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June 09, 2021 10 min read

The “dreadmill” gets its name for a reason. Often looked at in disdain from across the gym, everyone knows that it can bring about a cut and lean physique—if only one has the mental fortitude to get through its long, boring, and difficult process.

However, things don’t have to look so grey when it comes to the treadmill. In fact, it can be a great and efficient way of burning those extra pesky pounds and slowly revealing the shredded physique underneath.

The simple high-intensity interval training routine that we’ve outlined further below is a great way to utilize the treadmill to its fullest potential. And in the process, help you lose weight quickly and efficiently.

people running on treadmill in gym

Weight Loss and Cardio

When it comes to exercising and weight loss, cardio is the name of the game. Getting your blood pumping and heart rate up, cardio is excellent for cardiovascular health. It also helps build muscle, especially in the lower body. And last but not least, it’s fantastic for burning calories and losing any and all belly fat.

This makes the treadmill the perfect tool for losing weight. No longer do we have the excuse of bad weather or not having anywhere to run, since this machine offers everything in a small space, indoors.

What the Treadmill can do for You

However, the treadmill is often purely utilized. What many people seem to not realize is that cardio comes in different flavors. The steady-state cardio that we’re most used to isn’t necessarily the best for losing weight.

Steady-state means that you’re running at the same speed for an extended period of time, without switching up the tempo. Not only is this boring, but it takes much longer for you to see results. This is where high-intensity interval training (HIIT) comes in.

What is HIIT?

HIIT has been around since the 1970s, popularized by Dr. Tabata after showing that not only did this type of training increase aerobic capacity and endurance, but that it also improves anaerobic capacity—i.e., the ability to build muscle.

As the name suggests, HIIT is performed by doing short intervals of very high-intensity exercises. A running workout means sprinting for a short amount of time followed by a slower walk or jog.

A key part of HIIT is that it puts your body’s heart rate in a fat-burning zone, which does exactly what it sounds like. This is the heart rate where you burn the most calories per minute, and HIIT allows you to extend this time and get the most out of it. So, how do you calculate your own fat-burning heart rate?

Keep in mind that everyone is slightly different, and the optimal heart rate might differ quite a bit depending on age, sex, or health. But the zone you’re aiming for is at 70% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is calculated by taking away your age from 220.

So, if you’re 30 years old, that means your max heart rate should be around 190 beats per minute. To get your fat-burning heart rate, multiply that by 0.7 and you get 133. So, 133 beats per minute is the heart rate you should be aiming for—and HIIT makes this easier than it looks.

Who Can do HIIT?

The high intensity of HIIT offers benefits for everyone. If you’ve already got some sort of athletic base to work off of, then HIIT can be perfect for smashing plateaus and taking you to the next level. However, certain people might want to be cautious around this form of training.

Those who are very unfit, have heart conditions, or are recovering from an injury, might want to reconsider a running HIIT program. This will largely depend on the individual’s circumstances, but the intense movements necessary in HIIT can exacerbate some already bad situations.

The 20-Minute HIIT Treadmill Workout

Like all good workouts, you want to begin the treadmill interval workout with a warm-up. If you really don’t have much more than 20 minutes, then you don’t have to spend long on this. But do try to go for a light jog for about 5 minutes at a reasonable steady pace.

To begin, you’ll want to choose your own “high-intensity” speed. This should be a speed where you can either speak very little while running, or not at all. At higher athletic levels, this should be a sprint. On the treadmill, aim for as high as you can go and keep up with. You’ll want to maintain this speed for one minute.

At the minute mark, select your resting speed. This can either be a brisk walk or a very light jog—whatever you’re most comfortable with. Once thirty seconds are up, speed up to your high-intensity tempo.

Don’t feel that it’s necessary to maintain the same tempo through all of your rest and running periods. The key is to get your heart rate up and maintain its elevation. However, you also don’t want to go too easy on yourself.

Repeat this process of one minute high-intensity and thirty seconds of walking or lightly jogging. During your rest periods, you want to get back enough energy to give it your all during the runs. Aim for 8 to 10 rounds of these intervals, which should put you around the 20-minute mark.

Once you’re finished, end with a cool-down walk at a slower speed than what you began with. Do this for 2 to 3 minutes, and try not to skimp on it since it’s useful for preventing aches after your workout.

Doing stretches or using a foam roller at the end of the workout is even better if you’re going for bonus points. This will help your body recover from your intense exertion and will allow you to hit the gym sooner, and harder.

The Incline Feature for Your Interval Workout

A key part of most modern treadmills is the incline feature.

For HIIT exercising, this is useful since it can add a lot of intensity to a workout, without changing the tempo. While the routine above didn’t include inclines, it is a good idea to add them in whenever you’re in the high-intensity stage of the training.

For one, this mimics the kind of environment you see outside, with hills of various degrees. If you’re training for a race, then this is particularly beneficial. A good incline to aim for is around 4, but this will largely depend on your fitness level and your goals. Either way, it can add another fat-burning element to an already terrific fat-burning routine.

The Power of Variation in a Fitness Routine

Variety is the spice of life, and the spice of fat loss. HIIT is already a microcosm of variation—you’re switching things up every minute or so, going fast and slow in order to squeeze out more energy from your muscles and get your heart pumping for longer.

When compared to something like steady-state cardio, it already adds a lot of variety. Add in the inclines and different HIIT routines, and you’ve got a solid workout routine. However, variation should also be looked at from the macro level. That is, from day to day and week to week.

HIIT is great for losing weight, but it should also be supplemented with other exercises—cardio and non. For example, even taking a walk some days instead of doing HIIT can be useful.

