As an experienced runner, I wholeheartedly support enjoying the natural world while exercising as much as possible. However, as a trainer I also understand personal preference, the weather, and wanting to get the most out of a gym membership or purchased home equipment. In order to maximize the results of treadmill workouts, diversity is essential. Walking, jogging, or running at the same pace day after day gets monotonous and inevitably takes the joy out of exercise. Spicing up a workout with the following five treadmill exercises will undoubtedly lead to aerobic fitness gains, increase motivation and enjoyment, and burn more calories (especially in the optimal fat burning zone).
The Playlist Partner Workout: Build a unique playlist to fit mood, a specific theme, desired time and intensity, and overall goals for the workout. While exercising, match the walking or running pace with the pace of the song. Be creative! An example is to design a continuously building playlist, gaining in vigor until its climax, then, descending in intensity pattern afterwards. Other suggestions: alternate songs of higher tempo with lower tempo as an interval training tool or include similar paced songs throughout the playlist and increase paces only with the choruses for shorter, higher intensity interval training. Take ownership, enjoy designing playlists, and vary it up! Also, works while watching TV, just go faster during commercial breaks.
The Cardio/Strength Training Combo Workout: Interval training (alternating periods of increased pace with slower periods) is highly advantageous to greater aerobic gains, increased metabolism, and the after-burn effect (more calories burned post-workout). With this workout, choose the desired amount of time on the treadmill and divide it into equal or unequal segments, at an even pace or varying paces (Diversity is the key!). Between each segment on the treadmill, step off and perform one set of 2 to 4 muscle group specific exercises before moving onto the next treadmill period. Easy equipment-free suggestions are squats, squats jumps, lunges, pushups, ab exercises such as planks, sit-ups, or leg throws, standing hip abduction, and calf raises or grab a resistance band or light dumbbells for various shoulder raises and presses, curls, tricep extensions, rows, or add resistance to one of the aforementioned equipment-free exercises.
The Teeter-Totter, Tag-Team Treadmill Workout: The support and accountability of a friend is a powerful motivating tool. Treadmill running does not have to be a depressing, isolated experience. Grab a friend and identify the desired total for time on the treadmill. Break it up into segments and take turns running at the faster pace. An example for a 30 minute workout would be: 1 minute (Partner A faster), 1 minute (Partner B Faster), 2 minute (A), 2 minute (B), 3 (A), 3 (B), 5(A), 5(B), 3(A), 3(B), 1(A), and 1(B). The same thing can be done by incorporating strength training and one treadmill. While one person walks, jogs, or runs, the other is strength training exercises, then switch after a set period of time.
The Pace Pyramid Workout: The most common workout I personally do on a treadmill is the Pace Pyramid Workout. For example, say I am comfortable running for 30 minutes at 7 mph. I will run the first and last 10 minutes at 7 mph, but I will change the middle 10 minutes greatly to burn more calories, burn more fat, increase aerobic fitness, and make time fly. My middle 10 minutes might look like this: 2 min at 7.5 mph, 1 min at 8 mph, 2 min at 7.5 mph, 1 min at 8.5 mph, 2 min at 7.5 mph, 1 min at 9 mph (or back down to 8 mph), and 1 final minute at 7.5 mph. Manipulate the numbers to fit experience, goals, and conditioning, or simply adjust the speeds to personal “feel,” just spice up the middle of the run with a more challenging infusion of variety.
The Cardio Carousel Workout: Probably the most basic workout to achieve variety is to spend a set amount of time on a serious of cardio stations (stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical, stair machine, rowing machine, and body-weight exercises). Use equal or varied segments of time and standardize or vary the pace (one day emphasize the elliptical, one day make the treadmill portion more difficult). The design is up to the individual. Diversity is the key!