Treadmill Workouts Using High Intensity Intervals - HIIT

High Intensity Interval Training Overcomes Treadmill Workout Plateaus

Running on treadmill at gym
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Have you reached a standstill in your treadmill training? How can you improve your treadmill workouts?

The first thing to check is whether you are still holding on or whether you are walking or running hands-free. If you are still holding on, see: How to Kick the Treadmill-Gripping Habit.

The Same Old Treadmill Workout

Chances are, you warm up, then set the speed for the next 30-plus minutes and stay with that speed and incline.

Or you may use one of the treadmill's programs, in which the incline automatically changes at varying points along the program's timeline, while the speed remains constant.

HIIT To Overcome the Treadmill Plateau

Your body knows what to expect every time you step onto the treadmill. It's time to subject your body to a wonderful, extremely effective surprise known as high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Most treadmill users do steady-state training, walking or jogging at the same settings or using the same workout program. To bust past your plateau, you must shock your body. When the body gets a big bolt from the blue, it gets "traumatized." To deal with this, it needs much more energy than what it’s been currently burning.

Question: Where is your body going to get this extra energy from?

Answer: Stored body fat! And while your body is helping itself to your stored fat for fuel to recover from HIIT sessions, your cardiovascular health will dramatically improve.

Your sports performance will jump several notches. You’ll be swifter and more agile—all from doing HIIT.

How HIIT Works

Due to its intensity, HIIT recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are designed for short-lived, powerful bursts of energy. Steady-state cardio recruits slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are structured for endurance.

Fast-twitch fibers need more fuel than do slow-twitch fibers to function and to recover from a workout. Thus, if your session primarily targets fast-twitch fibers, you’ll burn far more calories during training, as well as calories after the training. HIIT produces an after-burn that can last from one to many hours, depending on your fitness level and how grueling your session was.

A HIIT Treadmill Workout

Choose a Challenging Treadmill Setting: Choose a treadmill setting at which you can sustain for no more than one minute. For not-so-fit people, this might be a 5 mph trot with zero incline. For more conditioned people, it might be a 10 mph run, or a 3.5 mph walk at 15 percent grade (hands off always). Learn what your one-minute limit is. After one minute, you should feel like you just tried to outrun a train. For very deconditioned people, their barrier might be determined more by stiff joints than heart-lung efficiency. In that case, spend several weeks to a few months building up base conditioning before you do HIIT.

1 Minute Work – 2 Minutes Recovery: Next, after going all-out for one minute (the work interval), go easy for one to two minutes (the recovery interval). “Easy” may be a 2.5 mph walk at zero incline, or a 3.5 mph trot. But after one to two minutes, you should feel ready to charge full force again, though your heart rate may still be slightly elevated.

Use the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale: An RPE of 1 means very very easy. A 9 to 10 means you’re so out of breath you cannot speak, and people nearby can hear you heaving. For the fittest people, shoot for level 9-10 work intervals. Beginners should aim for level 6 or 7.

Do 5 to 8 Cycles: An all-out effort, followed by a recovery interval, is one cycle. Aim for five to eight cycles. Always warm up first for about 10 minutes, and this should include intervals a few levels below your maximum level.

Example of a 23-Minute HIIT Treadmill Session

1. Run at 12 mph for 30 seconds to one minute (hands off!)
2. Walk easy for two minutes.
3. Repeat cycle seven more times.
4. If the work interval doesn’t fry you, use a slight grade.
5. Or, run at 6 or more mph at 15 percent incline.

Walk, Powerwalk, or Run for HIIT

Novice and moderate trainees can use this template and substitute values more appropriate for their fitness level. Use any speed, any incline, as long as the one-minute (or less) intervals require all the effort you can give. You can even combine incline power-walking and your fastest running in the same HIIT session. Treadmills don’t come with this template. Thus, you must manually manipulate the settings for every interval. Always cool down for five minutes.

No matter what your condition, you can do HIIT. If all you can do for one minute is a 3.5 mph walk at zero incline, that’s a start. Build up from there.

Let Go! How to Kick the Treadmill-Gripping Habit

Lorra Garrick is a certified personal trainer and certified longevity wellness specialist. She is the author of numerous articles and books on fitness.

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