5 Fun Treadmill Workouts

As these challenging and creative workouts show, the treadmill can be a much more valuable part of your active life than just an acceptable substitute when you can’t get outside.

Treadmill workouts have always been a necessity for me. As a human rights lawyer, I am frequently working in places where it is too unsafe to run around outside. Recently, I spent an entire year living and working inside an armed compound in Afghanistan, where stepping outside the compound walls was strictly forbidden. As much as I loathed the treadmill, I hated the thought of giving up running even more, so I worked to make my indoor workouts as interesting as possible. With a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of time, I developed this unique repertoire of workouts to choose from, which kept me fit and entertained. Treadmill workouts continue to be a necessity in my life, but I no longer prepare for them with dread.

With these five unique workouts, you may look forward to time on the treadmill, too. Remember to warm up for at least 5 minutes before trying any of the exercises below.

Manual Push
Put your treadmill – and your legs – to work without even turning on the power. Step onto the machine, grab the handrails in front of you, and start manually pushing the belt behind you, relying solely on your leg strength. Concentrate on taking long, purposeful strides, almost getting into semi-lunge position, until you build up some momentum. Continue for 3 to 5 minutes and then switch to regular walking for 2 minutes with the power on. Repeat five times. This workout is great for toning your legs (and for checking out the person on the treadmill next to you).

Sideways Shuffle
Activate your adductor and abductors muscles with this sideways trick. With the treadmill speed on low, carefully grab the left handrail with both hands and turn to face the left side. Shift your forward walk into a sideways shuffle, repeatedly bringing your left foot up to meet your right foot as the belt moves beneath you. Continue for 2 minutes and then switch sides to ensure a balanced workout. For increased difficulty, try crossing your outside foot over your inside foot as you step sideways.

This move definitely draws stares, but it is one of the most interesting workouts I have tried on a treadmill.

Backwards jog
This exercise requires a bit of coordination, but you can control the difficulty level by adjusting your speed. Set the treadmill speed on low and the incline level at 0 percent to start. Grabbing the handrails for balance, walk backwards for 1 minute. As you become more comfortable, you can let go of the handrails and swing your arms as you normally would when walking forward. For more of a challenge, increase the speed to bring you up to a backwards jog or raise the incline level to 2 to 3 percent. Walking backwards helps train your quadriceps, calves, hamstrings and ankles. If you practice on an incline, this exercise can also help you to improve your downhill running skills.

Hill training
Hill training is a great way to work your glute muscles, which are not typically toned by running. You can try a variety of different hill workouts, from long, gentle inclines to short, steep climbs. My favorite type of hill workouts consists of 3 to 4 minute power walks on an incline of 8 to 10 percent, followed by a slow jog at 0 to 2 percent. The variety keeps me entertained and before I know it, a whole hour has flown by.

Mountain climbing
This move will definitely draw a few stares, but it is one of the most interesting workouts I have tried on a treadmill. With the power off, stand at the end of the treadmill, facing away from the machine. Place your toes on the belt behind you and your hands on the ground in front of you with your arms straight. Your body should either be in a crouch or pike position. Push the treadmill belt backwards using your right foot, bringing your body parallel to the ground as if you were climbing a horizontal wall. When your right leg becomes straight, continue pushing the belt behind you with your left foot as you bring your right foot closer to your body. This is an advanced move that requires good core strength and strong shoulders. If you are a beginner, start off gently and ask someone to spot you.

Have you found fresh ways to make working out on a treadmill challenging or more enjoyable? Share your ideas and experiences in Comments so we can all learn from each other.
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  1. i’m recovering from a quad injury and i’m trying to get over favoring my leg so i set the treadmill at full incline and drape my arms on a pole resting on my neck and walk briskly. this forces me to use my legs evenly.

  2. I’m missing two bones in my vertebra and run every day of the week! I absolutely enjoy it no matter how bad my back and legs hurt! This is awesome I can’t wait to try it!!!

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