burn off the fat and calories you need to cover the distance and keep up the routine. Interval type training here is needed to stop you from getting bored as much as anything. How tough you make your run in terms of speed and incline depends on your fitness level.
Most treadmills these days will count the calories burned, and many fat burning routines are based on targeting a specific number of calories. A 300 calorie 30-minute burst might be ideal for those with time pressures, while a more leisurely 500 calorie workout a few times a week (especially combined with a healthy diet) could really see those pounds flying off.
Here are four examples of the type of routine you are looking at for fat burning and calorie loss over at Shape Magazine.
General cardio fitness comes with a huge range of benefits, and it is relatively easy to tailor your treadmill workouts for this. This is not completely separate from fat burning, since you will get through the calories at the same time. The key difference is sprinting and incline work, which pushes you that little bit further – giving your cardio vascular system some energising work to do!
Pyramids are often cited as the key to cardio treadmill workouts. Here you are gradually increasing the intensity level to a peak, before gradually going back down again (and back of course). Inclines are needed for all types of workout, though for cardio work having speed and incline both under your control really makes a difference.
Here are some examples of tough cardio treadmill workouts over at Men’s Health (though I’m sure these work just as well for the ladies!)
If you are serious about fitness then you can really up the intensity level and mix sprints, pyramids and rapid incline / speed changes to max out the intensity. I would recommend that you work with a trainer before you get to this level (or at the very least have a lot of experience in cardio type workouts already under your belt).
Even seeing this in the list will be enough to show you that treadmills are not only for the gentler forms of exercise – you can really push things with HIIT.
For more on this form of workout, see runtastic.com
A great way to keep things fresh is to mix up your treadmill routine with squats, crunches, push-ups and other exercises which involve getting off the machine.
Of course, it is possible to use some machines (small free weights and so on) while you walk / run (though I can not recommend this for health and safety purposes).
Getting off part-way through has its pros and cons. I personally prefer to complete my cardio runs and then move on to other formats. Though on the plus side, it does break things up to get off. If you have 5 miles to go it can seem like a daunting goal, with 2 miles then a crunches routine, you have broken up your goal nicely.
If you thought treadmills were all about standing there are running, then this page will have shown you just how much variety is possible in your routine.
There are two key factors at play. First is that your biggest enemy for indoor running in general is boredom – and conquering this is important to keep you in the game for as long as possible. Second is that it is much harder to vary your routine without an automatic (or at the very least manual) incline.
The treadmills below all have built in MP3 / Smartphone compatibility and inclines – plus solid customer feedback at amazon.co.uk.
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