Think about running on a treadmill. Are you filled with warm thoughts about competing against yourself or even catching up on a show as you jog? Or does your blood run cold as you imagine time slowing down and your run begins to feel like self-inflicted punishment?
When it comes to running on a treadmill, it’s very rare that someone thinks it’s just okay. Usually, people either love it or hate it. But with cold weather upon us and the sun setting earlier, many people feel there are only two options—to get on the human hamster wheel or risk freezing outside.
The winter months are famous for making us gain holiday pounds. So, let me share with you a few tips to help you spice up your treadmill routine throughout the winter holidays, which can prevent you from hanging up your running shoes until spring.
1. Vary your terrain by adjusting the gradient
If you’re fortunate enough to be using a newer treadmill where you can adjust the gradient, then you’ll have fun creating a challenging outdoor trail run.
Whether you fancy running up a steep mountain or creating rolling hills, it’s easy to break up the monotony of a flat course by simply pressing the incline button. I love hill running and enjoy the challenge of increasing the gradient every 60 seconds. An added bonus with being in control of the gradient is that if the hill feels too steep, just take it down a notch. Now, you can’t do that when you’re running outside.
2. Plan your music in advance
Music is known for being a great motivator, especially when it comes to exercising and sports performance. The joy of modern technology is that you can create entire playlists of all of your favorites. Spend time going through your music collection and pick out songs that make you smile. Find that one song that makes you want to dance—it will be perfect motivation for you to turn up the speed and run a little faster. I have been known for putting my motivational song on repeat and running so fast that the treadmill is shaking.
3. Include interval training
This is a matter of preference, but running or walking at the exact same speed for the entire time is just not an option for me.
Interval training has so many added benefits. Not only does it stop you from getting bored, it can help you to push yourself to burn more calories in less time. A great way to interval train is to run at a 7/10 difficulty level for 45 seconds, then walk or jog at a 3/10 difficulty for 30 seconds. Training in this way for 30-45 minutes can significantly improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance.
4. Enjoy the funky functions
If you want to do a steady state run without adjusting your gradient and speed, then take your mind off your run by playing with the treadmill functions.
Many newer treadmills are equipped with heart rate monitors and calorie burn counters, which can make it fun to set yourself up with mini challenges. Try and keep your heart rate within your target range and guess how many calories you’ll burn every two minutes. Or you can pick one of the programmed running plans and let your mind puzzle over one of the challenges in your life. It’s better to think through a thorny problem while running than when you’re trying to sleep.
5. Break up your run
Set a few goals before you start your run, and don’t be afraid of breaking it up into manageable chunks. Don’t just get on the treadmill without a goal, because chances are you’ll step off sooner if you don’t have a plan. If your goal is to run five miles but you get bored after two miles, then make a conscious choice to take a break. That way you can keep your commitment to do all five miles—you’ll just break up your run and refocus along the way. So, get off to do some light resistance work or abdominal crunches, then get back on. The important thing is to get back on.
If you’re willing to go out and brave the winter chill, many gyms also offer classes led by an instructor that incorporate both running and weight training. The group atmosphere is fun and can help motivate you.
Stay on track
The benefit of training on a treadmill is that you can precisely monitor your distance and time without the variables of rough terrain and inclement weather slowing you down. Remember to only go at a pace that feels right for you. It’s tempting to push yourself too hard if the person next to you is really pounding out the miles, but you won’t be helping anybody if you push yourself too much. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and stay injury-free. After all, that person on the next treadmill could be an ex-professional sprinter like me.
All in all, a treadmill is a wonderful tool to help keep your health and fitness goals on track. But personally, I always think that mixing up your routine can be useful and I enjoy both indoor and outdoor running. As they say, ‘A change is as good as a break.’ So, if you experience treadmill boredom, then make a change and head outdoors. The wind in your hair and pavement under your feet might be just the thing to remind you why you love running. And feeling the winter snow, rain and wind might be the thing to reawaken your devotion to the treadmill.
By Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness
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