Without them, fitness facilities would cease to exist. Hotel gyms are reliably equipped with rows upon rows of them. Many of us even have one looming in the corner of a room somewhere in our house. Not to say they are necessarily used — it just makes us feel better to have them around. Our trusty treadmill is much like a childhood friend who is sweet at times, available to jaw for hours always; yet somehow retreats further and further from our consciousness as days go by.
Here’s a thought to ponder: What if treadmills, like some old friends, were truly vampiric in nature? A toxic friend you simply need to step back and look at with fresh eyes and a new understanding?
Granted, there are those of you who cannot imagine a morning workout without pounding the PVC. “Something is better than nothing,” I can hear you argue. You are right — to a point. Yes, walking is better than sitting at your desk chair. Jogging is better than kicking back in front of the boob tube. Guess what? None of those activities are doing your joints any favor. And you might just be more productive if you had stayed at your desk.
Five good reasons to reconsider the daily mill:
- Strength training trumps steady-state cardio every time. Been huffing it on the treadmill for the last hour? Well, as soon as you stop, so does your calorie burn. Throw some iron around (or even your own body weight) and you may find yourself burning calories for 2 to 3 days. It takes a lot of energy for your body to repair, replenish, and maintain muscle. Even in your sleep.
- 0% incline = degeneration in joints. Picture this: you’re holding a human bone in one hand, a hammer in the other. Steadily strike one end of that bone for one hour and see what happens. Then do it every day. If you must spend time on your beloved treadmill, increase the incline to no less than a 3 percent grade to lessen some of that impact. Three is the new zero.
- Can you say “boring?” The number one reason people ultimately give up on their fitness intentions is boredom. Keep things interesting and you’ll keep getting closer to your goals.
- It’s a walk in the park. Or, maybe it should be. If you can read a magazine or learn how to re-grout your bathroom watching an HGTV series, get outside. At that rate of exertion, you may as well elevate your mood with a breath or two of fresh air.
- Face it: treadmill plodding is an inefficient use of your precious time. Sure, temperature control can be a valuable thing, but why are you spending gym membership prices to walk on a flat, moving surface? Get out there, try a class, get creative, and learn to enjoy your time at the gym. And put that hard-earned cash to better use.
A little-known fun fact about the treadmill? Early versions were used as punishment devices for prisoners sentenced to hard labor. Punishment, indeed.
That being said, there are still plenty of ways to use the treadmill to improve our fitness levels. Intervals are great. Set the incline anywhere between 10 and 20 percent and book it for 30 seconds, followed by a minute of rest. Increase your speed as you get stronger. Mix that in with your weight lifting program and you’ve got a well-rounded workout.
Another fun thing to do (just because) is to set the speed to a very low level and the incline to a 3 percent grade (three is the new zero, remember?). Face the side, hold onto one of the arms, and side step. Maybe even add a squat. Don’t forget to switch sides.
Keep things fun and keep them safe in the gym. Treadmills can be valuable tools if used more effectively. Think of them as a component to your workout; not the workout itself.
Jodilyn Stuart is the Health & Sports Senior Staff Writer for 303 Magazine, owner of ModaBody Fitness, and has been a professional fitness geek since 1997. If you have questions, feel free to email at: [email protected] *Vote for Jodilyn as Denver’s A-List top trainer here*