Get the Most Out of Your Treadmill Workout

Nothing drives me more insane as a personal trainer than seeing someone at the gym walk on the treadmill for over an hour. There they are when I walk in the door to warm up, and there they remain after my entire workout is over.

No wait, I take that back. Probably as equally frustrating is seeing people on the treadmill with the incline jacked up to 15 while hanging onto the machine for dear life.

Either way, just because the display on the treadmill says that you burned a certain amount of calories doesn’t mean you actually did. If you are hanging on like Tom Cruise to a cliff in Mission Impossible 2, you aren’t working as hard as the treadmill thinks you are, so cut the calories burned total in half.

The treadmill seems simple enough. Hop on and walk- or run, if you’re feeling saucy. However, just putting in the time on the treadmill isn’t going to cut it. You have to make it count. Why waste your time and effort when you can get more results in a fraction of both?

There are a lot of variables you can use to get the most out of your treadmill workout, so pick a favorite, or a combination, of the below and cut down on the amount of time you are on the treadmill while burning more calories than ever before.


Walking uphill is hard, yes? You have to work your leg muscles harder to propel yourself upward and moving vertically is harder cardiovascularly because it messes with the way your blood flows. Therefore, the higher your incline, the harder you are working. By increasing your incline you can get better definition in your legs, blast more calories, and improve your cardiovascular fitness. BUT! Don’t hang onto the handles, or the front of the machine. This removes most of the resistance and negates the increased intensity. Swing your arms like you normally would, or place them on your head or hips.


This is a bit of a no brainer, but the faster you go, the harder your workout. To find an appropriate speed for your fitness level, use the talk test. Find a speed that allows you to speak. You shouldn’t be able to sing a song or chit chat on your cell phone (another trainer pet-peeve) but you shouldn’t be gasping for air, either. Happy mediums, folks.


Nothing is wrong with walking on the treadmill. Truth be told, I walk about 90 percent of the time due to bad knees and a general disdain for running, but if you want to slash your workout time to a fraction of what it once was, intervals are your best friend. Intervals are a fancy term for going faster and slower at pre-set times. Depending on your fitness level, this can be alternating 3 minutes of running with one minute of sprinting, or alternating 5 minutes of walking at 3 mph and 2 minutes of walking at 4 mph. It’s all about what intensity is right for you. (Remember the talk test?) If you want to get really fancy, you can throw some inclines into the mix, too.

Add Weight

The more you weigh, the harder it is to move your body. The harder it is to move your body, the more calories you burn. Adding weight to the treadmill can be dangerous, though, so be careful. A weighted vest is the safest way to up your body weight as it is strapped to your torso and won’t throw off your stride. If you don’t have access to a weighted vest, hand weights will do, but keep your elbows close to your sides to avoid stress on your joints, or hold them on your shoulders.

You still need 30 minutes of cardio activity most days of the week, but you should be working at an intensity where you burn about 300 calories in those 30 minutes. If you want to go more intense and burn more calories, go for it, but if you are burning less than that in those 30 minutes, you aren’t working out hard enough.

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