4 Treadmill Workouts that Are Actually Fun

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4 Treadmill Workouts that Are Actually Fun

When it comes to exercise, the treadmill is a reliable go-to option for cardio. Problem is, the second your foot hits the speeding belt you’ll remember: Running in place can be really boring.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to mix up your indoor run to engage your brain and maximize results. “The treadmill is convenient and allows people to exercise in all sorts of climates,” says Bill Pierce, director of the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training and author of Run Less, Run Faster. “And you can be creative with how to use it.” Here, running and fitness experts offer suggestions for how to spice up the time you spend on the treadmill.

Pick a Card Patti Finke, an exercise physiologist and certified running coach with the Road Runners Club of America at Team Oregon, has a card game that she plays with the runners she trains.

Grab four index cards, and on each write the word run, run fast, jog, or walk, she suggests. Place the cards in an envelope, which you can keep on top of the treadmill’s control panel. Warm up for a mile and then pick a card. Do what the card says for 3 to 4 minutes. If the card says run, start at an easy training pace; if it says jog, stick to your warm-up and cool down pace. Run fast means to go fast enough to push yourself, but never so fast that you’re going all out.

“We’ve done variations of this workout for years. People like the variety and not knowing what they’re going to get,” Finke says. “We all know how easy it is to get stuck running one pace.”

Total-Body Workout This routine, designed by Melissa Paris, a personal trainer in New York City, requires you to get on and off the treadmill, but boasts benefits for your arms, legs, and belly. “You’ll get cardio as well as some strength training,” she says. Plus, because the running portions involve quick bursts of sprints, you’ll burn plenty of calories, and the circuit takes only 35 minutes. You’ll need light, 3- to 5-pound weights nearby.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Warm up for 5 minutes with a light jog on the treadmill.
  • Hop off and do 15 pushups.
  • Get back on the treadmill. Run for 1 minute. Bump up the speed by about 1 to 1.5 mph and sprint for 30 seconds. You’ll repeat this interval pattern 3 times (1-minute run, 30-second sprint, 1 minute-run, 30-second sprint, 1-minute run, 30-second sprint).*
  • Hop off and hold a plank for 1 minute. Do 20 bicycle crunches.
  • Repeat the treadmill work. (Run for 1 minute, then sprint for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.)
  • Do a side plank, holding the pose on each side for 30 seconds. Complete 15 overhead press reps with a light weight.
  • Repeat the treadmill work. (Run for 1 minute, then sprint for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.)
  • Do 15 triceps dips on a chair or bench and 20 squats.
  • Cool down with a 5-minute jog

*Beginners can modify the treadmill portion so that they’re doing a 1-minute walk followed by a 30-second run, instead of running and sprinting.

Ladder This classic speed drill gradually increases the length of your interval by 1 to 2 minutes, rather than calling for a series of equal-length intervals. You’ll have some recovery time between each of your fast runs and then you’ll decrease your intervals by the same steady increments.

Here’s one way you could structure your ladder workout:

  • Warm up for 1 mile
  • Pick up your speed for 2 minutes (Finke recommends a 10-K pace for pickups, but you can choose a pace that feels like you’re going fast without going all out.)
  • Slow down and recover for 2 to 3 minutes
  • 4-minute pickup
  • 4- to 5-minute recovery run
  • 6-minute pickup
  • 6- to 7-minute recovery run

Depending on your fitness level, you may want to keep increasing your intervals. But you’ll eventually want to head back down, decreasing the length of your interval times in steady increments:

  • 6-minute pickup
  • 6- to 7-minute recovery run
  • 4-minute pickup
  • 4- to 5-minute recovery run
  • 2-minute pickup
  • 2- to 3-minute recovery run
  • Cool down

“This tends to be everyone’s favorite speed workout,” Finke says. “People love increasing distance and coming back down, because after you work hard, the workout keeps getting easier. People feel very good about that.”

The recovery period should be at least as long as your pickup, Finke says. Longer recovery times train your body to produce less lactate at each speedup, and lower lactate levels can allow you to run for longer without reaching exhaustion, which can lead to better performance.

TV Workout The television on your treadmill can be used for more than a distraction to pass the time. It can also help structure your workout. If you’re watching a half-hour show, the program should last about 22 minutes, with 8 minutes of commercials. “You could run hard for 22 minutes and take breaks during commercials,” says Pierce. “A lot of folks will also use music this way by running to the beat of music. They’ll go hard for one song and then slow down for the next.”

How do you feel about treadmill runs? Think you’ll try one of these not-boring workouts? Tell us in the comments!

