Make treadmill running more productive (and less boring)

How many times has this happened to you? You end up heading to the gym for a run on the treadmill (boredom starts setting in before you’re even hitting start). After staring at the two random TVs for the first 20 minutes, it’s getting harder to focus and really put 110% effort into your workout. Distractions are sparse and a line starts forming for people waiting to jump on as soon as you’re done running so you cut things short and wonder if you couldn’t have gotten more out of your workout.

Couple things seem to be driving “treadmill frustration”:

  • Feeling like your settling for a “lesser” workout. I’m totally guilty of this one. Feeling
    Ike I should’ve sucked it up and run outside like a real runner. That somehow the treadmill is a second-line substitute (even though there are many BENEFITS to treadmill running).
  • Lack of focus. Yup, this one too. I get distracted from the whole point which is pushing myself to fit in a good, solid workout. So what if the gym is crowded, or a boring show is on the muted TV, or that big guy next to me is blasting Rush on his headphones so loud you can hear it in the locker room.
  • Lack of a plan. This might be the BIGGEST PROBLEM. how many times have I just said I’ll run on the treadmill and it’s just me doing the same pace for 30 minutes. But does it have to be like that?

Solution: the treadmill interval running workout

Before you start, OBVIOUSLY talk to your doctor and make sure he/she gives you the a-ok for running on the treadmill. The basic idea is to use an interval running strategy that alternates short bursts of high cardio running (tough pace, incline) with slower periods (slower pace, no incline). Studies have shown interval training can boost your metabolism and cardiovascular capacity, AND this has the added benefit of allowing greater efficiency (workout is shorter, but you’re burning more energy then if you were running a steady pace).

The Treadmill Running Plan – General Interval Workout Framework
If you’ve not used a treadmill before make sure you test it out first to see what pace is good for a slow walk, brisk walk, jog, running fast. Also experiment with different inclines. My brisk walk pace is 4.0 mph.
Alternate between 2 min at walk pace, then 1 min at faster pace. As you proceed, increase running pace and slightly increase incline.
Warm up – 5 minutes at walking pace (3-4mph). Cool down – 5 minutes at same warm up pace.

duration time speed incline
5 min 5:00 4.0mph 0%
1 min 6:00 4.5mph 0%
2 min 8:00 4.0mph 0%
1 min 9:00 4.5mph 0%
2 min 11:00 4.0mph 0%
1 min 12:00 4.7mph 1%
2 min 14:00 4.0mph 1%
1 min 15:00 4.7mph 1%
2 min 17:00 4.0mph 1%
1 min 18:00 4.9mph 1%
2 min 20:00 4.0mph 1%
1 min 21:00 4.9mph 1%
2 min 22:00 4.0mph 1%
1 min 23:00 5.1mph 1%
2 min 25:00 4.0mph 1%
1 min 26:00 5.3mph 1%
1 min 27:00 5.5mph 1%
1 min 28:00 5.3mph 1%
5 min 33:00 4.0mph 0%

The Treadmill Running Plan – Overall Framework

  • How often do I do this?  Shoot for three times per week.  Toss in some weights if you’re getting bored.
  • Should I keep using the same workout in the table?  Nope.  As you build up your treadmill time, increase speed and overall duration (up from 33 minutes total).  You can also toss in steeper inclines, but do so slowly.
  • When will I notice results?  Like everything else, it will take time. I started noticing a difference within a few weeks.  But make sure you’re documenting your progress so you can actually see if things are changing.
  • What do you mean documenting my progress?  Note how often you’re going, how long you went for, how you’re feeling, weight.  You can get fancy too and toss in metrics like heart rate, calories, track it with a Garmin, etc.  Bottom line is that it gets tricky to really gauge this unless you’re tracking it.

 

How’s interval treadmill running working for YOU?

The adjustments and button pushing keep me focused but can see how others might get annoyed. If this is you, try giving one of the pre-programmed interval treadmill runs a try. Couple other resources include Fitness Black & White and this video. Hopefully by tracking your progress and focusing on a more defined strategy, you’ll have more productive workouts. Happy treadmilling!

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