It’s no secret that I find spending time on the human hamster wheel known as the treadmill approximately as enjoyable as getting repeatedly ganked in PvP, primarily due to an acute conflation of boredom and discomfort (though the repair bills are lower). However, for some folks, it’s their primary calorie-burning M.O. due to various limitations. Maybe you’re pressed for time, squeezing in your workout on a lunch hour, or before heading to an after-work event, or even, for that curious species known as “morning person” before work. If you live somewhere that the weather makes outdoor exercise hazardous — extreme heat/humidity, sidewalks not getting shoveled, zombie/raptor/ninja infestation — an indoor option might be the only solution for part of the year.
Heck, some people enjoy treadmill workouts. Mike does his minutes and mileage just about every day (and sometimes twice a day; I suspect he’s doing my share of time on the belt in addition to his own).
The following ideas might help you make pedometer purgatory palatable if it’s getting a little stale.
Knowing how fast your heart should be going is one of the first things you’ll need to tailor your workout intensity. Fortunately, even for math-averse folks like Rob, this is pretty simple — just subtract your age from 220 to determine what your maximum heart rate should be in beats per minute. If you’re 20, that makes it 200; if you’re 37 (I’m not old!), you’re looking to top out at 183. Depending on how hard you’re working, you’ll fall into a variety of zones — from about 55-75% of your max is the fat-burning zone, 75-90% works your cardio, and 90%+ is for us masochists. A lot of cardio equipment does this calculation for you, and can even synch up with your own heart rate monitor, if you’ve got one.
Armed with this info, rather than do your usual stroll, try to keep your heart rate at 60%, 70%, and 80% for pre-determined intervals, with suitable recovery intervals in between. Think of those as increasingly difficult boss fights, and your recovery phases as killing trash mobs.
Run to the Hilllllllls! </Iron Maiden>
Instead of just engaging your internal cruise control and zoming out for X time or Y distance, see about gradually ramping up the intensity (literally). Set the speed to something around a brisk walk (3.5-4.0 MPH) and do a few minutes at no incline, and, every couple of minutes, ratchet the incline up one notch (half a degree, a full degree, whatever) until you hit your time or distance goal. You can also do this up to a pre-determined incline (say, five percent for five minutes) and then start turning the incline back down the same way you turned it up. Don’t forget to cool down afterward!
If you’d rather shake things up a little bit instead of going with the first suggestion up above, and you tend to put in your treadmill time in front of Ye Olde Boobe Toobe, bust out the can of Whoopass during the commercials — jack up the speed and/or incline to drown out Billy Mays or the Travelocity Gnome — and then return to your regularly scheduled program.
More Heavy Metal
Pressed for time? Grab a couple of light hand weights (keep it under a Laptop’s worth per hand) and do curls and overhead (military) presses in time with your stride. Not only will this tone up your arms, but by engaging your upper body, you’ll bost your cardio load quite a bit. Plus, you’ll tone up your arms and shoulders as well as your legs, all at the same time. This is the same reason why you shouldn’t get in the habit of holding onto the railing or cross-beam on the treadmill, either; letting your arms move and swing naturally also keeps you from “cheating” by using the bar for support.