 

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  • SallsBells

    I enjoy the variation of interval training on the treadmill. I’m not quite up to running yet, but do speed walking at various speeds and changing altitudes. Never stick to one speed/altitude. It’s boring and doesn’t do you much good.

    • JofJLTNCB6

      What part of a consistent speed/incline for a particular workout makes you think it “doesn’t do you much good”?

      • Buckeyemuss

        It really depends on what your goals are….

        • JofJLTNCB6

          My goals? They’re varied.

          But one of them is to debunk bogus information such as that consistent speed/incline doesn’t do one much good.

          • Buckeyemuss

            My apologies….my comment was not really directed specifically at or to you, but the fact remains that people run on a treadmill for various reasons and expectations, some erroneously. Running at the same incline and speed will never enable them to run faster, for instance. It likely won’t increase their endurance beyond a certain point either. There are likely other goals that will simply never be met by running at the same rate and incline always so, to your point, the above statement made by SallsBells is both accurate and inaccurate DEPENDING ON ONE’S GOALS. Debunking debunked…….

          • JofJLTNCB6

            So many assumptions you had to make to be right…

            …but I suppose you finally got there.

    • Huh?

      That makes no sense.

  • Betty

    I like yo use varied speeds. I will stay at 2.0 for a couple mins and then up the speed to 3.0 and stay there for 5 mins, up the speed to 3.5 an stay for 5 mins, up the speed to 4.0 and stay for 5 mins, drop the speed to 3.5 for 5 mins then up the speed to 4.0. Alternate between 3.5 and 4.0 a few more times then drop the speed to 3.0 to give myself a break for 2 mins then back up to 3.5 to 4.0 and alternate between 3.5 and 4.0.

  • Laurence Carr

    Total Body Workout is fine in theory, but in practice, there are not many gyms where you can hop on and off the treadmill to do resistance exercises in between running without losing the treadmill!

    • Snelette

      Lol!!

    • Jess

      Ha, I thought this too… then I remembered the couple of times I’ve been in on a Sunday afternoon. You might find you have the whole gym to yourself! 😉

  • Snelette

    How about a workout for people with bad joints and can’t run at all? I’d like to see that! 🙂

    • Rocky E

      You can do the last one to music and walk. I have no meniscal tissue in my knees so I had to adjust my treadmill stuff to walking fast. But I also do it when I’m just walking or doing a local park trail. Make sure you warm up, then hit shuffle on your IPod or MP3 player. Try to walk to the beat of the music – so if it’s fast, speed up; if it’s slow, slow down and really focus on the stepping and roll through of your foot. It’s not the ideal workout to lose weight, but it does help change things up and keep you motivated.

      • Guest

        Thanks Rocky. I’m going to have to work convince myself it’s fun though! I’m willing to give shot however 🙂

        • Stacy M

          I totally agree with you to Rocky! I like the change up from the different kinds od music so you’re not listening and doing the same thing all the time.

    • Angela

      You can convert these this to stationary bike or elliptical which are easier on joints.

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  • Caren Sorrells

    I walk/jog on my treadmill several times a week. I usually listen to a book on audible, but I will try the TV. As a retired person with knee problems beginning I am hesitant to jump on and off the treadmill or to do fast running. I can still burn 200 calories in 20 minutes so the chapter in the book and the time and calories burned motivate me.

    • Meg

      How in the world do you burn 200 calories in 20 minutes? 1 hour on the treadmill and I burn 270, and that’s intervals of running and walking.

      • Jessica

        I burn 7-15 calories per minute on the treadmill, bike, and elliptical. My 2 hour workouts usually result in a 1500-2000 calorie burn. Much of the reason for this, I think, is my heavy weight. I’m adding in body weight to my exercises (and a lot of it!), so I am likely getting a bit more out of it. Just a theory!

      • sherry

        the higher your incline is set the more calories you burn. i have mine set on incline 10. i put the speed on about 3.8. i can easily burn 200 calories in 20 mins it just depends on your settings.

      • Scott

        Caren Sorrells, it all depends on the speed/incline you set the treadmill to. I don’t have a clue if you are severely overweight or may have other issues you might deal with. I’m guessing if you burn only 270 calories in 1 hour you’re speed is around 2 or so. Try upping the speed a bit and the incline. I see people on treadmills for only 5-10 minutes with the setting so low they only burn maybe 25 calories. If you’re looking to burn bad calories, i.e. fat around your stomach, you need to keep your heart rate in the proper zone. The zone for me is between 132 and 152. It will vary for everyone. I try to keep it as close to 152 as possible since I’ll burn more bad calories. Once I get outside the zone say at 170, I’m burning calories that will make me tire more easily and then I’ll feel hungry and want to eat right away. For a healthy heart one needs to run, bike or whatever you choose about 6 times a week and for 30 minutes each workout. I could go much faster on a treadmill, but it doesn’t do me as much good for what I want to accomplish. Best of luck!

