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HIIT the Treadmill: High Intensity Interval Training at the Gym


Okay people…we’ve come up with some awesome, do-anywhere tabata workouts, checked out a few fat-burning cardio videos, and even explored the wonders of doing cardio outside in the winter months.  For all of you at-home workout gals, you definitely got your fitness on. But what about those of you who prefer to go to the gym, and not just as a way to socialize (because like, just because Mike goes to the gym everyday between four and five-thirty, like, doesn’t mean you should). I’m talking about the lovely ladies who really want to get sweaty! When are you going to get your chance to bask in post-workout endorphins and pound on the body spray before exiting the locker room?  My answer: right now! Yes, it’s high time to give you gym rats a little love! We’re straying away from the usual focus of ShapeU, venturing out of the comfort of our dorm or living room, and preparing to HIIT-up the treadmill.

As loyal readers of ShapeU, none of you should be strangers to HIIT and the benefits of including intervals in your cardio workout, but for those of you who might be newbies, here are some of the basics. HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training (we can refer to it as interval training for short), is a specific type of cardio workout that focuses on switching between periods of intense work and periods of less-intense rest – each period is what we call an “interval.” These intervals of work and rest are then repeated in a cycle to create an interval workout that can range anywhere from four to forty-five minutes in length, depending on the type of training and the desired time-frame. Popular interval programs include Tabata Training, HIIT workouts, and other forms of cardio that feature the quintessential bouts of work-rest that define interval training.

When thinking about the benefits of interval training as a form of cardio, we can compare it to running at the same speed for an extended amount of time. By running at the same speed, our heart-rate will remain at a constant rate, whereas with intervals, our heart-rate spikes during periods of work, then decreases during periods of rest. The continuous variation in heart-rate that is kept consistent through the entire workout has some major benefits for our fitness and health. We burn more fat and calories, lose fat stores as opposed to muscle, improve our body’s capacity to use oxygen efficiently, and even boost our metabolism and burn more fat after our workout. Plus, how great is it to be able to mix up the intervals and keep them interesting? With interval training, there are dozens of ways add-on, take away, or change-up the time, intensity, and duration of your workout.

Now that you have a better idea of how amazing interval training is, designing a routine for the treadmill is definitely more appealing. So even though there are those pre-set interval workout options – which are dull, boring, and confusing, in my opinion – here are some tips on designing your own treadmill interval workout:

Speed, Duration, and Time The most important considerations for interval training are speed, duration and timing. How fast do you want to run your work intervals? How about your rest intervals? These two questions will determine the intensity of your workout. The faster you run during a period of work, the more intense that period will be. At the same time, a slower rest period is less intense, because it gives you more time to slow your breathing and heart-rate. Duration refers to the length of intervals. Should work be for two minutes, one minute or 30 seconds? What about rest? Lastly there’s the length of your workout, or the time you do your workout in. A longer workout could be more intense if you have high speed intervals, but less intense if you perform lower speed intervals. At the same time, a shorter workout with high speed will be more intense than a shorter workout with slower speeds. Think about how long you have to workout, the duration of your intervals, and the number of intervals you want.

Try A Test Run It’s tricky to gauge all these things just by thinking about them, so a run through would be ideal. Try out different speeds, different durations of work and rest, and figure out how long your ideal workout would last for. This will make planning significantly easier. Speaking of planning…

Plan Ahead Never start a workout without a plan. This is good advice for anyone, but sometimes we can get away with making a routine up as we go. For someone starting out with intervals and trying to use a treadmill, it can be extremely difficult to wing it. Use the above considerations for speed/intensity, duration, and time to plan a specific workout to refer to – you can even write it down and bring it with you to the gym.

Start Slow and Simple Don’t be afraid to start slow and simple. Slower will always be easier, so until you’re comfortable with what you’re doing, take it slow. Designing a complex workout can be fun, but can easily become overwhelming when it comes to starting it up. Don’t over-estimate what you can handle! A more simple plan will be beneficial in the long run, and prevent you from getting discouraged early on.

Mix It Up Don’t be afraid to mix up the speed, duration and time during the actual workout. If something is too difficult, slow it down and take it easy. If you’re feeling motivated, boost up the speed and kick some butt.

Variety Is Key Variety does two things: 1) keeps things interesting, and 2) prevents you from plateauing. When working out, if you perform the same routine over and over, your body initially works hard to adapt to that work, and you see improvement. Once your body adapts, however, no more improvement is needed, so you won’t make any changes to your fitness. Changing up your routine keeps your body guessing and always improving. So change up your workout, switch the number of intervals, or the duration of each work-rest period.

The nice thing about using a treadmill is having a clear focus and being able to vary the speed, duration and timing of your routine rather than focusing on the moves you want to include. Using intervals on your treadmill is a great way to ensure you make running more effective, and use a short period of time more efficiently. It’s also a great way for people like me, who prefer running on the beach, or getting a root canal, to running on treadmills – am I the only one who usually feels like I’m on a hamster wheel. Okay, root canal may be a bit extreme here, but intervals definitely keep the workout more interesting.

Want a little taste of what treadmill intervals should look like? Check out this sample workout and get a feel for what you can create:

So for you gym rats, or should I say gym hamsters, use these tips to make your treadmill workout more effective, more time-efficient, and more beneficial to your health and fitness. Turn that boring, 20 minute run into a cardio workout that switches up the intensity  and makes you sweat like never before, and say goodbye to steady-pace running for good!

    I'm an AFAA certified fitness instructor and I adore my job. I'm also an undergrad studying neuroscience, and health and wellness. I love kickboxing and running (which might be for the endorphins). I spend way too much time on my hair, drink seltzer with every meal and eat pretty much anything made of chocolate. I love inspirational quotes and I'm a total cornball when it comes to my sense of humor. Contact me: @google+ @website