Every workout program could use a dose of intense cardio.
By Eddie Avakoff, owner of Metroflex LBC
Treadmills are criminally underutilized. In fact, 94 out of 100 people who use treadmills are using them incorrectly. Good luck fact-checking that statistic, since it’s created by my own cynical observation. People use treadmills like they are an escape from reality. I see it all the time: Eyes focused somewhere off in the distance and a heart rate about four beats per minute faster than it would be at rest. My clients, and other members at Metroflex, however, look at the treadmill as a torture device. And that's because there is no escape while you're on that thing with me.
Most treadmills have the ability to change incline, and all of them have the ability to increase and decrease speed. That’s a lot to work with! No more static 45 minutes at 3.5 mph. Instead, you can try something like this: Run uphill (15 percent grade) for a quarter mile, followed by a three-minute power walk holding a 10-pound plate overhead, and finish another quarter-mile sprint, this time on a flat grade. Recover jog for two or three minutes and then repeat for five or six total rounds.
Maybe try adding a sandbag to carry or a bucket full of rocks. That promises all sorts of interesting workouts, especially with incline climbs. The point is, there are a lot more ways to use a treadmill than just mindless jogging like a hamster on a wheel.
Slow And Steady Loses The Race
Move slow like a turtle and look like a turtle. Slow and steady is in reference to aerobic cardio, three minutes or more of steady activity where oxygen remains relatively consistent. However, fat is most efficiently burned with anaerobic cardio (repeated efforts of hard work that depletes oxygen, followed by a rest period that recovers oxygen). So if we want to burn fat and also keep existing muscle, then anaerobic cardio is what's on the menu. So what are some workouts I can do on the treadmill?
Warm up with a five-minute jog at easy speed. After five minutes, continue at an easy speed. When ready, begin round one of:
- 30 seconds max speed with treadmill at 10 to 15 percent incline
- 90 seconds easy cool down on flat grade
Repeat for five total rounds. Never stop running during this drill. Just go from 30 seconds fast to 90 seconds easy. After five rounds are completed, recover with a three-to-five minute break from the treadmill. Just hop off, stretch, and hydrate.
- Complete 100 butterfly sit-ups nearby the treadmill (to pre-fatigue core), then get back on treadmill.
- Max distance sandbag carry on treadmill at 20 to 25 percent incline for 12 minutes (the speed is up to you). After 12 minutes, drop the sandbag and jog three minutes slow and easy. Stretch legs and core.
- When ready, complete a one-mile sprint for time
- Warm down with a five-minute recovery jog
Warm up with 100 meters of walking lunges off treadmill and then stretch your legs. Hop on treadmill and complete an easy one-mile jog to warm up. After that one mile, keep running slow and easy until ready to begin the following workout:
- 20 jumping air squats
- 15 seconds easy jog
- 30 seconds max-effort sprint
- 15 seconds easy jog
After 10 rounds, hop off the treadmill and stretch legs and hydrate. When ready, hop back on the treadmill and begin following workout:
- Two Rounds:
- 400 meters at easy speed
- 400 meters at medium speed
- 400 meters at max-effort speed
- Warm down with a 10-minute easy recovery jog
Notice how involved the workout is? There’s no dozing off. You're too busy monitoring the time, your speed, power output, rep count, set count, and more. That’s training, not exercising.” Training means there's a goal and a purpose with a certain level of focus. (Italics means I'm dead serious, by the way.)
You might be at a hotel gym on vacation or at your apartment building “gym” and the only equipment you might have is a treadmill and maybe some dumbbells that max out at 25 pounds. All hope is not lost. Grab the treadmill and own that dial: speed, incline, air squat, sit-ups, and even carrying weight while running. It’s a lot better at triggering fat loss and keeping on muscle than compared to slow aerobic cardio. Plus, it’s a lot more engaging and interesting than the monotonous 45 minutes of daydreaming. IM
Recently, there have been advances in the treadmill department, as equipment like the HiTrainer have come onto the market, which measures not just speed and time, but also power output, step by step. This self-powered belt measures how aggressively you dig into the ground as you run, displaying the data on the screen above. The extended pads allow you to naturally lean into your sprint and swing your arms.
Fact: Twenty minutes of slow and easy cardio first thing in the morning and on an empty stomach (aka “fasted cardio”) has been proven to burn fat. But any more than 20 or 30 minutes, and you’re risking burning muscle.