These expert tips will turn your dreadmill to shredmill and maximize every step for better, faster results
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You've long taken advantage of intervals' fat-incinerating benefits, and tweaking your hard-easy program can help you sweat off even more in even less time. In a University of Copenhagen study, researchers had adults replace their regular training sessions with 20- to 30-minute runs of gradually building 1-minute repeats consisting of 30 seconds jogging, 20 seconds moderately paced running, and 10 seconds sprinting. Although the runners cut their training time in half, they also cut 23 seconds from their 1,500-meter runs and a minute off their 5K times. Plus they significantly lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, all in just seven weeks.
This type of up-down intensity also melts serious calories. "These workouts cause your heart rate to race up and down, so your body never adjusts to the workout and therefore continues to burn more calories than it would if going at a single pace," says Taylor Ryan, a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant in Charleston, SC. The metabolism boost can last for up to 48 hours post-workout. In fact, studies have shown that two hours of intervals is equivalent fat-burning wise to 10 hours of steady-state cardio when both are performed over the course of two weeks.
Ryan recommends using the 10-20-30 formula for your runs three to four non-consecutive days a week. It works for walkers too: Use a brisk pace for 30 seconds, speed walk 20 seconds, and go as fast as you can for the last 10 seconds.
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Although interval training is king when it comes to the calories-out side of the exercise-diet equation, all intervals all the time isn't the way to go. Switch up your workout frequency (how often you hit the treadmill), intensity (how hard you work), and modality (whether you walk or run or cross-train on a bike), says exercise physiologist and running coach Amy Dixon.
“Perform three weekly cardio workouts, alternating between high-intensity intervals on flats and hills and endurance workouts that incorporate flat-road walking or running or hills," Dixon says, "so that you do two days of one type of cardio and one day of the other." And take advantage of all the numbers literally at your fingertips: If you always run at a 10-minute mile pace at the same incline, for example, press the up arrow on your grade and speed just enough so you notice the intensity boost but not enough to slow you down.
Get a 2fer
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Cardio and strength do not need to be kept apart like cats and dogs. During a lifting session, use the treadmill as an active rest between sets, suggests Tanner Martty, certified personal trainer and fitness expert for LEAF Lifestyle in Santa Monica, CA. These short, all-out bouts help release hormones that maximize fat mobilization for 24 hours, he says, "and it's also most effective for building strength." He has clients briskly jog or sprint for 30 seconds, but decreases the time if they start to fatigue.
When the gym's too crowded to go back and forth between the weight room and treadmill, do one of the workouts below on the ground directly behind your machine so you don't lose it. (Be sure to stop the belt before you get off, and we recommend doing this on a slower day to avoid the evil eye from those waiting in line.) Repeat either circuit as many times as you can 45 minutes to burn up to 800 calories*.
Push-ups: 5-12 reps (or as many as possible with good form)
Dumbbell rows: 5-12 reps
Squat jumps: 8 reps
Treadmill sprint: 30 seconds
Treadmill recovery: 90 seconds jogging at 50 percent of your sprint speed
Squat jumps: 10 reps
Treadmill sprint: 30 seconds
Walking (or reverse) lunges: 30 seconds
Jumping jacks (or jump rope): 60 seconds
*All calorie burn totals in this story are estimates based on a 140-pound woman and may vary depending on size, fitness, and exertion level
Be Faster on Your Feet
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The next time you're running, count how many steps you take in 10 seconds and multiply that by six to determine your steps per minute. This is your stride frequency, and although most runners have one between 150 and 156, the magic number is 180, says Robert Forster, a physical therapist, performance specialist and founder of Phase IV and Forster Physical Therapy. "This frequency allows your foot to strike the ground below your center of gravity, improving efficiency and biomechanics and helping you avoid injury,” he says. Faster footwork also maximizes calorie burn, even if your pace doesn't increase, since your heart pumps faster and you’ll have to work harder to maintain your stride.
Try upping your strides one minute at a time by making your feet move faster until you get used to it, Forster says. It may also help to use a metronome app (like this cadence app) that beeps 180 times per minute or to listen to a song that’s 180 beats per minute and match your footfalls to the rhythm.
Call Up Support
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Instead of playing Angry Birds on your phone to pass the time—and therefore not giving your all during your workout—use your cell to stay motivated and crank up your effort with one of these.
