Screw you Mother Nature, I’m bringing my workout indoors

If you’re a fair-weather exerciser (like me), you will likely be bringing your fitness routine indoors around this time of year. Goodbye grassy trails, hello boring treadmill.

Luckily for you, there are plenty of ways to spice up treadmill running or walking so that it is somewhat more enticing. Before you do any of the fun spiced-up variations, remember that normal outdoor terrain is a little bit more difficult to run or walk on than a treadmill. Even sidewalks have uneven surfaces.

However slight the difference might be, the uneven surface makes a surprising impact on the quality of your workout. Therefore the first thing you need to do when you bring your workout indoors is to make sure that the treadmill is as challenging as exercising outdoors.

Increasing the incline of your treadmill helps with this. Choose an incline level of one or two, and then increase your speed to whatever is normal for you when you do your regular outdoor exercise.

When you are walking on a treadmill, you can really crank up that incline. Increase it to level eight and work your way up over time as your legs and glutes get stronger.

Walking on a high incline – provided that you’re walking at a decent pace (think speed walking or walking when you’re late to a meeting) – will leave you sweating and out of breath. It can give you just as much of a calorie burn as running on a flat surface does. Walking is not a wimpy exercise.

Choose an incline level of one or two, and then increase your speed to whatever is normal for you when you do your regular outdoor exercise.

Once you have mastered the art of walking forward on the inclined treadmill, it’s time to try mixing it up with some fancier moves.

This first step is very important: hold onto the treadmill rail. Next, turn your body so that you are facing the treadmill next to you (this may be awkward if you don’t know the person on that treadmill). The object with this exercise is to walk in a side-step so that one foot is in front of the other.

Switch by turning to face the other way to get a good workout for both of your legs.

Another fun way to incorporate agility training into your regular treadmill routine is to try walking, or jogging very lightly, backwards.

Begin by facing forwards on the treadmill and then, holding onto the rail, turn yourself around so that you are facing the opposite way. Keep holding onto the rail the entire time while you “backpedal.”

All of these exercises can be adapted for any speed and any level of incline. Start slower until you get used to the movements to prevent from falling off and injuring yourself.

Don’t let the coming winter months be an excuse to quit exercising – just move it indoors!

And maybe wear a helmet the first time you try walking backwards on a treadmill – just in case.

Sagan Morrow is a freelance writer and editor. Check out her health and wellness blog at

Published in Volume 65, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 4, 2010)

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