Ace your treadmill workout

No more flatlining on indoor treadmill running. Use these tricks to re-energise your strides.

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Side shuffle, jog backwards, or use the belt as resistance when the machine is turned off. 

No more flatlining on indoor runs. Use these tricks to re-energise your strides. 


Channel the adrenaline of a group running class with a well-thought- out playlist, says Harley Rodriguez, a trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp, which alternates treadmill segments with strength sets. Use music to time your intervals, choosing songs with up- tempo choruses that get you pumped to pick up your pace with each refrain. “In your head, say: I’m doing a 30-second sprint in four, three, two, one – then give it your all,” Harley says. If you’re spurred by the competitive spirit of a group class, hop on a treadmill next to someone who looks like a strong runner. You can race them by setting your pace to something higher than theirs – they’ll never need to know! 


Take advantage of the machine’s speed and incline range, and you’ll boost your burn, strength, and interest. First, alternate sprinting (from 10 to 90 seconds each set) with jogging (sets can be equal to or shorter than your pushes) for 15 minutes. Then set the incline to 10 per cent and find a slightly uncomfortable pace. Drop the incline by 1 per cent every 30 seconds until you’re on a flat road. Go again but faster. Pushing your pace melts more fat and increases your cardio capacity, while climbs build your power – a mix that makes you leaner, faster, and stronger, says Rebecca Skudder, founder of MyStryde treadmill running studio in Boston. 


“Always step on a treadmill with a plan,” says David Siik, the creator of Precision Running at Equinox and the author of The Ultimate Treadmill Workout. That plan can be as simple as saying you’ll go 0.3kmh faster each minute you run, or you can get really inventive with intervals, inclines, tempos, and even on-the- treadmill strength moves (find ideas for all these as you read on). When you have to concentrate on what’s next, your brain gets as much of a workout as your body does. “Executing your plan requires you to be alert and to make decisions,” David says. In other words, focusing on your workout’s moving parts busts the monotony of a steady slog. 


“There is so much you can do on the treadmill besides running,” says Anna Kaiser, the creator of AKTread, a variety-packed treadmill workout that’s available in her New York City studios and on her AKT On Demand app ( Try one of Anna’s go-tos: Have a set of 2kg to 4kg dumbbells handy, and warm up by walking at 6kmh on a 4.5 per cent incline for at least two minutes. Then, without changing your pace or incline, grab a dumbbell in each hand and start to sculpt your upper body with hammer curls (hold the weights so that they’re vertical and your palms face each other) and overhead presses for another two minutes each. Next, lower the pace to 3kmh and put your incline to 0, then alternate between 30 seconds each of skipping, side shuffling, galloping, and jogging backwards, switching sides every 15 seconds as necessary. Use the treadmill’s handles for balance or support if you need it. When you feel more comfortable, start increasing your speed and the length of your intervals, Anna says. Unlike running forward, these moves work your body on multiple planes of motion, engaging more muscles, she explains. 

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The treadmill belt can supply resistance, and the machine itself can be used to target muscles differently, Rebecca says. alternate between four-minute sets of a fast run with four minutes of strength moves. Try this: Run, then stop the belt. Get into a plank with palms on the tread and feet on the floor. Do incline push-ups for 30 seconds (or level up by placing palms on the floor and feet on the belt for decline push-ups). Next, step onto the treadmill for 30 seconds of triceps dips: Facing away from the dash, grasp handles and straighten arms to lift body (bend legs behind you) to start; bend elbows 90 degrees behind you to lower body [shown below], then press up to start. The height allows for greater range of motion, and because you’re dipping your entire weight, you have more resistance than when you’re doing dips on the floor or a bench. (Newbies, start with dips off the back of the tread.) Then get into plank, palms on the floor and feet on the belt, and hike the hips to pull the feet toward you (the belt will move with you) until your body forms an upside-down V. Do pikes for 30 seconds. Finally, set the treadmill at 1 to 2kmh and do 30 seconds of walking lunges. Do the whole sequence three times. 


Instead of walking it out or just hopping off the treadmill as soon as your workout is over, use the machine for dynamic stretches like the kind track stars do, says Jake Schmitt, a cofounder of Thoroughbred Treadmill Studio in california. With the treadmill set to 0.3kmh and a 1 per cent incline, do one minute each of walking toe touches (bring left leg straight out in front of you at hip height, foot flexed; grab your left toes with your left hand and pull them towards you; repeat on other side), walking knee hugs, and walking quad stretches (alternately bringing your heels toward your glutes, briefly grasping your ankle as you go). Bonus: These stretches mimic the way your body moves during a run, so they can help you develop better movement patterns and become a more efficient runner, Jake says. 


The best way to distract yourself from how much time you have left on the treadmill is to stop looking at the clock, says Ellen Latham, the co-founder of Orangetheory Fitness. Instead, set an alarm on your phone or watch for your predetermined workout time, then cover the timer on the treadmill with a towel or a magazine so you’re less tempted to look at it. Start by alternating your base pace (this is usually a jog or an easy run at 6 to 9kmh, Ellen says) with your push pace (this should be 2 to 3kmh faster than your base and slightly uncomfortable for you). Do 800 metres at your push pace, then slow to your base pace for 300 metres. Bring it back up for 600 metres at your push pace, and return to your base pace for 300 metres. Repeat, decreasing your push-pace segment by 100 metres each round. Do the whole circuit again, increasing your base pace and push pace for a challenge. As soon as your end-of-workout timer sounds, go right into your cool-down.