(Photo: Lauren Ahn)
Running is one of the most efficient ways to get a cardio workout. Unfortunately it’s also incredibly boring — especially when crappy weather forces you to run indoors on a treadmill. (Bye, view.)
However, you don’t have to hate your life every second you spend on the band. Take it from Cheri Paige Fogleman, former marathoner and certified personal trainer at CLAY Health Club + Spa in New York City, where she teaches a fitness class that takes place almost entirely on a treadmill. And people actually show up for it.
The trick is to distract yourself — to give your mind better things to do than count down seconds until your workout is done. Use these tricks to give your brain a break from the monotony and make the torture more tolerable:
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1. Really, Really Think About Your Form: While the last thing you want to think about while running is, well, running, you can burn up a lot of time with a mental checklist on your form.
Think about your:
• Neck: Imagine the back of your neck reaching up toward the ceiling. Sounds odd, but it corrects your posture pronto.
• Shoulders: No need to scrunch them up—your ears don’t need any support. Imagine pulling your shoulder blades down your back.
• Arms: Keep your elbows at about a 90-degree angle, and swing them from front to back with relaxed hands. Let your wrists pass by your hips as you pump your arms.
• Positioning on the band: If you run too close to the front console, you can’t fully extend your arms and therefore lose out on perfectly good upper body momentum. To check your positioning, pump your arms high as if you’re grabbing a pencil behind your ear every time one of your hands swings forward. If you hit the front handles en route, back up on the belt to swing free.
• Legs: Try to streamline your stride so your hips, knees, and ankles remain centered—avoid circling the lower leg out to either side as you kick your foot behind you.
• Stride: Avoid teeny steps and shoot for long, graceful strides. The longer your stride, the fewer steps you’ll have to take to stay on the band. Less work!
• Knees: Think about driving them up toward the ceiling—especially when you run on an incline. It’s a trick that can help lengthen your stride.
2. Play With the Buttons: Running at the same exact pace and incline will inevitably bore you tears. Instead, try one-minute intervals (alternate between running, and jogging or walking). Research suggests that short bouts of high intensity activity can help you burn fat, if that’s your goal. If you just want to improve your fitness, science shows that intervals will help with that too.
3. Increase the Incline: Good news! You can walk instead of run on the treadmill, and still reap plenty of benefits — you just need to increase the incline. Once your body feels warmed up, alternate between one-minute intervals of walking slowly (about 1 to 4 miles per hour) at the treadmill’s highest incline, and jogging or running (3 to 4.5 miles per hours, depending on your fitness level) on the same slope. Do three to six of these intervals, then move on to something else, like speed intervals (see No. 2 above) or another movement (see below).
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4. Side Gallop: There’s more you can do on a treadmill besides walk or run. At a 0-percent incline, reduce your speed to 2 to 3 miles per hour, and turn both feet and your body toward the left. Place both hands on the treadmill’s left handle for support. Step toward the front of the treadmill with your right foot, then hop your left foot to meet the right one. Continue to gallop sideways for up to 30 seconds, then walk facing forward for up to 15 seconds before you turn to the opposite side and side gallop for up to 30 seconds. Walk facing forward for up to 15 seconds, then take it from the top. Continue to alternate from side to side, with short, forward-facing breaks in between for as long as you’d like. You’ll improve your coordination and challenge your legs in a new way.
5. Skip: Alternate between skipping (drive your left hand and right knee into the air as you hop up on your left foot, then land on your right foot and drive your right hand and left knee up into the air) at 3 to 4 miles per hour and jogging for 30-second bouts for as long as you’d like. It’s way more fun than straight-up running. And don’t worry — you won’t look any sillier than the Old that’s walking at 0.2 miles per hour on the next treadmill.
6. High Knees: Instead of thinking about how much treadmills suck, you can focus on how much you’re toning your legs, thighs, and glutes. Alternate between high knees at 3.5 to 5 miles per hour and jogging for 30-second bouts for as long as you’d like.
7. Butt Kicks: Alternate between butt kicks and jogging for 30-second bouts at that comfortable jogging pace and 0-percent incline. It loosens up your hips and keeps you from losing your mind to the tedium.
Related: 4 Exercises That Make It Easier to Walk in Heels
8. Focus on Your Breath: A funny thing happens when you actually think about breathing, which is (obviously) otherwise involuntary: You sort of forget about the other things you’re doing, i.e., running. Try to coordinate your breath with your stride: Breathe in for three to four strides, then breathe out for three to four strides. Counting while you breathe is incredibly relaxing and distracting. Plus, deep breathing can lower your heart rate and blood pressure to help your body run more efficiently and for longer—without dying of boredom, Fogleman says.
9. Repeat a Mental Mantra: In your head, sync your words with the rhythm of your stride. Fogleman sometimes uses “easy feet,” or “long and strong.” It’s like moving meditation.
10. Cover Up Your Monitor: Unless you’re doing time-based intervals, you really don’t need to watch the clock. Just like when you want to leave work on a Friday, staring at the clock will only make time feel slower.
By Elizabeth Narins