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If you’re working out with a goal of losing fat, increasing your treadmill incline level is one of the most effective workouts around. Upping your incline lets you bring your heart rate into your target zone, without increasing impact on your joints and muscles. Some research even suggests that treadmill incline training is a more effective means of specifically burning fat during your workouts, due to its unique ability to increase intensity while maintaining a slower pace. To benefit from this approach, stick to a slow to moderate speed (something around 3 mph) and intersperse periods of high incline with lower periods of recovery–or just stick to a high incline for your entire workout and focus on building endurance.
For experienced runners and hikers, increasing the treadmill incline improves your endurance and mimics the varied terrain of outdoor activities. By alternating increased incline with level terrain, you can specifically strengthen your quads and glutes to handle outdoor hills, without jarring your knees and back on the way down. These workouts should include running or walking at your regular pace, alternating level recovery periods with bursts of increased effort as you tackle hills.
For every fitness level, increasing your incline is a lower impact way of increasing the intensity of your workout. It can also help you to burn fat and build muscle in a way that is unique to hill workouts. Whether you choose to use your treadmill for running or walking, you’ve got a lot to gain by leveling up.
Interval training is one of the most effective ways to get fitter and burn more calories. The concept is simple and works for any piece of home fitness equipment. Constantly varying the intensity and anticipating your next recovery or push makes these workouts fly by. Increasing post workout demands for recovery, burns calories even after your training session ends. If you’d like to break out from preprogrammed settings and create your own customized workout, here are a few basic ways to include intervals in your workout routine.
Hills/Resistance: Whether you’re running or walking on your treadmill or elliptical, you can increase the incline to up the intensity without increasing the impact on your joints. Increasing resistance also works well for indoor cycles, mimicking the challenges of outdoor terrain. Increase your incline for one to two minutes, followed by recovery periods of approximately two minutes. This simple workout will get your heart pounding and improve your core strength while also training your quads and glutes to meet the demands of your summer activities.
Speed: Using your home fitness equipment for steady cardio sessions results in training your slow twitch (i.e. endurance) potential. Adding speed to train your fast twitch muscle fibers has a lot of benefits, including power for short periods of demanding exercise (like moving furniture or a round of summer softball) and increased calorie burn to maintain these metabolically hungry muscle fibers. You can build in brief periods of sprinting on your treadmill, elliptical or indoor bike to give you some of the benefits of a speed workout, without the wear and tear on your joints.
Heart Rate: With Polar Heart Rate monitors integrated into consoles of treadmills, ellipticals and exercise bikes, this is a remarkably easy way to gauge the intensity of your workouts. Design your own intervals on the fly by using speed and resistance to increase your effort, bringing your heart rate to at least 85% of your maximum. Alternate these pushes with recovery periods, returning your heart rate to below 70% of your maximum. Using heart rate rather than time ensures that your body is fully recovering during the easier periods of your workout and that you are pushing sufficiently during the hard periods, making your workouts more effective and keeping you strong to the finish.
Just one session per week will let you gain the benefits of interval training. As you adapt, shoot for two to four sessions per week. It’s easy to over train, so keep a recovery day between interval sessions to avoid injury and exhaustion. Enjoy your next workout and the benefits of interval workouts in your training plan!
Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. To find out more, visit the Meet Our Writers page.
After running shoes and an MP3 player, a heart rate monitor is usually the first piece of equipment runners add to their workouts. If you aren’t using one now, you’ve most likely at least played with them in the past, calculating whether you’re working too hard or not hard enough, estimating your total calories burned, and even tracking your mileage or sharing your workouts. Using a heart rate monitor can give you a lot of insight into the quality of your workouts, fitness level, and effective training. So what are the best ways to really get the most out of this popular gadget? Let’s break down the benefits:
Step 1: Get your real max heart rate. While the calculation of 220 minus your age has long been the standard for estimating your max heart rate, there are newer, more accurate methods for fitter individuals. One favored formula is 205 – (.5 x your age) or you can also find your maximum heart rate by completing a workout that is directed at reaching it (such as finishing your 5k at an all-out sprint). This Runners’ World article has another option involving hill repeats with a maximum effort sprint and recording the highest number shown on your heart rate monitor. These workouts assume that you’re in reasonably good shape and that you’re well-rested, since recent training, a lack of sleep, and even dehydration can all affect your heart rate. The biggest take-home is to recognize that your maximum heart rate is very individual and isn’t going to be in complete agreement with any formula. If you see a number on your heart rate monitor that’s higher than you thought your maximum heart rate was, that number is your new maximum heart rate. Use it for planning your training.
Step 2: Calculate your training zones. Once you’ve established your actual maximum heart rate, you can use it to calculate your zones for training based on the amount of effort that you’re shooting for in a given workout. At a minimum you should calculate your easy zone, at 65% of your max (not above 70% of your max), and your work zone, at about 85% of your max. Knowing these numbers allows you to design your workouts intelligently depending on your training goals on a given day. You should include easy days that are directed at increasing your endurance and providing active recovery, during which your heart rate stays below 70% of your maximum. While this may leave you working at a significantly lower effort than you’re used to, perhaps even walking, you will find that your fitness improves in time as you’re able to work more efficiently on your hard training days. You can make your recovery days even easier on your body by using your Vision Fitness equipment for the lower impact workout it provides. For a simple overview of alternating between the two training zones, check out this blog.
