If you're trying to lose weight but you run at the same speed and incline every time you hit the treadmill, you can run right into a rut—which is A) boring and B) lacking in calorie-torching power.
The good news: Jogging on the treadmill can go from a tedious trek to a quick fat-burning sesh. Use these strategies from Women's Health the next time you hit the hamster wheel in the pursuit of dropping pounds.
Mix it up
Exercise’s role in weight loss may seem easy: To lose weight, you need to burn lots of calories, says Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist at Running Strong in Atlanta, GA. You can do that by upping your intensity or your duration. The problem is that if you work too close to your maximum heart rate, you might tire out too quickly. But if you run slow and steady you’ll have to go a long time to see results.
The happy medium is variety, says Hamilton. On some days, take your usual 20 to 30 minutes a little bit faster. On other days, go longer and slower — for about an hour or so.
Master your speed
Intervals — or short bursts of sprinting sprinkled throughout a workout — are one of the easiest ways to cut time off your workout (score!) and inches off your waist. In fact, a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that ladies who ran hard for two minutes (then slowed down for three minutes) burned more cals the day after their workout than those who went the slow and steady route. What's even better: They dropped four percent of their body fat in the coming weeks. The group who did low-intensity, steady workouts didn’t lose any.
Start with intervals in 1:2 or 1:1 ratios, says Hamilton. That means upping your speed for 30 to 60 seconds, then dropping it for the same amount of time or double that. Choose a speed that’s an effort you could hold for between two and five minutes, says Hamilton. You want to feel invigorated, not exhausted. You can build up to higher intensities, but how hard to go all depends on your experience.
Do hills the smart way
Up your incline, up your calorie burn — it sounds simple. Unfortunately, running or walking on a steep incline can be hard on your body. “Most people instinctively know that, but when we get on the treadmill, we lose that common sense, crank up the incline, and hold on for dear life,” says Hamilton.
Instead of setting the incline and forgetting it, pretend you're outside, says Hamilton. Learn to go up a hill at the same effort you’re going at a flat road. That might mean dropping your speed a little, but “this is an opportunity to build strength in your hips and legs, working them a little harder.”
You can also try incline intervals, she says. Crank the incline up between 2 and 4 percent for one to two minutes, let your speed drop 0.1 or 0.2, then bring your incline back down to 0 for that same amount of time and repeat.
Once you’ve mastered maintaining your effort on a hill, work to maintain speed.
To read the rest of the treadmill hacks, click here to see it on Women's Health.