Get a better treadmill workout at the gym

With the October sun shining and thoughts rapidly turning to wearing less and spending more time at the beach or pool, new gym memberships are soaring.

Do you hit the cardio room with a serious 'results now' mentality, or is your treadmill set at a pace that wouldn't challenge grandpa?

It's time to inject some intensity into your treadmill sessions.

Uphill walk

Let's start with the beginners.  If you're new to the gym and walking on the treadmill suits your ability, I challenge you to increase the intensity with a simple uphill walk.  Bring your normal pace down 20 per cent and increase the treadmill's hill ascent.  Pump your arms, land on the front of your feet, and notice the difference in intensity.  Walk uphill for three minutes, then flat for three minutes, and continue for a 30-minute session.

If you're already in serious shape, try an uphill walk while holding a kettlebell of 8, 10, or 12 kilos, and you'll be sweating and swearing in no time.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

We are all busy, and science proves that working out at a higher intensity brings tone and weight loss more quickly than those long, steady-state, boring jogs.  Try a HIIT session where you run at 90 to 100 per cent effort for one minute, then reduce to one-third of that effort (walking pace) for one minute.  Perform 10 rounds, then mix it up and try the same thing on the bike.

Circuit training

Change up a boring treadmill jog, and get your entire body involved.  Perform a circuit of a 300m sprint, then jump off the treadmill for 15 push-ups, 15 sit-ups, 15 squats, and 15 dumbbell curls into an overhead press.  Finish with a one-minute plank.  Rest one minute and perform three, four, or five circuits for a varied and challenging session.  There's hardly a muscle in your body that won't be utilised in this circuit.

Run, burpees, row

Run 400m at 100 per cent intensity and immediately drop for 20 burpees, then jump onto the rower for an intense 400m.  Head into the next round as soon as possible and perform three or four in total.  Time each session and, as a goal, aim to beat the prior session's time.


Stair running

I have a love-hate relationship with stairs because they are damn challenging, but they do bring fitness results.  After a jog, find a group of outdoor stairs, and time yourself at 100 per cent effort while performing my 500 Stair Challenge.  That's 500 up, and 500 down. See if you can better your time each week.  Sub-six minutes is a quality effort.

Run outdoors

The treadmill is inferior to true running because the belt does some of the work for you – it finishes your stride.  Outdoor running on the grass and/or pavement is not only more natural, it also requires proper activation of your hamstrings.

Trail running requires even more effort from your body and mind.  Hit the trails and you'll be utilising a lot more core muscles and ankle stability.  Further, your mind had better be sharp, as every stride requires concentration when terrain is varied.  And fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun beats that gym guy's BO and cheap indoor lighting any day of the week.

For all of the above, the same advice applies for you elliptical trainer trainees - slouching off while pseudo-cross country skiing your way through another episode of The Big Bang Theory.  

Keep doing the same workout with the same (lack of) intensity if you want the same results. Inject some varied intensity, and tone and weight loss can be yours.  Don't forget to warm up, cool down, and stretch your body.

Australia's gym industry makes $1.3 billion in annual revenues. Part of that comes from members joining, getting bored with the same workout and falling off the exercise wagon, while continuing to pay monthly fees.  

This is your wake up call - inject some intensity and variety into your treadmill sessions. Your body will enjoy the challenge, and your mind will want to come back for more.

How do you keep your gym workout fresh and interesting?

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