Treadmill workouts can seem intimidating. But they’re actually one of the best ways for people of all fitness levels to improve their speed, stamina, and overall fitness. And it’s easier than you think to get started, even if you’re new to exercise, or getting back into it after a long time away.
For many of us, exercise isn’t a straight line from couch potato to fighting-fit. There’s a lot of stopping and starting over. I was in great shape in high school, for example, when I rode my bike four miles each way to school, had daily P.E., and did martial arts as a hobby. After my first baby, following four months of bed rest and abdominal surgery? Not so much.
My own fitness has been a series of straight lines — periods of fitness interspersed with periods of inactivity. And looking down the barrel of another new beginning can make you want to throw in the gym towel. But you can do it! And treadmill workouts are an easy way to get back into it.
Why Treadmill Workouts in Particular?
Whether you’re starting over with fitness or starting out for the first time, a treadmill can be a powerful tool. For one thing, it grows with you. You can start out slow and ramp up your workout as you build your strength and stamina. A treadmill can also give you different kinds of workouts, from long, straight stretches, to hills and intervals, to speed training. Finally — and this was the most important thing for me — many treadmills come with different entertainment options. That means that if you hate running as much as I once did, there are plenty of ways to distract your mind while your body gets down to business.
Whether you’re starting out or starting over, it’s important to do it right. An injury early on can sideline you and set you even farther back on your path to fitness. Solid, proven beginner treadmill workouts can get you back on track, safely.
Different Kinds of Workouts
Treadmills are only good for one thing: running. Right? Wrong! In addition to running, walking, and jogging, there are different treadmill workouts for interval training, for building muscle strength, and for improving your cardiovascular strength and stamina. You can use your treadmill to improve mobility and balance. And you can keep your metabolism on its toes by utilizing a variety of pre-set programs, from hill-climbs to straightaways to random mixes of both. A treadmill is an amazingly versatile tool.
You hear a lot about interval training in fitness circles. But what is it? As the name suggests, it is not doing one thing for the entire workout. Interval training mixes up periods of high-intensity activity, low-intensity activity, and rest. You might mix cardio and weightlifting, fast and slow activity, or steep inclines and long, flat stretches. Treadmill workouts may combine running, walking, and jogging. These may be programmed into the machine or random. Using a treadmill for interval training can help you whip your cardiovascular system into shape fast, as well as build up your endurance. It may also help you lose weight faster if that’s your goal. And it’s great for people at all fitness levels.
Treadmills and balance
If you’re at risk for falls, you should consult your doctor before embarking upon any workout, especially on a treadmill. However, for most people, treadmill workouts can improve mobility and balance. The important thing is to not use the handrails if you don’t have to. Using the handles for all or most of your treadmill time can make you dependent on them, and that can make your balance worse. You may also burn fewer calories. On top of that, holding onto the handles can negate the benefits of running on an incline.
Speaking of inclines, this is one of the most important features of a treadmill. Many treadmills allow you to adjust the angle of the deck. You can simulate going up a hill by increasing the incline. Or, if you prefer, you can keep the bed flat. And some treadmills even let you simulate downhill running with a negative incline. Best of all, many pre-programmed treadmill workouts vary the incline at different points to maximize the efficiency of your workout.
Running on an incline makes your heart work harder. This can help you to burn more calories. It can also make your heart stronger, faster. And, according to Livestrong, walking or running on an incline will encourage your body to burn more fat for fuel. If that’s not enough, increasing the incline during treadmill workouts can even build your muscles and make them stronger.
Best of all, using the treadmill incline is something that everyone, regardless of fitness level, can do.
How to Get Started
Are you excited yet? Well, then let’s go! But first, you have to get ready. Starting off too fast or with inadequate preparation is asking for an injury. And nobody wants that.
First, make sure your body is ready for a treadmill workout. If you’re new to exercise, over 40, or have a medical condition, it’s important to seek your doctor’s advice before beginning any exercise program.
Next, make sure your equipment is in good repair. Is the belt tight? Are all the screws in place and locked down? Are there any signs of wear and tear that might result in an injury? How does the power cord look? Is your machine rated for your size and weight? The state of your equipment is as important to your safety as the state of your own health.
