Living in Illinois presents an exercise challenge when the winter months blow in. Therefore, I am eternally grateful for my treadmill come January when the weather is just too chilly for outdoor activity. Sure, there are those that seem immune to below freezing temps, but for me, my treadmill is my best winter buddy. Though some of you may refer to the treadmill as the “dreadmill”, keep in mind, whatever fitness level you are; you just might be missing out on some great workouts!

I’m a big believer that variety is the key to sticking with exercise. One of the reasons people burn out is they get bored with the same exercise routine day in and day out. The secret to staying on track with exercise is to keep it interesting. Not only does variety keep you engaged, it’s less likely to cause overuse injuries. A treadmill offers that variety. Additionally, the give of the belt is easier on joints thus reducing the risk of injury.

Running On TreadmillSo, rather than looking at a treadmill as a belt to nowhere, consider it a one way ticket to a great workout that leaves you wanting more. From walking hills to running hi/lo intervals, the treadmill is a great way to keep you engaged while gaining some serious health benefits. Following are some suggestions on getting the most out of a treadmill.

For walkers, the sky is the limit when using a treadmill. When I walk on my treadmill, I typically choose a hi/lo workout. This workout involves increasing my speed throughout the duration of my walk. For example, I always warm up with a 5 minute walk at about 3.8 mph. After 5 minutes, I increase the speed to 4.0 mph. Every 5 minutes I kick up the speed by .1 mph until I get to my maximum speed which is about 4.6 mph. Once I peak, I then reverse the process reducing my speed by .1 mph every 5 minutes until I get back to my starting point. This particular program prevents boredom and accommodates any fitness level. You simply start at a pace that’s comfortable for you, and peak at a speed that challenges you. The best part of this program is the noticeable improvements with both stamina and pace.

For runners, I do a similar hi/lo program. I usually run at around 6.2 mph (note: treadmills speeds vary). When I’m working on speed, I’ll stay at my base pace and when I hit 5 minutes, I increase the speed until I reach my maximum which is around 7.1 mph. I stay at that pace for one minute, then come back down to my base speed and repeat every 5 minutes. I typically do this on my 5-7 mile runs. If I’m doing a shorter run, I’ll add some incline work, it’s an incredible workout. If I’m on a longer run, I’ll increase my pace for 2 minutes every 10 minutes. I find that when I train like this over the winter, when spring arrives, my race pace has increased pretty dramatically. My treadmill is my go to source when I want to do speed work.

If you’re a beginner, there is no friendlier exercise buddy than a treadmill. When I owned my fitness studio, I was asked all the time about the best in-home piece of equipment to have. Hands down, I’d recommend a treadmill. It’s safe, adaptable, versatile and easy to master. I encourage beginners to track their starting pace and time so that they can monitor their progress. There is nothing more exciting for a beginner than to see progress. Further, your can improve gradually which means you’ll likely avoid the common trap of too much too soon.

Though there are many other pieces of equipment such as bikes, rowers, elliptical, etc. available, they simply don’t have the versatility of a treadmill. Whether you’re just making your way in to the world of exercise or looking to improve your PR, a treadmill can accommodate your goals while keeping you engaged and consistent.