Step 3: Alternate your training zones throughout your week. If you’re choosing cardiovascular workouts every day, make sure you’re building in active recovery days that keep your heart rate below 70% of your maximum at least twice a week, more frequently if you feel that your age or the demands of your training make that a necessity. Alternate recovery workouts with higher intensity days of at least 80% of your max effort. This level of effort will feel like a tempo run or similar to your 10K pace and will provide a higher calorie burn and challenge to your fitness. To really improve speed and power, work in very high intensity days that challenge your anaerobic threshold, with peaks of 90-95% of your maximum heart rate, alternated with recovery periods. These efforts also increase your metabolic demands, resulting in a higher post workout calorie burn. Since this type of training is tough, it’s important to alternate with recovery or rest days so that you can fully benefit from your hard training days, keeping the quality of your workouts high.
Heart rate monitor training is a great way to keep your efforts consistent between your treadmill sessions and time training on the road. You can also make the most of your monitor by integrating it with the workouts offered on your Vision treadmill, elliptical, or indoor cycle. For more on Heart Rate Monitor training, John Parker’s Heart Rate Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot gets consistently good reviews and includes programs that will both challenge you and improve your recovery. Polar’s website is also full of tips directed at helping you get the most from your hear rate monitor.
There are many potential stumbling blocks that may pop up as you pursue your fitness goals. Plateaus, overuse injuries and even plain old boredom can all slow your progress and eventually impede your performance in competitive events.
A common piece of wisdom, heard in gyms all around the world, says that variety is the key to avoiding these pitfalls, and periodization training provides an organized way to inject that variety into your workouts. This can appear difficult for endurance athletes, whose chosen activities(such as running or cycling) seemingly leave little room for changes. But periodization can be utilized in even these sports to round out your training and keep you engaged.
What is Periodization Training?
Periodization training is, in the most basic terms, a goal-oriented training program. It works by dividing your athletic season into a series of cycles, the largest of which is the “macrocycle,” which will typically end with your event. For example, a marathon runner will set his race as the end of his macrocycle, and divide the months leading up to the race into smaller training blocks called “mesocycles.” Each of these mesocycles will ideally focus on a different skill needed in your sport, such as speed, strength and endurance. An active rest cycle is generally incorporated as the last phase before the event in order to prevent exhaustion. This use of cycles allows you to focus on several smaller objectives that together will lead you, step by step, to your larger goal.
Periodization for Endurance Athletes
We don’t always think of cardiovascular exercise in its most detailed terms. Many people who decide to train for a race, for example, will simply run. They may focus on increasing speed or distance, but rarely use a standardized approach. Strength training is sometimes totally overlooked. The truth is that all of these components work together to finally carry you across the finish line, and by working on each one individually, you can build a more complete cardiovascular unit.
While the exact construction and length of your mesocycles will vary based on your personal training schedule and sport, we’ll consider a 6-month macrocycle for runners as an example of periodization training.
Mesocycle 1 – Active Rest (3-4 weeks)
Because this first cycle is typically either coming after your last race or a period of inactivity, it’s important to start slowly. This active rest period will keep you moving while giving your running muscles a break. Cross-train with light cycling or swimming. Small amounts of jogging are allowed, but try to spread them out, and don’t push yourself. Even household chores like yard work can be used to fill in this cycle. The goal is to build and maintain a healthy cardiovascular base while not exhausting your muscles.
Mesocycle 2 – Endurance (8-12 weeks)
At this stage, your real training begins. Focus on long, steady runs with a focus on volume. Tempo runs or slow intervals can also be used for variety, but be careful not to focus on your time. Your goal in this cycle is to build an endurance base; you’ll improve your speed later.
Mesocycle 3 – Strength (6-8 weeks)
During this cycle, use hill runs to increase the strength in your key muscle groups. Schedule faster intervals and more difficult tempo runs. Your focus should be on increasing your intensity while maintaining the same mileage.
Mesocycle 4 – Speed (4-6 weeks)
Continue to use more intense tempo and interval runs during this phase, while lowering your total mileage. Adequate rest is vital during speed training so that, even when fully exerting yourself, you maintain good form and allow your muscles time to recover. Your concentration now should be on increasing your speed and decreasing your time.
Mesocycle 5 – Competition
By now, race season has arrived. The length of this period will depend on how many races you plan on running, but it will typically last between four to six weeks. Run early in the week using a high-intensity, low-distance formula so that you can fully recover by race day. At this point, you should be able to give the race your maximum effort.
Periodization training can take some time at first, as you lay out a long-term schedule, but the benefits will be well worth the extra effort.
Have you using periodization in your cardiovascular routine? Do you have any tips to share?