Finally, it’s important to set a goal for your exercise session. Do you want to stay on the treadmill for a certain length of time? Or perhaps you want to reach and maintain a specific heart rate. Your workout should include a warm-up period, to prevent injury, a stretch of aerobic activity, to get that heart pumping, and a cool-down.
How long should your workout last?
The answer to this question is as individual as every person who asks it. If you have a health condition or a specific medical goal, your doctor should give you some guidelines. However, for most people, the American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. They recommend spacing that out into thirty-minute periods.
But what do “moderate” and “vigorous” mean in terms of exercise? You can find the technical definitions at the AHA website. However, for our purposes, some moderate activities include fast walking (3 miles per hour or faster), ballroom dancing, and bicycling slower than ten miles an hour. Vigorous activities include jogging, running, and race walking.
Some Standout Beginner Treadmill Workouts
What’s in a workout? A beginner workout routine will start you out at your own level. This will prevent injury, and, hopefully, will keep you from being intimidated as well. A good beginner workout will also teach you some new skills and techniques. You can learn, or relearn, what kind of exercise you enjoy, what sorts of activities you can do for the long run, and what you need to push your limits. Here are some beginner treadmill workouts that can help you get started on the road to increased fitness.
15 Minute Beginner Treadmill Workout
This walking workout comes from Uberwalker, and it’s a good one. Why? Because it uses both speeds and inclines to create an easy interval training workout that will get you moving. You will spend most of this workout at or above 3.5 miles per hour, which means that it meets the AHA’s guidelines for moderate activity. You will alternate fast walking with moderate walking in increments of one to five minutes. Best of all, you can squeeze it into your day in a mere 15 minutes. You can find more details — and more workouts — at Uberwalker.
- 1 (5 minutes): walk 3.5 miles per hour at a 1 percent incline
- 2 (1 minute): brisk walk 4.5 miles per hour at a 6 percent incline
- 3 (2 minutes): walk 3.5 miles per hour at a 4 percent incline
- 4 (1 minute): brisk walk 4.5 miles per hour at a 6 percent incline
- 5 (2 minutes): walk 3.5 miles per hour at a 4 percent incline
- 6 (1 minute): walk 4.5 miles per hour at a 6 percent incline
- 7 (2 minutes): walk 3.5 miles per hour at a 4 percent incline
- 8 (1 minute): Slow from 3.5 miles per hour to 0 at a 1 percent incline
Self Magazine 10-Minute Interval Workout for Beginners
If the idea of switching your treadmill settings every thirty seconds to one minute makes your head spin, try this quick interval workout from Self Magazine. The founders of Shred 415 designed this easy treadmill workout to fit into your existing gym routine. It’s a way of adding a powerful cardio element to your muscle-building routine. Its simplicity makes it a good way for fit beginners to get a lot of bang out of the treadmill right out of the gate. This is another interval workout, and it’s fast, so it’s a good fat-burner, too.
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Unlike the previous workout, however, this one involves running at speeds of up to seven miles per hour. For this reason, you should only attempt this one if you already have a basic level of cardiovascular fitness. The three-minute step test is an easy way of determining this.
But for now, here’s the routine. Intervals:
- 1 (two minutes): run six miles per hour at a zero percent incline.
- 2 (two minutes): jog 4.5 miles per hour at a ten percent incline.
- 3 (two minutes): run 6.5 miles per hour at a zero percent incline.
- 4 (two minutes): jog 4.5 miles per hour at a ten percent incline.
- 5 (one minute): run 6.5 miles per hour at a zero percent incline.
- 6 (one minute): jog 4.5 miles per hour at a ten percent incline.
- 7 (one minute): run 7 miles per hour at a zero percent incline.
- It’s important to notice that this workout has no warm-up or cool-down period. So, to avoid injury, take the time to stretch and warm up your muscles before beginning. And when you’re finished, walk at a zero incline to bring your heart rate back down.