MotionTraxx’s Treadmill Coach Album ($7.99, motiontraxx.com)
Download this 60-minute treadmill music session, led by Dixon, directly to your iPod. The songs' beats per minute match her speed, incline, and intensity cues, helping you run at the right pace. “Having a coach in your ear will not only provide you with a sound workout so you aren't wasting your time, it forces you to actually connect with your intensity,” Dixon says.
Interval Run ($0.99, iTunes)
For those who prefer to control the playlist, Delta Vee’s app allows you to listen to your favorite tunes while following 5K, tabata, one-hour runner, and other pre-programmed training plans. And if you're a complete control freak, you can also set up your own intervals. Either way, say good-bye to spending your entire run looking at your watch.
iSmooth Run (free, iTunes)
Take a pedometer, a heart rate monitor, and a training log, put them all together, and you get this app. It tracks your pace, speed, mileage, session length, and how fast your ticker works and turns all that info into customizable graphs and charts so you can follow your progress. There's also a GPS function if you want to go off-mill and auto pause so that anytime you need to tie your shoe or grab a drink of water, you don't have to worry about messing up your stats.
Turn Training on Its Side
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Belts may move in only one direction, but that doesn't mean you can't move in others. Walking sideways works your inner and outer thighs in addition to the entire glute group, increases exercise efficiency, and strengthens and stretches hips, says certified personal trainer Jeff Rogers, owner of Rogcity Fitness. He recommends running or walking for 5 minutes and then side shuffling for 60 seconds on each side. Repeat the full 7-minute set about three times (be sure to warm up and cool down before and after).
If you’ve never done a side shuffle before, Rogers suggests starting slowly at about 2 miles per hour with no incline and holding on to the handlebars. Gradually increase your speed and let go of the bars when it feels comfortable. To get the most out of turning to your side, engage your core, bend your knees slightly behind your toes, keep your back straight, and look forward.
Have the Proper Form
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Friendly tip to the woman we've all seen slogging away hours half bent-over on a cardio machine: Exercise only leads to results if you use good form. For walkers, that means keeping hands relaxed and arms bent 90 degrees while driving elbows back and then fists forward to shoulder height, Dixon says. "Form is even more important for runners," she adds, "because too much upper-body movement, such as crossing your arms over your midline, can tire your body out more quickly." Which means you can't last the half hour you planned to be on your feet. Consider this permission to check yourself out in the mirror from time to time, and try these 10 ways to improve your running technique.
Take a Positive Slant
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Love 'em or hate 'em, hills sure do burn calories—more than 400 in 35 minutes with Ryan's Hit the Hills workout, which alternates between sprinting at no or low inclines, jogging at mid-range elevation, and walking steep hills. “Walking on a higher elevation activates more muscles, keeping the calorie burn high even though you're going slower," Ryan says. This is an intense interval session, so adjust the interval lengths, inclines and/or speed to best fit your fitness level.
Be a Baller
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Although adding extra weight to your gait can help you subtract more calories, using dumbbells can strain the joints and who owns a weighted vest? Grab a medicine ball instead and hug it to your chest as you run. Having the additional pounds at your core where your body can handle it is safer than holding dumbbells and "because your arms are wrapped around the ball, you can't use them for momentum, which puts more stress on your legs to do the work, especially if you sprint,” Ryan says.
Try her Protect the Cargo Cardio Drills routine, a mix of 2-minute walks and 45-second sprints that zaps more than 300 calories in 25 minutes. (This works even better if you can preprogram your intervals on your treadmill so you don’t have to fumble with the buttons.) Aim to complete the workout without setting the ball down, but if you get tired, rest it on the treadmill console.
Turn It Off
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The most effective metabolism-boosting treadmill trick doesn't even require pressing the power button. For Ryan's Make the Treadmill Beg Fat Blaster, you have to make the belt move by holding onto the bars for leverage and pushing as hard as you can. When you feel like you can't go any farther, turn on the treadmill for a 2-minute walk to bring your heart rate down, taking deep breaths to regain control. “This is the hardest of my routines because it's an interval strength workout,” she says. But when you torch about 425 calories in half an hour and keep your internal furnace stoked for long after you've stepped off the treadmill, it's more than worth it.