Photo by Shutterstock.com/Harbucks

Hating on cardio is so passé, especially when there’s no shortage of ways to make it fun and challenging—yes, even on a treadmill. “One thing I encourage people to do is to view it as a tool and to train with purpose when you’re on the treadmill,” says 50-Mile Treadmill World Record Holder Jacob Puzey, head coach at Peak Run Performance in Calgary, Alberta, where the unforgiving Canadian winters force his training indoors. “It’s quite a remarkable tool if you think about it: it’s something that allows us to run safely indoors for those of us who experience winter.”

But even as the temperature warms up, Puzey still hits the treadmill “because it’s an effective way to train,” he says. Mindful, focused treadmill runs can bring you closer to goals like running a half- or full marathon, or even an obstacle course race, since they not only develop your aerobic capacity, but also your muscular endurance. What’s more, a light jog on a treadmill is a great way to warm up your body for an endurance strength workout, or to cool down after your lifting session.


It’s a HIIT

If a no-fuss, fat-scorching sweat sesh is your jam, you’re in luck. Fortunately for you (and your short attention span) HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, lends itself perfectly to treadmill workouts. HIIT also happened to make the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) top three fitness trends three years running, with its combined effectiveness and efficiency being likely factors, according to a study published last August in PLoS ONE.

Keep in mind, though, that with the intensity of your intervals often peaking at 85 percent or higher of your rate of perceived exertion (RPE), less is more with these types of workouts. “When it comes to HIIT, adding volume doesn’t deliver better results, it actually hinders,” concluded researchers in a Les Mills study published last May. They advise capping HIIT workouts that are above a 90-percent maximum heart rate at no more than 30-40 minutes a week to net maximum benefits.

Join the STRONG Newsletter

Our Mission is to Motivate, Educate & Empower You to Achieve a Fit & Healthy Life.


Cardio Cut-Down

Instead, Puzey recommends making one of your weekly runs a cut-down, or progression workout (“that’s one of my staples on a treadmill”). Start at a comfortable pace and gradually increase the effort as you go. You can do this organically and increase the speed as you adjust to the effort, or incrementally, increasing the speed a little at a time every quarter mile. “I went from couch potato to marathon in four months doing that an hour a day and got fit really quick,” says Puzey. He lost 25 lbs in the process, and even ran “surprisingly well” for his first marathon.

Do this as a standalone workout or a warm-up before your strength session—unless you’re training purely for strength gains with explosive movements that require a big power output, cautions Puzey, in which case, skip the warm-up.


Get Fit with HIIT 

To bust treadmill boredom, we enlisted Puzey to put together three HIIT routines. Whether you’re into plyometrics, speed drills, or booty-building hill climbs, there’s something for everyone. Just limit your all-out efforts to no more than 40 minutes a week to avoid overtraining.

Photo by Shutterstock.com/Jacbob Lund

Know Your RPE

The Rate of Perceived Exertion is a numerical scale to measure how difficult or intense an exercise feels. The scale begins at 0, which represents no difficulty, and goes to 10, which represents very, very difficult.

Workout #1: Plyo Treadmill HIIT

Prep your muscles with this routine prior to an intense lifting session, says Puzey. “You’ve basically warmed up the arms and the chest, and you’ve warmed up your lungs and legs for a good session just by doing [a few bodyweight] exercises really quickly.”

Warm-up:

Work intervals:

Recovery intervals:

Cooldown:

10–15 min jog, 4–5 RPE

1-min run, 6–8 RPE

Choose 5–10 full-body plyo moves and do 20 reps of one at
each interval (try: jumping, seal, slap jacks, push-ups, burpees, lunges in various directions, box jumps, or any of your fave
full-body moves)

10–15 min jog, 4–5 RPE

Workout #2: Speed Drills

This classic workout, known as a Fartlek workout, which is Swedish for “speed play,” alternates all-out bursts of speed with recovery jogs, preparing your body and mind for the demands of longer and harder efforts.

Warm-up:

Work intervals:

Recovery intervals:

Cooldown:

10–15 mins, 4–5 RPE

60–90 secs, 6–8 RPE; 6–10 intervals, depending on your fitness level

1-min jog; 4–5 RPE

10–15 mins, 4–5 RPE

Workout #3: Hill Drills

Hill climbs should be a staple in every treadmill repertoire, especially for anyone working on making those booty gains. “Running uphill also reduces the impact on your joints”—like your knees and hips—explains Puzey, helping to boost strength and durability while reducing your risk of injury.

Warm-up:

Work intervals:

Recovery intervals:

Cooldown:

10–15 mins, 4–5 RPE

60–90 secs, 3–5% incline, 7–10 RPE; 6–8 intervals, depending on your fitness level

1 min; 4–5 RPE; you can choose to lower your incline or your speed

10–15 mins, 4–5 RPE