It’s no secret that running on the treadmill has a reputation for being a little (for lack of better words)… boring! However, it also remains to be one of the most effective cardio workouts, even despite the monotony.
Contrary to popular belief, there are many benefits to using this underrated, yet dynamic, machine. The treadmill offers runners a forgiving surface, which is especially helpful for those who experience body aches and pains.
“A lot of runners train on dirt if their body is aching,” says Jonathan Cane on Active.com, president and head coach of City Coach Multisport in New York City. “That’s usually a good idea, but an uneven surface can exacerbate problems if you don’t have great foot mechanics.”
In addition to a flatter, more forgiving surface, the treadmill also allows runners the ability to simulate courses or more challenging terrain if that’s not available to them outdoors.
“If you want a 3-mile hill in New York City, good luck,” Cane says. “But you can run one on a treadmill. You can simulate anything you want to, so it’s a great way to train for an out-of-town race with challenging terrain, or just to change things up.”
If you’re still not convinced that the dreaded ol’ treadmill can be fun, try adding one (or more) of these workout variations during your next run.
1. Interval training
Go ahead, turn on the TV, but when those commercial breaks hit, speed up your running. When your show returns, take a breather and dial down your pace. If a TV isn’t available, use your music tunes to amp up or slow down your pace. And if neither of those options work for you, just go the ol’ fashion route by running for 10 minutes and then dropping your pace for three to five minutes and repeating the cycle for at least 30 minutes.
2. Walking lunges with weights
Grab some light weights and really kick your booty into gear with walking lunges on the treadmill. Using 5- to 8-pound dumbbells, begin walking at a comfortable pace. Once you feel ready, curl the dumbbell in your right hand towards your right shoulder as you take a lunging step forward with your right foot. Repeat on the left side and continue alternating bicep curls and lunges until you’ve completed 10-15 reps on each side.
3. Side shuffle
Starting off with a slow walking pace, turn your body so you are facing the right side of the treadmill with both feet on the belt. As you continue to walk sideways, gradually step up the speed to just above your normal walking pace. Step your left foot forward, and then do a quick shuffle hop with your back foot. Continue on this side for 30 seconds, then slow the belt and switch directions. These side shuffles will naturally be slower on the treadmill than if you were performing them across the gym floor, so take your time adjusting and finding the right pace and rhythm.
3. Butt kicks
This next exercise will kick your booty — literally. Begin by setting your speed to a power-walking pace. Once you feel ready, start by kicking back as close to your bottom as possible. Then, repeat with the left foot, as you remain light on your toes with your posture tall and your core tight and engaged. Continue alternating butt kicks for 30 seconds.
4. High knees
Pump up your speed to a power-walking pace as you switch from walking to skipping. Once you get your groove, kick things up a notch by pulling your right knee in toward your chest as you push off the left foot. Get some airtime by jumping as high as you can, while also keeping your core controlled and engaged. Continue alternating knees for 30 seconds. If the idea of taking this skip to the tread seems scary, try a few practices rounds on stable ground first.
5. Jump squats
Slow down your speed by setting the treadmill no faster than half of your average walking pace. Start off towards the front of the treadmill, bringing both feet together and lowering into a squat position, knees aligned with your ankles. Allow the belt to move you towards the back of the treadmill, and then use your legs to jump forward, returning to your starting position at the front. Continue until you’ve competed 10-15 jumps.
6. Walk backwards
If all else fails, just change your perspective — literally. At the end of your run, try walking backwards on the treadmill to ease yourself into cool-down mode. This reverse motion will not only challenge your balance, but also your leg muscles.
And if none of that helps break your treadmill boredom, you could always try this simple, time-tested approach:
- Crank the tunes.
- Put on some trashy reality TV shows.
- And people watch!