Treadmills have become a staple of millions of indoor workout rooms across the country.
And with their presence has come a storm of ideas about how to spice up the walking and running routines. With a little creativity, a treadmill workout can be just as satisfying as an outdoor jaunt.
Tips and warnings
Because you are walking indoors on a rotating belt, there is no wind resistance. You can compensate by using a 1 percent incline. This will simulate outdoor walking or running conditions.
Increase your speed by about 10 percent to simulate outdoor conditions. For example, if you walk at 3 miles per hour outdoors, you would increase your treadmill speed to 3.3 mph for similar exertion.
Many treadmill users, however, try to increase speed past what's comfortable, and then they adjust by holding on to the bars and pulling or lifting themselves. That method uses less energy—and burns fewer calories. Work to keep speed and incline under control.
To maintain a specific heart rate, you might consider buying a heart monitor or even a treadmill that has a monitor attached.
Here are some workout ideas to keep the creative and body juices flowing. Be sure to check with your health care provider before beginning a new workout regimen.
Standard. This is the regular walking pattern at a steady pace for the entire workout time. It will work all leg muscles, with particular emphasis on the big muscles in front (quadriceps) and calves. Walk at a comfortable 3 mph, or 20 minutes per mile. A brisk pace is more than 5 mph, or 12 minutes per mile. As with all treadmill walks or runs, your posture is important. Stand up straight and swing your arms just as you would outside. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your eyes looking outward, not down at the controls.
Retro. Walk backward at an easy pace. Some people do this on the treadmill to help muscles for such ballroom dances as the fox trot. Hold onto the railings at first until you are sure you can keep your balance.
Trail hike. Use a "hills" program on the treadmill or adjust incline and speed yourself. Pretend you're in the mountains walking, looking at streams and vistas. This works the back of the upper legs, too. Be aware, however, that inclining the treadmill will increase the stress placed on the knees and can lead to knee pain.
Fartlek. The word means "speed play" in Swedish and is a staple of marathon training. Alternate fast walking or running with slow—perhaps five minutes of very fast and two minutes of slow. This helps to trick leg muscles into working better, and it provides variety in your program.
The short circuit. Mix five-minute intervals of walking with one- or two-minute intervals of sit-ups, crunches, pushups or other similar exercises next to your treadmill.
The stretch. Muscles stretch best when warm, so do at least five minutes of walking or jogging. Then jump off for a minute or two for some good stretches. Do this every five minutes until your workout is over.
Movie, music, or meditation. Plan a walk or run for sweat and enjoyment. Focus your mind on artsy things and allow your body to run without you in full control all the time.
Almost any length of aerobic exercise is good for you, but experts recommend that you try to get at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.