Whether you use the treadmill at the gym or have one in your own home the advantage is that you don’t need to battle with the elements when using one. Too hot, too cold, raining, windy, icy – some of these weather conditions may put you off going for a jog or run if you go outside, maybe in winter it is dark when you go to work and dark when you get home but with a treadmill you don’t even have to think about it, that means less excuses.

If you use a treadmill why not make sure you are getting the most out of the time you spend running on one. Cardio is one of the most popular ways to lose fat and some people only have cardio in their exercise program but the best way to lose fat is a combination of both cardio and strength training. For those of you who want to make the most out of your cardio element read the 15 ways you can maximize your efforts.

  1. Write it down

    Have a plan, know what you are doing and write it down. This way you wont waste time wondering what to do (should you do long and steady or HIIT, should you do hills, how long should you run for etc) or whether what you are doing is going to get you the results you want. Know your goals (are you building up your endurance for long distance, marathons, 10k, 5k, sprinting or are you just trying to lose fat?) and then invest a little time into researching the best type of training to get you those results. Maybe you have limited time, maybe you use a treadmill but don’t particularly enjoy running, in this case you want to make your time as quick as you can and varied to eliminate the boredom.

  2. Warm Up

    Warming up is an important element in your exercise program, one that many people fail to do. Just because you are running or on the treadmill does not mean you can skip this, yes people do use the treadmill for 5-10 minutes to warm up before doing other forms of exercise but if you are going to run then ensure your first 5-10 minutes is used to warm up (the idea is to start slow and work your way up so you break a sweat) and not just go straight into your HIIT routine etc. The reason for warming up is to increase circulation to your muscles (which will help reduce the risk of injury) and gradually increase your heart rate, it also helps mentally prepare yourself for the workout ahead.

  3. Good Form

    Posture can make all the difference to your running, getting it right means getting optimal performance and also helps prevent injury. You want to be looking straight ahead not down at your feet, shoulders should be loose, neck and arms relaxed, arms should swing easily backwards and forwards with elbows bent around 90 degrees, back straight and torso upright (don’t lean forward), push off with force and land lightly, your foot should land under you. If you hear your feet thumping down then you are running poorly. Runners World have a great article about the perfect running form explaining how you should hold yourself from your head all the way through the body parts down to your feet.

  4. Incline

    I am amazed at how many people don’t use the incline function on treadmills, this is a great way of increasing your workout without increasing the speed, as well as adding variety. You can adjust the incline whether you are jogging, running or walking and it will increase the intensity of your sessions as you will be working harder than if you kept the treadmill level. Go give it a try and see, set the incline start walking and then keep increasing the incline and see how much harder your legs have to work, you should really be able to feel it…now think about how much harder it will be if you are jogging or running.

  5. Cadence

    Use some of your time on the treadmill to focus on your cadence (how often your foot hits the floor) and find what your optimal cadence is for the distance/speed you run. Running at your optimal cadence will maximize your performance. A higher cadence can also help reduce the risk of injury. If you are interested in how your speed is affected by stride length and stride frequency then this article over at Science of Running is worth a read.

  6. HIIT

    High Intensity Interval Training. This is a popular way of maximizing a treadmill routine and getting the same results in a shorter amount of time as running at a steady speed for a longer duration. All you need to do is add in some intervals of maximum intensity effort, that means going as fast as you can for a set amount of time and then returning to your previous pace for a set amount of time. For example you could do this by doing your normal pace for 1 minute then increasing your pace to as fast as you can for 30 seconds and then return to your normal pace for 1 minute. It is your choice what ratio you choose but remember to get the most out of this type of training high intensity means putting in maximum effort.

  7. Variety

    Don’t stick to just one routine, have a few so that you can alternate between them and keep your training a bit more varied. If you do the same routine every time you get on a treadmill you will become conditioned and without changing something you may reach a plateau and see no or very little progress.

  8. Mix it up

    Hop on and off with other exercises in between. As I mentioned above the best way to lose fat is a combination of cardio and strength training, so how about mixing your treadmill workout with your strength training workout. Use the treadmill for a set amount of time, either jogging, running or even sprints, then hop off grab a couple of hand weights and start to do some squats with shoulder press, or do some push ups, some arm routines. Do an exercise then hop back on the treadmill, hop off do another exercise etc. This may be more difficult at the gym if you don’t have a place to put some weights near to the treadmill but you can always do body weight exercises.

  9. Lunges

    Add in some walking lunges during your session. A great bodyweight exercise that you don’t even need to step off the machine for. Cardio alone could cause you to lose lean muscle mass (if you don’t do any strength training exercises at all) plus by increasing your lean muscle mass means increasing your metabolism, increased metabolism = increased fat burning.

  10. Sideways Walking

    What! Yes you heard me right walking sideways, add a couple of intervals in to your treadmill routine where you do a short set time or a set number of strides sideways and this will give your inner and outer thighs a bit of a work out. You will need to slow the treadmill down as you want it at an easy pace so that you can go sideways, best to start slow and experiment with the speed until you find the right speed for you. I also recommend locating the emergency stop switch and using the safety clip just in case you need to stop the machine immediately.

  11. 30-20-10

    30 second jog, 20 second run (moderate pace), 10 second sprint. Repeat. Not much more to it but this kind of workout will give your fat burning a boost compared to running at a stead pace.

  12. Focus

    It is all too easy to get distracted whilst on a treadmill, many of them these days have a monitor on the machine so you can choose what to watch on TV, once you plug those earphones in you can all too easily get caught up in whatever program it is and find that you are slowing down as you get involved with what is happening. The same with listening to certain music it can slow you down and relax you more than it makes you push harder. Stay focused on what you are doing.

  13. Don’t trust the settings

    It is well known that the settings/readings on the machines vary and can be inaccurate – your results/calories being burned will depend on various factors – including your weight, your stride length, your current level of fitness etc etc the machine just goes by what the speed/incline the machine is on. The calibrations can also be a bit ‘off’. Throw a towel over the readings and you may even find yourself working harder.

  14. Don’t hold on to the bar

    One of the first things you are told not to do when first introduced to the treadmill. When jogging or running you wont be able to grip on anyway, it is when walking or if the treadmill is on a steep incline that people tend to hold on. Don’t do it and you will be getting a better work out as just by holding on you reduce the intensity you are working at. Letting go = increased intensity = more fat burning = more effective.

  15. Don’t Quit.

    If you quit you wont get any results, once you quit you will start to lose the conditioning you have already built up and when you start again you will be starting right back at the beginning.

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