If you've ever spent any time doing a treadmill workout, you know that it has the potential to be very boring. This is especially true if you plan to run at the same pace for most of your workout. If you're a running novice, you may have never done any other kind of running. Seasoned runners know that there's a better way to mix up your running regimen: an interval-training program.
Intervals are exactly what the name implies. The most basic forms of interval training are achieved by alternating between low- and high-intensity running styles. Low-intensity running allows you to run or jog at your normal pace. Conversely, high-intensity running pushes your muscles and cardiovascular fitness to their limits. There are four main benefits of interval training on the treadmill: variety, endurance, weight loss and speed.
With interval training on the treadmill, you always have a new goal to beat. Intervals allow you to bypass the dullness of running at one pace. Intervals require you to change your pace at a set distance or time, so your mind is always focused on the next phase, whether it's walking or sprinting.
As with any form of exercise, if you run long enough, your body will start to ache and your muscles will become sluggish. This occurs when your muscles are no longer able to use all of the lactic acid that they produce. With interval training, you allow your body to recover by switching to low-intensity running. In this way, you can still sprint for extended periods of time but you won't have as many of the negative effects of lactic acid buildup.
When you run at a slow pace for extended periods, your body will burn calories at the same rate. Interval training enhances your metabolism to burn calories at a higher rate. For example, if you alternate between three and six miles per hour, your overall metabolic rate will be higher than if you ran three miles per hour the whole time. This allows you to effectively run an average speed of four or five miles an hour without overexerting yourself.
High-intensity interval training on the treadmill also allows you to get faster. During the high-intensity phase, your body can become more accustomed to higher speeds. The improvement in speed will be gradual over time, especially if running is just a hobby.
Planning Your Interval-Training Program
If you're new to intervals, it may be a good idea to consult a personal trainer or a fitness website for advice. Some treadmills have built-in interval training workout programs that change speeds automatically throughout your workout. These programs can be very helpful if you're trying to find a workout regimen that fits your running style. To avoid injury, you should consult the user manual so you know that the program is not beyond your current running abilities. Once you find an interval-training program you like, try changing the intensity differently each time to fine-tune it to your preferences.
Interval training doesn't have to take place exclusively on the treadmill; it works in any exercise situation. In some interval-training programs, you alternate between running and other exercises. For example, you can do high-intensity running and then switch to weight lifting or stretching before hopping back on the treadmill.
The next time you dread your treadmill workout, it might be a sign to change your routine. Interval training is just one way to add variety and value to your workout. There are many other workouts that you can try as well. It only takes a willingness to step outside your normal fitness program to discover your true potential.