From being able to work out year-round to avoiding the risks of dog poo, there are plenty of good reasons to run on the treadmill instead of outdoors.
Although there is one major downside (aside from when the person who used the machine before you doesn’t wipe off their sweat droplets): it can get monotonous when you’re in the same room doing the same routine, day in, day out.
It depends on what you’re training for – maybe a marathon or to lose weight – but there are ways to make every session on the treadmill more effective and fun.
Interval training — intense bursts of activity followed by a period of rest — on the treadmill not only offers the benefit of fighting boredom, but allows you to burn a significant amount of calories in a short amount of time.
“For people who are really comfortable running on treadmills and wanting to maximise their benefits, a simple and effective way to do high-intensity interval training is a 20-second fast run and then 20 seconds off, where you straddle the machine to be in complete rest,” explains Sydney exercise scientist Greg Stark, founder of better being and author of Sweat Equity: Peak Performance for the Leaders of Today and Tomorrow.
“For most interval training [the whole workout] should be no more than 15 minutes, and can be as short as five minutes, such as at the end of a resistance training session,” Stark says.
“It should get to a point where you’re at complete exhaustion – you should feel like you can’t do another repetition.”
It’s easy to fall into a routine doing the same workout on the treadmill each day, but alternating between high-intensity sessions and recovery days will help you increase your fitness faster.
It’s also better for the body long-term, Stark says.
“It’s good to have ‘on’ and ‘off’ days, on the latter doing exercise to help regenerate the body. It’s also better than doing nothing at all. For some people that might be walking at a steady pace for an extended period of time, for others a light jog.
“It should be comfortable and not taxing on the body, but at the same time you’re still burning calories.”
Stark says it’s important to listen to your body each day to determine what style of workout is right for you.
“Everyone’s going to be different every day – one day you might be feeling really good and ready for a tough session, or if you haven’t slept well you might decide to do a low demand walk or jog.
“Don’t think if you’re not pushing to 100 percent it means there aren’t benefits – doing something will get you a better result than nothing at all.”
Boredom and lack of motivation is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome to make sure you don’t leave your treadmill session early, or skip the gym altogether.
“A big part of running is the mental battle of it. Often your mind will give in before your body, so developing mental resilience is really important,” Stark explains.
There are several strategies you can use to stay engaged in your workout.
If you’re training for an event, try visualising yourself crossing the finish line, or increase the treadmill’s incline as you imagine yourself powering up tough hills. Or if your goal is to run three kilometres, break it down into six lots of 500 metres and focus on getting through each section, one at a time.
“Research has shown music can play a role in your exercise performance, and a lot of people listen to podcasts, which can be a great way to engage the mind,” Stark suggests.
As for whether you should catch up on an episode of Real Housewives while you’re on the treadmill, Stark says it depends on the workout.
“If you’re looking to do an intense, purposeful training session, TV is probably going to act as a distraction because you’re not completely focused on what you’re doing.
“But if you’re doing a training session that is more designed to regenerate or recover and make you feel better, TV could have value.”
But ultimately it’s important to enjoy your workout, so if TV helps you through the session, then go for it.
“It’s important to enjoy the process of getting fit because we’re more likely to stay engaged with it long term if it’s something we look forward to.
“If you like watching TV while you work out, it’s better than not going to the gym at all. It’s about what’s going to give you the greatest consistency and longevity from your exercise program.”
Permission to watch trash TV at the gym, granted.