Thursday, April 12, 2012

Your best friend in the gym

Every gym has them, some more than others.  I'm talking about a treadmill, the king of cardio machines.  Every gym I have been to, it appears that the treadmill is always the most widely used.  Why is this?  1) Is it due to convenience?  2) Is it due to simplicity?  3) Is it that most of us don't know how to use some of the other cardio options available at the gym?

Regardless of our choice to use the treadmill during our regular exercise routine, I am here to share with you some ways to best utilize the use of a treadmill.  Rather than being perceived as a piece of equipment to "just get in your cardio for the day", or to "just warm-up"  here are a few ways to jump start your exercise program or add variety to your current program.  Besides, exercise is supposed to be fun; variation is key.  Doing the same thing over and  over will result in boredom and lack of results.

Did you answer YES to "due to it's simplicity?"  For most this answer will be yes.  You simply can get on the track, and push the "quick start" button and begin your workout.  The problem with doing this over and over, is that you will tend to repeat the same type of workout each time, rather than changing things up and adding variety.  If you tend to just push the quick start button, is it because you don't know how to use any of the pre-programmed workouts?  If this is the case, take the time to ask a personal trainer or a staff member at the gym to help show you how to navigate and select other options available.  Treadmills can be very complicated, especially the newer models that can be quite extensive.  There are many options you can choose, so use that to your advantage and learn how to use them.

Each time I incorporate the treadmill into a clients workout program, I make sure that they know how to properly get on/off the treadmill, and know where the emergency "stop" button is located.  The spinning track can be daunting to some, so I try to eliminate the fear factor and instruct the safety concerns.

Treadmills can be a very useful tool for those who are competitive runners as well as beginners.  They can help to improve your running gait and become more efficient at running.  For instance, relaxing key muscles in the shoulders, using the diaphragm for deep breathing, and landing on the balls of the feet rather than the heels can all lead to better running technique.  According to Linda Blade, PhD, the sports performance manager at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton, Alberta, "many people tend to overstride, landing on their heels, which leads to a loss of stride rate and running economy".

I've talked about high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT) in previous blogs and the benefits it provides to an exercise program.  The same can be said for doing intervals on treadmills.  By doing short, hard bursts of efforts you will boost your metabolism, increase body fat loss, and increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).  EPOC results in your body continuing to burn calories for hours after you are done exercising.   Doing intervals can also help to prevent muscle loss from occurring.  Maintaining muscle mass is very important for our overall health and well-being.  Why spend hours and hours at the same speed and becoming bored or adding mental fatigue?   Instead, try to include some hill work or intervals during your next session on the treadmill. There are plenty of options in the pre-programmed workouts, so don't just hop on and go.

Here are some great workouts you can try next time you use the treadmill:

1.  Warm up for 10-15 min at 60-70% of your max HR (MHR).  The sprint for 30 seconds at 80-90% of your MHR followed by 1.5 minutes of recovery (below 65% of your MHR).  Start off by doing 5-10 of these efforts and then increasing to 10-15 after a few weeks.
***After a few weeks and these start to become easier, begin to reduce the recovery time.  First start with only 1 minute recovery between efforts, and then after a few more weeks reduce the recovery to only 30 seconds.

This next workout is for the more advanced treadmill users.  I wouldn't recommend beginners trying this.

2.  Start by walking at 3mph for 5 min.  Then begin to increase the grade by 2% every 20 seconds until you reach 6% at the end of 1 minute.  The begin to reduce the grade by 2% every 20 seconds for another minute until you are on flat ground.  Recover for a full 4 minutes and then repeat 2-4 more times.

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