What’s the one thing that almost every commercial and hotel gym have in common?

{Hint: Look at title of this article}

It’s the treadmill!

There’s nothing more depressing than walking into a gym and seeing a lonely treadmill machine. For those people who have spent weeks perfecting their bodies with dumbbells and barbells, the treadmill is like being forced to work at your first high school job all over again.

Sure it was exciting when you were first starting out, but now that you’re somewhat more experienced and seasoned, you need more than just a treadmill.

Just like you eventually moved on from that first job right?

Right??….(ummm I truly hope you’ve moved on)!

The treadmill is the first piece of equipment fitness newbies gravitate towards. That’s why they are normally placed at the front of the gym. It’s known that the majority of the newbies (especially the New Year’s Resolutions crowd) will locate the closest treadmill and hunker down for 20-90 mins of walking.

As most healthy people know, you have to do more than walk on a treadmill if you want to be fit. But what are you supposed to do when the treadmill is the only option?

No need to fear!

Mr. Travel Fitness, MicVinny is here to teach you some cool tips to turn that boring treadmill into a perfect workout companion whether at home or on the road.

Cardio vs. Fat Burn Education

The first question I have for you is why are getting on the treadmill?

Are you trying to burn fat or are you trying to improve your cardiovascular system?

Most folks have no clue what either of those mean. They just hop on.

It’s very important to know the distinction between burning fat and cardio because they work different energy systems. Different energy systems work different types of muscle groups which also works your heart differently.

When doing cardiovascular activity, there’s three “zones” you need to be primary worried about. You have Zone 1, Zone 2 and Zone 3. Each zone triggers a different response in your body.

Zone 1

Before you get to Zone 2, you should be able to have a decent conversation while performing an activity.

As soon as you start huffing, puffing and can no longer hold a conversation, you have hit your ventilatory threshold (VT1). Getting pass your VT1 means that you have entered into Zone 2.

Zone 2

Your body has excess carbon dioxide and is trying to make up for it by getting your body back to a normal steady state. This is where having a good cardiovascular system comes into play. The healthier you are, the faster you’ll be able to adapt.

After being in Zone 2 for a few minutes, you will start to notice that it becomes easier for you to breathe. That’s because your body has received enough oxygen to handle this increased work demand and finally reached steady state again.

If you keep pushing yourself, you’ll end up at a new ventilatory threshold (VT2) which will place you into Zone 3.

Zone 3

Zone 3 is kicking your body to an even higher threshold. Just like going from Zone 1 to Zone 2 caused you to lose your breath, the same will happen when going into Zone 3.

This is a zone that average people can’t spend long bouts of time at due to massive amount of energy required to stay. Too much time here can be very detrimental to your health. This zone is where high endurance elite athletes train to reach their aerobic peak performance.

What’s Your Treadmill Goal?

Well, it all goes back to why are you on that treadmill?

Are you there for cardio or fat burn?

Those zones determine just how much work your heart and lungs need to do to get your body through the stress. That’s the point of cardio!

Cardio is all about getting you better at having getting your heart and lungs to efficiently pump oxygenated blood throughout your body. The more efficient your heart works, the better you will become at moving in the different zones, thus increasing your cardio endurance.

Fat burn is not the same as cardio!

The two words get mixed up a lot but they are really different. Being in a fat burning zone is all about…….burning fat.

To burn fat, your heart rate needs to be at a certain rate for a given period of time. That specific rate is what taps into the energy system that burns fat. When running very fast your body is trying to do its best to survive.

To adapt to that stimulus your body needs energy ASAP! Your body naturally get’s that energy from glycogen located in your liver and muscles.

Do you know what makes glycogen in the body? Glucose!

And what must we eat to get glucose inside our bodies? Carbohydrates!

If you want to burn fat, you need to be using the correct energy system that targets fatty acids not the system that targets glycogen! That’s the mistake too many people make when thinking they are “burning fat”.

Are You Burning Fat Or Improving Your Heart Rate?

Now that I got those two distinctions out the way, its time for you to decide why you’re getting on that treadmill for the day. If you are mainly interested in fat burning, you need to be on that treadmill for 40-60 mins with your heart rate lower.