  • Rocky E

    I’ve used the music on my mp3 to decide my pace. I just hit shuffle after the warm-up and let it decide what the workout will be like. This way it changes everyday. I also do this when I’m walking in my neighborhood.

    • Cem Brinckley

      I’ve done the same thing with my music. Different playlists for various speeds. Best thing I’ve found to keep the treadmill from getting boring.

  • Bernard Dunning

    what the HELL… all these articles are made for marathon runners. Warm up for a mile? Hell running a mile IS my workout!

    • JofJLTNCB6

      A warm-up mile == marathon runners? That might be a *slight* exaggeration.

  • Gwendolyn Johnson

    At this point i’ll try anything…Treadmill is sooooo boring. I’ve been riding my bike!

  • CharlieRuns

    Not a good idea to hop off a moving surface place your head below your heart and hope back on a moving surface, all while your heart rate is at an increased level. Bad workout bad idea. There’s safer ways to accomplish the same thing.

    • JofJLTNCB6

      I’ll remember this the next time I’m doing handstand pushups. Not sure how I’m going to keep my heart rate down while doing those though.

    • Rebecca Stephenson Alexander

      Wouldn’t you stop the treadmill before you get off?

  • dbaillie

    I have a workout for the treadmill that I have gotten great results with, Th e WOW workout or Walk Off Weight, you walk at different paces 6 days of the week alternating Lower body work out, Upper body workout and Core workout. It was put together by Prevention magazine.

  • Iamgoingtosucceed

    i had a really bad episode with my right knee after moving. This is the first time it has swollen and been extremely painful. A co-worker told me about ARPwave therapy. I finally gave in to his nagging as the swelling would not go away and everything I did just made it worse. I got a free first session and could actually walk the next day with out twisting my body. It was amazing! Later, I had an MRI and there isn’t a tear like we thought, just heavy arthritis. I continue to ARP and cannot believe that in a short amount of time I can actually do more stuff than ever. ARPing includes a workout while you are doing this but they pace you with your ability and then later push the heck out of you. I high step marched for 5 mintues, did 100 sit squats and 200 stair step ups yesterday, all the while cranking up the amperage. Then we went on to some arm work. That was my first real workout since the diagnosis. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for me this afternoon! Oh, I was able to ride my hroses about 3 hours in the mountains last Sunday and i started back to the gym this morning.

    • Vicster

      Hello – 6 months ago I was diagnosed with Arthritis in my knees/hands. Taking Enbrel for the hands which is working but the knees are a different story. We are on acid therapy shots in my left knee and if that doesn’t work then they’ll send me to ortho for surgery discussion which I’m not thrilled about – ANYWAY, I’m intrigued about the ARPwave therapy you speak of. Were you referred to a location by your primary? I’d like to look into this in my area so any information on how to find a proper facility/location would be great. THANKS SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS…..I’m excited about your results

  • KFC

    You can also try changing the incline while walking if changing speed is hard on your knees.

  • Diane Fiore

    Treadmill time is prayer time. An hour goes by in no time!!!

  • John S.

    John S. Age 83
    Ideas sound fine for young people, with the exception of jumping on and off a moving treadmill belt. At my age and with heart and back issues, I use a method of interval training on my treadmill that helps relieve the boredom. I vary the elevation by calorie count, starting at 1.8 mph and elevation 5 for 5-10 calories to warm up. Then, I do 4 calories at elevation 5, 4 cal. at elev, 7, 2 cal. at 8, working in a 10 cal, window. After 20-30 cal., I step it up to less cal, at lower elev. and more at higher elev, this keeps me focused on changing the elev. and totally ignoring the time. I take breaks to stretch or do some strength exercises on my small gym. This method works fine and helps to burn 200-400 calories in a session.

  • Vasselle

    I like to dance and skip on the treadmill. I think it freaks people out a bit. I play my favorite music and then do a dance that just feels right, moderating my incline and pace to the music so that I don’t fall off. My favorites is “Odds Are” by BNL (skipping forward and at times side-skipping or striding sideways). Skipping uses up a lot of energy!

    • Ray

      I do everything you do. Sometimes people look, Ive gotten a couple of claps. Dance music in earbuds keeps me going. Hahaha.

  • cacijomo .

    Does anyone Rebound? Hoping that bouncing on a trampoline will not only be fun but not so jarring on the old body.

