Whether you’re a beginning exerciser or someone who has many years of working out under your belt, there’s no doubt the treadmill can be an invaluable tool in your fitness routine.

Treadmills are a safe and relatively easy option for those looking to get on the right track to being more active, losing weight and burning calories.  On the flip side, treadmills can also offer-up challenging opportunities to blast fat, increase cardiovascular endurance and take your workouts to a whole new level!

Regardless of where you fall on the fitness spectrum, you want your hard work to pay off!  Plus, if you’ve invested your hard-earned money into a treadmill, you owe it to yourself to get the most out of what it can do for you and your fitness goals.

One way to do this is to take advantage of some of the built-in programs that almost all of today’s treadmills provide.  Whether you want a steady training pace, the added challenge of hills, a workout based on calorie or distance goals, or the metabolic benefits of intervals, chances are you have these right at your fingertips when you power-up your treadmill!

For some, simply hopping on a treadmill and pressing “Start” is all they need.  This is often referred to as the “Quick Start” mode.  With the push of a button users can manually control their speed and incline and get in a perfectly good workout.  Many beginners start this way and it’s an excellent way to get acclimated to the treadmill and work at a pace that’s comfortable and appropriate for you.

But as you progress and adapt to manual workouts, you may want to consider trying a few of the more common built-in treadmill programs to not only spice-up your workouts, but to also get more “bang for your fitness buck!” and to avoid the dreaded fitness slumps and plateaus.

Built-in programs will take a lot of the guess-work out of your treadmill workouts.  Once you select which program you want to tackle, you’ll often be guided to select which level you want to work at.  This may take a bit of experimenting on your part….I suggest to start low and work your way up as needed.  The program will then take over by automatically adjusting your workout variables (speed and incline) for you.  They should also have a built-in warm-up and cool-down period to assure you’re getting everything you need from your workout.

Keep in mind that you should always be able to manually over-ride any of these built in programs to better fit your needs.  So if you find yourself being challenged a bit too much by the speed or incline, simply over-ride the current setting by using the up/down buttons on the control panel.

While all treadmills are a bit different, here are a few of the more common and popular built-in programs….

HIIT Intervals Research proves there are great fitness benefits to interval alternating - alternating periods of higher speed or incline with periods of slower speed or lower incline.  Not only does it provide a challenging workout, but it’s a more efficient way for the body to burn fat and give your metabolism a long-lasting boost.  Plus you can accomplish a great workout in a shorter amount of time!

Be sure to ease into these types of workouts as they do take a little getting used to.

As far as built-in programs go, these are often labeled as “HIIT", ”Intervals", “Fat Burn,” or “Rolling Hills” on many of today’s treadmills.  They can also be given a specific name like the popular Sprint 8 program by Matrix Fitness.

5k/10k/Performance For those who are looking to train for a specific distance or pace, many treadmills will have built-in training programs to help users determine a good pace for themselves or to help the user who may have a particular goal in mind as far as a pace or time.

These programs are also handy for avid runners who may not be able to get outside due to bad weather.  They can plug in a pace or goal time and the treadmill will do the rest.  Of course, you still have to do the actual workJ.

Heart Rate Heart rate training is very popular today and, with most treadmills being heart rate compatible, you can often find programs that will keep you in a select “zone.”

Chest strap heart rate monitors are popular for this type of programming and will automatically communicate your heart rate with the treadmill.  The unit can then adjust speed and incline within your particular program to help keep you in a specified heart rate zone.

Virtual Reality While this programming feature may not yet be available on a lot of treadmills, you will find some that allow you to pick where you want to walk/run.  Maybe it’s a run along Lake Michigan in Chicago or up and down the rolling hills in San Francisco. These programs can provide some awesome scenery on your treadmill console and provide a fun escape from a regular treadmill workout.

As you can see, treadmills can provide a lot of options and variety that will not only make your workouts more efficient, but also much more enjoyable.

Happy Treadmilling!