Shake up your treadmill routine

Add variety to your treadmill workouts to keep you motivated
WASHINGTON -- OK, you bought a treadmill a few months back and here it is, the last day of March, and your routine is stale. That once-sleek, addictive toy has become the Dreadmill. Here's your ticket off the plateau.

Circuit breaker
A treadmill workout needn't glue you to the rubber belt, says Mark Fenton, host of the PBS series "America's Walking" and author of "Walk it Off: The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss and Fitness" (The Lyons Press, $24.95). Try this: Warm up with five minutes of light walking, then walk for two minutes at a slightly quicker-than-normal pace.

Now, jump (carefully) off the treadmill and do 30 seconds of chest presses (push-ups or lifting dumbbells while lying on your back).

Hop back on the 'mill for two minutes, then get off again and do 40 seconds (20 seconds each side) of a pulling exercise, like one-handed dumbbell lifts with one knee on a bench.

Keep alternating walking stints with strength training, working in shoulder presses, pull downs (chin-up bar or an exercise band), biceps and triceps; then cool down. "Do this whole thing twice, and you've got a great 45-minute workout, hitting all the major muscle groups" and getting all the cardio work you need, Fenton says.

Fenton also advocates "the mountain": After warm up, add a 2 percent grade to your incline for two minutes, then bump it up to 4 percent, then up to 8 percent, back down to 4, to 2 and, finally, level again.

At 3.5 miles per hour, adding a 5- to 8-percent grade can boost caloric expenditure by 15 percent to 25 percent compared with flat ground, says Fenton. It will also work your quads, hamstrings and butt more than level walking.

For tube-watching 'millers, Scott Quill, an associate editor of Men's Health magazine, suggests using the TV to time intervals.

"Say you're watching one of the (NCAA tournament) basketball games. Whenever the clock stops (time-outs, foul shots), bump up your pace to about 80 percent effort. When the game's in progress, dial (back) down" to your normal pace. You can make it work for any sport or TV show, Quill says.

Tone to tunes
Quill cites a British study that found men can handle much higher workloads when listening to music that builds in tempo from slow to fast, rather than maintaining a consistently fast beat. (We assume women are not immune to this effect.) "Load your MP3 player wisely for even better results," he suggests. "Start out slow with Coldplay, mix in some White Stripes and end with the Ramones."

The om-burning zone
Fenton, now in his 40s, credits yoga with extending his running and walking careers. He recommends these yoga moves, after a five-minute warm up and 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous walking (All poses are illustrated at Click on "practice" then "yoga postures"):

Two sun salutations; two minutes of alternating dog-tilt and cat- tilt poses; one minute of child pose; and one minute of warrior 1 pose, 30 seconds each side. Then walk for another 10 minutes.

"People will be stunned at how much better they feel when they get back on the treadmill" after the yoga, Fenton says.

Author John Briley writes for The Washington Post.

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