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Enter any commercial gym at 6pm on a weekday evening and you’re guaranteed to see one thing – hoards of punters gathering round the treadmills, waiting for their turn on the gym version of a gigantic hamster wheel.
This might seem bizarre as going for a run outside is completely free, and you get the benefits of the great outdoors, yet in gyms across the country you’ll witness this scene time and time again.
The treadmill isn’t necessarily a bad piece of gym equipment – used correctly it can burn calories, increase your fitness levels and help you shed fat. The number of calories you burn in a session depends on a number of factors, including your body-weight, age and most importantly, how hard you work or how quickly you run.
Here are some rough estimates as to the calorie burn during a 30 minute running workout, courtesy of the Harvard School of Public Health:
At a 12 minute mile pace – between 240 and 355 calories
At a 10 minute mile pace – between 300 and 444 calories
At an 8 minute mile pace – between 375 and 555 calories
At a 6 minute mile pace – between 495 and 733 calories
The lower estimates are for a 125 pound person and the upper estimates for a 185 pound person. If you’re lighter than 125 pounds you’ll burn fewer calories and if you’re heavier than 185 pounds you’ll burn more.
The trouble is, it isn’t all about how many calories you burn.
Your metabolism is like your weight loss control center – the faster it goes and the harder it works, the more fat you burn. Steady state cardio, such as going for a run at the same pace for half an hour has very little impact on your metabolism. Not to mention the fact that the average gym attendee would seriously struggle with a 6 minute mile pace for more than a few minutes and even a more advanced trainer would fine 10 minute miles relatively challenging.
Then you have the issue of boredom – who really wants to spend half an hour or more plodding away on a treadmill, gazing idly at a TV screen, or even listening to music on your headphones.
Overall, treadmill running isn’t a hugely effective way to burn calories and fat.
This is where interval training comes in.
What is Interval Training?
As the name suggests, interval training revolves around performing intervals of varying lengths and intensities. Not only does this make your workout feel like it’s going much quicker due to the variety, but you’ll actually burn more calories in less time, meaning shorter overall workouts, get a far greater boost to your metabolism and get fitter too.
There really are hundreds of ways that you can set up your interval training, but a sample workout would include –
- A short warm up at a slow to moderate pace
- A short burst of close to maximum intensity effort, followed by a slightly longer resting/ recovery period at a comfortable speed.
- This sprint/rest protocol repeated as many times as your program prescribes
- A cool down similar to your warm up
These are the basic guidelines, but read on to find out exactly how to implement intervals into your treadmill training.