The Run Experience 40-Minute Workout
If you’re ready for a longer workout, you might want to check out this one from the Run Experience. This workout lasts a little over forty minutes. It has four different components that consist of very different tasks, so it’s a terrific boredom-buster. First, there’s the warmup. Every workout needs one. Then there’s a cadence drill. Cadence means speed combined with rhythm. Olympic runners average 180 steps per minute. The rest of us probably won’t match that, at least not without a lot of work. But we can all work to improve. The third section is interval speed sets, for fat-burning power. And it finishes with a cool-down.
Runner’s Blueprint 30-Minute Beginner Treadmill Program
If you’re new to jogging, but want to meet your AHA daily exercise recommendation in a single workout, this may be the one for you. This routine from Runner’s Blueprint gives you the thirty minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise you need, utilizing a combination of brisk walking and slow jogging. It’s great for increasing cardiovascular fitness, as well as endurance. And it can help you build up your speed, too.
This program is very similar to the one I used to get back into shape after my first baby. It helped me to get back up to speed fast, and, most importantly, relatively painlessly. Here’s how it goes.
- Warm-up (10 minutes): Walk at a pace of 1.5 to two miles per hour at a zero incline.
- Interval 1 (2 minutes): Jog at a pace of 3.5 to four miles per hour at a zero incline.
- Rest (3 minutes): Reduce the pace and walk at a zero incline.
- Interval 2 (3 minutes): Jog at a pace of four miles per hour at a zero incline.
- Rest (3 minutes): Reduce the pace and walk at a zero incline.
- Interval 3 (4 minutes): Jog at a pace of up to 4.5 miles per hour at a zero incline.
- Cool Down (5 minutes): Walk at a zero incline.
Two Beginner Treadmill Workouts from Nordic Trak
Nordic Trak, a manufacturer of cardio training equipment, has two beginner workout routines that can get you started right. The first one is an interval program. The second one uses incline strategically to boost your heart rate. Both workouts last twenty minutes, and Nordic Trak recommends doing them four to five days per week.
Workout 1: Interval Training
This entire routine should be performed with a zero incline.
- Warm-up (3 minutes): Walk or jog at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour.
- Interval 1 (3 minutes): Walk or jog at a pace of 3.8 miles per hour.
- 2 (4 minutes): Jog at a pace of four miles per hour.
- 3 (3 minutes): Jog at a pace of 4.5 miles per hour.
- 4 (3 minutes): Jog at a pace of four miles per hour.
- Cool Down (5 minutes): Walk at a pace of three miles per hour.
Workout #2: Incline Training
Walking, jogging, or running with an increased incline can help you to build cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone. Even better, it can help you to burn the same number of calories in a shorter time. This workout is great for getting your feet wet with incline training. Notice that when the incline goes up, the speed goes down. You may also want to add a period of slower, zero-incline cool-down after finishing the final interval.
- Warm-up (4 minutes): Jog at a pace of four miles per hour with a 3.5 percent incline.
- Interval 1 (4 minutes): Jog at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour at a 5.5 percent incline.
- 2 (4 minutes): Jog at a pace of 4 miles per hour at a 6 percent incline.
- 3 (4 minutes): Jog at a pace of 4 miles per hour at a 5 percent incline.
- 4 (4 minutes): Jog to walk at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour at a 3.5 percent incline.
A Fun Four-Way Workout
It can get boring just going forward. Even if you vary your speed and incline, you may find yourself wanting to mix things up. Somehow. But how? This is a fun, muscle-building, fat-burning workout that will have you thinking and working in three dimensions. It’s easy — you spend equal amounts of time walking forward, walking backward, and walking sideways. That’s all. The speed is a manageable two miles per hour. It’s the 15 percent incline that provides the challenge. But you’re up for a challenge. Aren’t you?
One word of caution. Although this is a slow-speed workout, you will be switching directions on a moving belt. If you are susceptible to falls or recovering from an injury, you might want to skip this one.
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Is The Treadmill Calling Your Name?
Are you excited yet? Are you ready to hop on that treadmill? A treadmill can be a powerful tool, whether you want to start an exercise program or supercharge your current program. It may seem intimidating, but it’s also a fantastic, versatile piece of equipment for beginners. And whether your goal is building muscle, burning fat, or increasing your fitness level, a treadmill can help you get there.