Not only does it place less stress on your joints, but it’ll also help you avoid boredom. This is important since the mental game can be just as difficult as the physical one when you’re aiming for weight loss. Including longer, steady-state cardio sessions in your weekly routine is also great for heart health.

HIIT does provide plenty of benefits, but those benefits can be further rounded out by adding different types of cardio into your routine. Another great benefit to this is avoiding the dreaded plateau. The more you put your body through a certain workout or routine, the fewer results you’ll start to see as you progress.

This makes sense since your body is going to get used to a certain movement pattern or level of exertion. But switching it up can introduce an added level of difficulty, which is exactly what you need trying to lose some extra belly fat.

Also, adding resistance exercises in the form of weightlifting can be good for weight loss.Not only will you be filling out your physique with muscle rather than fat, but it can also improve your running and overall health.

How to Burn Calories

When it comes to weight loss, there’s a correct and incorrect way of doing things. And the process is further complicated by the dozens of specialized diets out there, and the fact that every individual is different with their own needs (to an extent).

A steady weight loss that leads to long-term weight management is usually in the realm of 1 to 2 pounds per week. And the commonly cited calories-per-pound of fat is usually at 3,500 (although this is more complicated in real life). However, it gives us a good base to work off of.

If you’re looking to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, you should be aiming for a calorie deficit of at least 500 every day of the week. This can happen either through increasing your activity levels, eating less, or eating healthier (and more filling) foods. What matters, in the end, is calories-in, calories-out, or CICO.

Maintain this balance of a slight calorie deficit and you’ll be able to experience long-term weight loss that lasts. A large part of this is the food you put into your body, rather than how much cardio or other exercises you do.

Fresh and healthy meal for fitness and bodybuilding.

The Diet to Complement the Treadmill Routine

They say you can’t out-train a bad diet, and this is especially true if you’re looking to lose weight. Staying active will do nothing if you’re consuming all of the extra calories you’re burning. But while the treadmill might bring dread, the diet doesn’t always have to.

Although this will depend on your current lifestyle and fitness level, sticking to some basic principles of dieting is a great way to get the ball rolling. For example, something as simple as switching out soda for water can do a lot for you in the long term.

One of the keys to fat loss is cutting back on refined carbs, such as sugars, carbohydrates, and starches. While low-carb diet plans are all the rage these days, it’s not absolutely necessary to avoid them at all costs. What matters is that you’re aware of what you’re putting inside of your body and sticking to the healthiest options.

Eating complex carbs like whole grains has cascading effects on your weight loss plan. Not only is it a complex carb full of nutrients, but they’re also full of fiber. This leads to you feeling fuller for longer, reducing the amount of food you eat, and it’s also great for gut health which is linked to weight loss.

Avoid the sugary cereals, sodas, candy, donuts, white breads and pastas, and other sugary foods, and you’ll already be well on your way to better health. But the things you should avoid are only one side of the coin. Your diet should also consist of plenty of healthy fats, protein, and tons of vegetables.

When considering a HIIT routine, protein is especially important. Because it’s the building block of your muscles, you’re going to need it for repair and muscle development purposes. The added benefit of high protein diets is that they’re much more filling, allowing you to be satiated for longer and reducing your overall consumption of calories.

And although you might be trying to lose body fat, healthy fats in your diet are not your enemy—rather, they’re your friend. They’re essential for a well-functioning body and overall health, but the key is in choosing to include the right ones in your diet. For example, fatty fish are not only a good source of protein, but they also contain healthy fats.

Most other healthy sources of fat come from plant sources, such as olive oil and avocado. Coconut oil can also be a good source but it should be used in moderation since it’s got a higher saturated fat content.

Rest Days for a Good Workout Plan

Once you’ve got the exercises and the diet down to a T, it’s time to fine-tune another key aspect of fat loss: proper sleep. Getting plenty of sleep (which is about eight hours for most people) is one of the most important things you can do for yourself when you’re trying not only for weight loss but also for improving your lifestyle.

For example, enough sleep allows your brain to work at its fullest capacity, meaning that you’ll make better health choices when it comes to eating. You’ll also be rested enough to work out longer and harder. And when it comes to a muscle-building activity such as HIIT routines, enough rest is doubly important.

This is because muscle-building activities break down your muscle, and the development in size and strength is just your muscle healing itself. But if you’re not giving yourself enough rest, that means your muscles can’t develop to their fullest potential.

Along with being good for weight loss and muscle gain, enough downtime will also help in preventing injuries and aches. Considering everything that eight hours of sleep can do for us, it’s obvious that we should be making it a priority.

Consistency is Key for a Healthy Lifestyle

When it comes to people who’ve lost a lot of weight, almost 90% regain most of it back. Part of the reason is that as we lose weight, our resting metabolism decreases, meaning we have to eat less and less food to maintain and lose weight.

This is happening while our bodies are also used to us being fat, resulting in our hormones telling us to continue eating when we shouldn’t be. However, another important aspect is consistency over the long term.

Having a goal to work towards and a plan to get there is extremely beneficial for long-term success. However, falling off the horse is a part of life, and we’re not always going to be able to be as consistent with our lifestyles as we’d like to be.

What matters is that we try our best to implement these positive changes as consistently as we can, while also giving ourselves some rest days for some respite. But it’s important to keep in mind that weight loss isn’t a sprint—you’re not going to get there significantly faster in the grand scheme of things if you make a ton of dramatic changes all at once.

It’s much easier and more beneficial over the long term to make small and incremental changes that you can fully incorporate into your life. When it comes to weight loss and wellness, there’s no better way to do it.