Running on the treadmill for a few miles at a steady pace is a common use for this most popular piece of exercise equipment. And there’s nothing wrong with that distance-based approach. But if you’re short on time, you can see plenty of benefit in as little as 10 minutes using the principles of interval training, which combine bursts of intense exercise with slower-paced recovery periods.
There are a lot of 10-minute treadmill workout videos on the Internet. One we like is the Total Body Treadmill Toner featuring David Siik, a certified trainer who appears to know his stuff (though wearing our stickler hat, we have to point out that David is not using the tethered safety key; more on that in a moment).
The treadmill Siik is using looks like a commercial model, which makes sense considering he’s also an Equinox Group fitness instructor. But you can find all the features required for high intensity interval training on a consumer-grade treadmill, including many top picks from our treadmills buying guide. Here's what to look for:
Convenient, responsive controls. First and foremost, the treadmill’s main controls must be clearly identified with large buttons, which will make them easy to operate while running. A second set of easy-to-reach ancillary controls on the side handrails is a nice added convenience. And because interval training requires you to change speed and incline on the fly, look for models with quick speed-controls, like the top-rated Landice L7 Cardio Trainer and NordicTrack Elite 9700 Pro. These let you switch speed and incline by whole numbers, instead of the usual one-tenth increments.
Ample sturdy, deck. As you become more adept at interval training, there will be moments (or entire minutes, even), where you’re running full tilt. Especially if you’re bigger in build, you’ll need enough deck length to accommodate your open stride. Many recommended treadmills have 60-inch decks, which will be plenty for most users. But it’s always smart to try a treadmill in the store to make sure it’s a good fit. The shock absorption and cushioning must be adequate and your feet should never hit the motor housing when you’re in a full sprint.
Stable side rails. Switching from high-intensity running to recovery mode often involves hopping off the fast-moving running belt onto the machine’s side rails. To prevent injury, you want those rails to be at least four inches wide, with a flat surface and good traction. When trying a treadmill out in person, make sure you can easily straddle the deck when standing on its side rails.
Comfortable handrails. Interval training also involves different types of movement, including side shuffles, as well as incline push-ups and other calisthenics that you perform right on the treadmill. Front and side handrails provide the necessary support for these exercises. Both are standard on treadmills, but their placement and design varies, so check that they conform to your body’s natural movement. Another option: the Octane Fitness Zero Runner ZR7, an alternative motion machine with special anchors on its frame designed to hold resistance bands for strengthening exercises.
Safety features. David Siik obviously knows his way around a treadmill, but we still have to call him out for not wearing a safety key. This feature, standard on every treadmill, will automatically stop the belt should you trip and fall. Siik isn’t alone. Taylor Swift (or the body double standing, or should we say stumbling, in for her) also forgoes a safety key in her recent Apple Music Ad. At least there’s enough space around the treadmill so that she is thrown clear, or the spinning belt could have lead to skin burns and abrasions. That would have really been no laughing matter.
Okay, enough preaching. We just want you to be safe, especially if you’re a treadmill novice doing fairly complex interval training. The safety key is the best way to avoid accidents. You may have to remove it for certain exercises, like push-ups, but it only takes a second to reattach, and that simple precaution could keep your 10-minute workout from becoming an hours-long, and maybe costly, trip to the emergency room.
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