How To Do A Not-Boring Treadmill Interval Workout

fun-treadmill-workout-intervals If your idea of a treadmill workout is 45 minutes flat while you stare at a smudged gym wall, I've got news for you. This interval training secret will keep your treadmill workouts exciting and more effective, whether you're walking or running. Plus, you can modify this workout for any stage of pregnancy or postpartum!

Whoosh. There goes summer. I know some people love to run outdoors year-round, but I'm just not one of them. I guess I've never stocked up on the polar gear required to run comfortably in Canadian winter. That coupled with the fact I've had 3 pregnancies in 8 years means I'm just less of a die-hard runner than in the past. I still really, really enjoy it. But if it ain't warm & sunny, I really, really enjoy doing it indoors.

Why intervals?

When the weather shuts you in, take advantage of the treadmill's interval functions. Intervals are proven to pack more results into less time. If that isn't the siren call of fitness for moms, I don't know what is. Plus, changing up your workout is mentally stimulating, which means the time flies so much faster.

Don't have access to a treadmill? Here's how to do High Intensity Interval Training at home, no equipment required!

This strategy works perfectly for any fitness level, any speed, walking OR running. The best part: you don't have to pay attention to a timer and obsess over getting exact work and rest intervals lined up. You just get to move. This type of interval training is known as Fartlek Training ("speed play" in Swedish) and it's based on the way children run: in short bursts, according to their energy level, with slower walks or jogs between until they feel ready to race again. In that way, you can think of it as interval training the way nature intended. 

Take your training indoors and get the interval cardio training you need to train your heart & lungs, challenge your legs & core, and keep yourself from face-planting into the treadmill console out of boredom. Ready?

Here's my secret for an awesome treadmill workout, every time.

  1. Put the treadmill on the "random" setting. Treadmills vary but every make has a "random" function which will generate random inclines for your preferred total time.
  2. Choose a time that's longer than you think you'll do. Usually do 20-30 minutes? Enter 45. This type of training is fun and stimulating. You might do more than usual, and you'll also need a few minutes to warm up and cool down, so factor that in by setting a longer maximum time.
  3. Choose a level. Usually, the treadmill will ask you to choose an intensity level, which will determine how high the highest hills get. I find on most treadmills that starting around Level 3-5 is good for most clients.
  4. Start a walking warm up for 2-5 minutes until you break a sweat and feel warm. Swing your arms, at right angles. Keep your pelvis neutral so your bum is not tucked, but you are walking upright and not leaning forward at the waist. Do NOT hold onto the handles. If you have to hold on, your speed &/or incline is too high.
  5. Wait for the first un-intimidating "low" hill or flat incline and start running -- OR increase to your max walk speed if you are walking instead of running. Run (or speed walk) until you feel tired, or challenge yourself to run until the hill changes. You might only run 10 seconds if you're just starting. You might run several minutes some days when the hills just randomly happen to be lower for a few minutes in a row.
  6. As the hills rise and fall, increase and decrease your run/walk speed according to your level of fatigue. Don't time your speed intervals or obsess about how many you're doing or how long your slow breaks are. This is about feeling your intervals and respecting your body. You can easily bring the "intensity" or "incline" level down mid-workout if you find you are struggling, or up if you find you rarely need a slow interval.
  7. When you've had enough, dedicate 5-10 minutes to gradually cool down with moderate or slow walking. You can adjust the level down to make the hills smaller while you cool down. Play around -- there is no wrong way to do this workout, and every time you do it you'll do it differently.

Congratulations! You just did an AMAZINGLY effective interval hill workout. High five yourself and stretch.

As you warm up and cool down, focus on diaphragmatic breathing to train your core & pelvic floor WHILE you do your cardio. Way to multi-task!