  • Leanne Shirley

    I brought my treadmill 4 weeks ago and I love it , best piece of machinery I ever brought , I’ve lost 10 kgs I’m fitter , healthy then I’ve ever been . If I dont workout I’m lost , when ur inner thighs stop rubbing together when you run must be doing something right huh !!!!

    • Ray

      Hahaha

    • Victoria

      Hi.
      I am looking into buying a treadmill but I do not know what brand to buy. could you help?

      • sam mangram

        Most treadmills are great, and the sales person will normally know what is more popular. You don’t need to get the most expensive one.

  • Mzs Stiletto

    I am loving the idea of these. I normally
    stand in front of the tread for about 1-2 minutes and stare at it in order to
    mentally prepare myself for what I find to be the most difficult and
    challenging exercise for me. However, with these routines I think that I just
    might pass the treadmill test. I am actually going to try the Ladder tonight
    and this weekend the Pick a Card, that one actually sounds fun.

  • MMcCauley

    These are great ideas! Thanks! I’ve been running on the treadmill everyday for two straight years and I am in need of something to switch it up a bit.

  • Ray

    I’m a nut job on the treadmill. I run, run sideways, trott, skip, I put on a show for everyone in gym. All to the beat of Revolution, on I HEART.

  • Andre Ouellette

    Use the BitGym App when on stationary bike or treadmill; its runs at various locations around the world make inside exercising time fly by. Also very educational.

  • Di

    I have made a 45 min music track i listen to when i use my treadmill. Walking & jogging to the beat really helps me push through to the next level or keep up my speed until the song ends. I find it difficult to exercise without music now. Different tracks are used for incline fast jogging and cooling down. Hubby says my singing hasn’t improved but my fitness level certainly has.

  • Linda

    There are very many of us older adults, actually young ones also, with bad knees or hips. My ortho doc told me to never run. Please develop a treadmill “routine” tnta we could use. Show older adults in these examples.

    • JofJLTNCB6

      If you have specific medical issues and have been given specific advice by your doctor, you should rely on that for a program that is appropriate for you. A blog post won’t be able to appropriately address that.

      • omgstfualready

        I know where the poster is coming from. My doctor said ‘slow and limited incline’. Okay. Well, how do I keep THAT from getting so boring I want to punch myself in the face every mile just to stay awake?

        • JofJLTNCB6

          I have no idea. In fact, short of an immersive surround screen multimedia experience, it simply may not be possible to make the dreadmill experience such that you don’t spend every moment on it devising intricate plans to end it all. It’s terrible. It just is. And I suspect it always will be.

          That said, I still maintain that individual medical limitations need to be addressed by the individual’s medical professional and that a blog will never (and should never) purport to do this.

  • dee

    Ran on the treadmill this morning. This article gave me a bunch of great ideas I’ll try tomorrow! Thanks!

  • myfelinepal

    5. Go outside

  • Teri from Babylon

    I’m sorry, I must have read the wrong article…..NOTHING sounds remotely like fun. Unless it’s reverse psychology — there are not many things that would make me want to stay on a treadmill, but “plank” does the trick! I will stick to swimming.

  • Halifax

    I always read on the treadmill. I have a kindle and it fits perfectly on it. If I have a good book an hour can go by before I even realize it!! It’s a true life saver.

  • Sara

    No, the exercise doesn’t CAUSE the prolapse. It can aggravate a pre-existing prolapse, including one you never knew your had. That causes one to blame the exercise when it’s not the case. I have w prolapsed uterus, but still do all the workouts must others do. I don’t need surgery yet because I have strengthened my muscles to endure such activities that the prolapse isn’t even an issue except for that time of the month. Then I just lighten up on those activities and focus on other things.

  • Di

    I love this I have been doing this for the last 4 months and keep on planning doing it for more months love it and wouldn’t change it I use to hate running and now I enjoy it ❤️

  • Try deadmill sprints. I love these. You leave the treadmill off. Set a timer on your phone. You run on the turned-off treadmill belt for 10 seconds at a full on sprint, then rest for 50 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. It’s a killer but a great way to get in a quick high intensity workout. It’s harder than it sounds.

  • Syd

    I LOVE this article! I’m totally trying this tonight!!! Thanks!!!!

  • Lydia Kirby

    I found this app called Run! Zombie. It’s a nice mix between Walking Dead and Resident Evil. You can play your music in the background and the mission details will pop up at certain intervals. It’s a lot of fun. As you run, you collect items to help build your township. This makes running on the treadmill a whole lot easier for me. I also like to read/watch TV while I run too. But outside is my absolute favorite!!!