Let us just start by saying: Non-runners, don’t click away! This challenge is for you, just as much as it is for the pavement-pounders. Okay, so maybe the weather outside is frightful, or maybe you simply prefer the treadmill over the park for its proximity to creature comforts like water and the bathroom. If you’re among the many who view the treadmill as a necessarily evil for staying in shape, we hope to change your opinion.
You already know the myriad health benefits of running: a stronger heart, stress relief, blood-sugar control, and increased bone density, to name a few. But you can get those from other forms of cardio, too. So why take the treadmill for a spin? “I can’t think of anything more natural than walking and running,” says Janet Hamilton, MA, CSCS, exercise physiologist and coach at Running Strong. “We weren’t built to swim — we don’t have gills — and god didn’t have bicycles. We are built to walk and run.”
That said, if you haven’t done much or any running, you can’t just hit the spinning belt and expect to leave five miles in your dust. (In fact, if you try it without proper prep, you could end up injured.) Your whole body — muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones, as well as heart and lungs — needs time and training to acclimate to the demands of running. “If you’re not currently doing some form of aerobic exercise, you don’t start a running programme,” Hamilton says. “You start a walking programme.” Once you feel comfortable sustaining a brisk walk for 20 minutes, that’s when you can introduce some running.
This 30-day challenge does just that, taking you through bouts of walking and running, interval-style. Established runners, your intervals can be jogging and running. Intervals are not only more enjoyable and less boring than a long run at a steady pace; periods of both intensity and recovery have been shown to be more effective at improving cardiorespiratory capacity — a.k.a. your aerobic health — than the typically slower slog of a maintained pace over the same length of time. Bonus: Intervals burn more calories, too. In addition to playing with speed, in some of these workouts, you’ll adjust the incline, too. This creates indoor “hills” to summit, building strength.
Always warm up for five minutes at the beginning of your workout, and cool down for five at the end — at a comfortable walking pace (~3.0mph). This will make each session about 30 minutes total. The number in parentheses is how many minutes to spend on each action. When there’s a x2 or another number, repeat the previous action or sequence that many times.
Your brisk walk should be comfortable, but spirited — between 3.0 and 4.0 mph, most likely. Run pace is where you’re working hard but can still hold a conversation; running begins at ~4.5 mph for most people. If you’re totally out of breath, you’re going too fast. Seasoned runners: You can interpret “walking” as a slow recovery jog and “running” as a strong effort, say a six or seven on a 10-point effort scale.
Workouts labeled “incline” are runner’s choice but should be at no more than 5% — 2-3% is a good place to start. If the incline feels like it’s too much, or you need to hold onto the machine, reduce the incline or the speed slightly.
Rest or cross-training days should be just that. Take the day off, or try another workout mode, whether a class, stretching, strength training, or another form of cardio. And if you need a rest day sooner than allotted, take one!
Form Check: Running On A Flat
For good running posture, think tall. Keep your chin level to the ground, and don’t look up or down at TVs or the console. “It’s not crucial where on your foot you land first, heel vs. mid-foot,” Hamilton says. “This is unique to your body mechanics.” Instead, keep your rhythm light and quick and upbeat. No matter what, don’t hold onto the treadmill; you want your arms to swing naturally down by your waist.
Form Check: Running Uphill
On an incline, you want to maintain your effort level, rather than trying to “attack” the hill. You’ll naturally shorten your stride and lean into the hill slightly. Keep your chin level and your footfalls light. Think about picking up your feet and pumping your arms, keeping your elbows back.