Making Tracks on the Treadmill

Credit: Sarah Kobos
“And I would walk five hundred miles, and I would walk five hundred more…”

Ah, the good old treadmill. My first piece of exercise equipment was a treadmill, actually. Well, okay, it was my dad’s, but I used it all the time when I was a kid. It was nice in the winter when it wasn’t super safe to run around outside; just start up the treadmill, turn on the TV, and start walkin’. Even today, the treadmill remains a tried-and-true staple of any good gym, home or otherwise. Something that some folks have a little trouble figuring out, though, is getting the best workout out of a treadmill. How long do you need to walk? How fast? Well, let’s figure it out.

First, time. The amount of time you can walk on the treadmill depends on your own stamina. If you’re the kind of person who gets winded walking around a mall, you probably shouldn’t be on there for too long (unless you’re deliberately trying to improve your stamina). If you’re just trying to drop some weight, 15 to 30 minutes is usually a good range. This is actually why it’s good to have a TV on while you’re on the treadmill; you can get a good walk going if you go for half a typical show’s duration (including commercials). The most important thing is that it’s an amount of time you can stick with. We’ve all got schedules to keep after all, so we can’t spend all day walking. Find a duration that gets you a pleasant burn that can fit comfortably into your day.

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Now, as for intensity, you want to start with a brisk walk. You don’t want to go right to sprinting from the word go or you’ll wear yourself out. Start with a consistent power walk, and if you need some more, gradually work your way up to a light run. Your workout will actually change slightly depending on whether you stay at one intensity the whole time, or gradually increase it. The latter will pump your heart rate, but the former is better for acclimating yourself. Basically, on a scale of one to ten, one being stopped and ten being sprinting, you want to eventually get up to to the five-to-seven range.

Oh, and one last piece of advice: get yourself a pair of proper running shoes. Just because you’re not outside doesn’t mean you can do this in your socks. Without proper footwear, you risk rolling your foot, and then you won’t be doing any treadmilling.