The speed(s) you will be going should be slow enough where you can still carry out a conversation for the majority of the walking/jogging pace.

If you are trying to improve your heart rate, conditioning or training for a marathon, then you will be using the treadmill for cardio. Ideally you will work in the zone ranges at the time/pace desired to reach your goals.

I personally believe that too many utilize the treadmill in the wrong way. If you truly are doing conditioning cardio, there’s no need to go more than 20-30 mins. The exception is for those who are actually training for a long distance endurance event. That’s the only time doing long intense periods of cardio is acceptable.

What most people who gravitate towards using treadmills for their exercise fail to understand is that by doing too much cardio your body will start to eat away at its self. Your muscles will begin to disappear.

That’s not what we want!

You should always strive to keep (and possible gain) lean muscle. You should never lose muscle! For most folks, that’s what they are doing when they abuse the treadmill.

Yeah, I know I went on a little educational spell. I’m sorry that took so long. I just wanted to make sure you understood the importance of using the treadmill properly. Now that the education is over, here’s what you came for:

Your 7 Creative Ways To Use A Treadmill

#1 Do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

A good balance for those that want to lose fat but do it in a short period of time. When done right, you’ll easily put your body inside Zone 2 (and maybe Zone 3) for a short amount of time before you go back down to Zone 1.

This allows your body to burn more calories over a 24 hour period than just being in a steady state fat loss walk.
When first starting off, try 10 secs fast then slow down for the next 50 secs. Repeat 5 – 8 more times.
Over the course of a month or your trips, you can start increasing the active time and decreasing the rest time


  • 15 secs on, 45 secs off
  • 20 secs on: 40 secs off

#2 Do Treadmill Sprints

Using the HIIT protocol you could actually jump on and off the treadmill. This requires skills and I recommend you start slowly. If you start at a pace that’s too fast, you’ll most likely fall down and humiliate yourself.

The proper way is to choose a speed that causes you to flat out sprint. Once you run for your pace you simply place your feet to the sides of the treadmill. You can either catch your breath, or just walk around the gym for your designated rest time.

Repeat 5 – 10 more times.

#3 Shadow boxing

Burn more calories by shadow boxing when you’re on the treadmill. Just throw some simple right, left alternating straight punches. Mix it up over time.

Go high, go low. Try to go longer each new session. These will wear your arms, shoulders and back out in a jiffy!

Great way to burn some extra calories if you’re doing a fat burning walk.

#4 Do Some Arm Circles

Get those shoulders involved in your workout. Just hold your arms to the side and let gravity plus you’re walking stride force your arms to go around in mini circles.

To get more out of it you could even slowly rotate your arms by pointing your thumbs slowly down, as if you were pouring a pitcher of lemonade. Similar to what you be doing if you were doing lateral raises.

#5 Walk Backwards

How often do you actually walk backwards?

Give those muscles groups some love and practice this for a few minutes while being on a treadmill. You’ll be amazed at how sore & out of breath you will get!

#6 Treadmill Farmer Walks

If the gym has some weights but not a lot of space, try doing farmer walks on the treadmill.

For safety I would recommend you start off with a goblet type farms walk that will exercise both your arms but provide the safety of you being able to use one hand quickly if you needed to turn the machine off.
Again be cautious and don’t go too heavy at first. Go for time or for distance. Take a rest and repeat 2-4 more times.

As you get more comfortable, you can have a dumbbell in both hands.

#7 Do supersets every 5 mins

Every 5 mins, get off that treadmill and do some sort of bodyweight or weight lifting exercises


  • 5 mins walk, 1 min As many push ups as possible. Repeat
  • 5 mins walk, 1 min DB bench presses. Repeat
  • 5 mins walk, 1 min DB Bench Rows. Repeat

Total workout time can be between 20-45 mins.

There you have some cool ways to make using that treadmill more enjoyable. Just do me a favor and always remember to have fun when you’re in there.

Do you have any other creative treadmill ideas that you would like to share?

Leave a comment below.


(Treadmill photo appears courtesy of Gedgetsworld.in)

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