When you find yourself on the treadmill and about to hit "start," there are so many decisions to make, from speed and incline selections to mapping out a game plan that will keep you both entertained and challenged. Trainers agree that treadmill sprints are a great option for getting the job done.
Treadmill Training for Efficiency
If you're training for your first half marathon, you can set the treadmill to a jogging speed and go for a longer amount of time. If you are looking to get some extra steps in while catching up on a podcast, you can select a walking pace and cruise right along. But if your end-goal is efficiency, meaning you'd like to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, treadmill sprints are the way to go.
When you sprint at your fastest pace for a short amount of time, say 30 seconds, and then walk or jog to recover, you are ultimately taking part in a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout, and experts at Harvard Health Publishing have found that this type of sweat session equates to more calories burned in a shorter amount of time. This is due to a process the body endures called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, where the body burns fat more efficiently during and post-workout, according to the American Council on Exercise Fitness.
Treadmill Sprints Workout
In order to reap the benefits of HIIT training from your treadmill sprints, you must pass your aerobic threshold and sprint with at least 80 percent of your max effort during each interval before recovering at a jog or walk. This type of back-and-forth will leave you quite winded after your sprints, and once you recover, you attack your next sprint with the same (or higher) level of intensity. Just like any other workout, don't skip the warm-up and cool-down.
Warm-up Before Exercising
Always reserve at least five minutes to warm up. Try walking on the treadmill for a couple of minutes before taking it up to a jog. A jogging speed can vary from person to person, but generally speaking, this can be anywhere from 4.0 to 7.0 on the treadmill. Gradually increase your speed so that by the end of your warm-up, you have reached a jogging speed that you can sustain for 20 minutes if needed.
Treadmill Sprints to Try
For starters, 30-second sprints are a great challenge. Begin at your warm-up speed of a 4.0 to 7.0 and jog for approximately a minute. Then, depending on your personal fitness levels, increase to a sprinting speed. Generally speaking, this ranges anywhere from a 7.0 to a 10.0 on the treadmill, give or take, but remember that your goal should be at least 80 percent of your max effort.
Sprint for 30 seconds before recovering at either a walking or jogging pace for a minute. Repeat until you reach your allotted time and aim for at least 20 minutes of this process before moving to your cool-down.
Vary your incline level for each sprint or try recovering on an incline for an added challenge.
Cool Down Later
It's important to let your heart rate recover before you start stretching. Allow your heart rate to return to its resting state by taking a few minutes to walk on the treadmill. Then, stretch or foam roll your calf muscles, quads and hamstrings, because these muscles get plenty of action with treadmill sprints, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Want Better Exercise Results in Less Time? Try Interval Training to Boost Your Workout”
- American Council on Exercise: “7 Things to Know About Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)”
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: "Research in Review: Does Foam Rolling Decrease Doms and Aid Performance?"