by Pat Staszak, PT
It’s that time of year again: the point when many of us resolve to eat healthier and exercise more. But without direction, a New Year’s resolution to lead a more balanced life can fall flat by February. If you are serious about getting fit and living a healthier lifestyle in 2016, a high intensity interval workout on the treadmill might be for you.
Research shows that high intensity interval training is the way to go if you’re committed to improving the health and performance of your cardiovascular system. Also known as HIIT, it alternates periods of high intensity exercise with lower intensity recovery periods. An added bonus? High intensity interval training has been found to elicit a post workout burn–so your body continues to burn calories even after the workout is over. Check out these beginning and intermediate treadmill interval workouts. You will notice that the beginner workout is a walking program and the more advanced workouts can include walking or running.
If you are a beginner or are recovering from an injury, we at APT actually recommend starting with a walking program. Why?
Walking is easier on our joints. Not everyone’s knees and other joints can handle the high impact of running.
Walking is a functional and weight-bearing activity, which means that it is fantastic for increasing bone mass and improving bone health.
We also think treadmill walking can be a great way to practice mindfulness–a state of active, open attention on the present moment–while working on body posture, strength and balance. As we reviewed last year, practicing mindfulness during day-to-day activities or exercise has been found to lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep and decrease depression and anxiety.
What does a mindful walking program look like? When you hop on the treadmill for your interval workout consider the position of your body and your breath. The cues below for proper body alignment are our attempt at teaching you to keep your joints in a neutral position as you move. This means isolating the parts of the body that are necessary for movement and keeping the rest of your joints comfortably in the midrange of joint, where there is the least amount of stress on the surrounding tissue. We’ve included an image of a neutral standing position below.
Neutral Standing Posture with Vertical Axis through Center
Here are some cues to help you maintain this neutral position as you begin walking:
Keep your head back and centered over your shoulders and reaching towards the sky. Avoid any bobbing or side-to-side motion of your head.
Imagine a vertical line drawn through the center of your body. As you’re walking, think about rotating gently along this vertical axis. To do this, pay attention to the way your feet hit the ground. With each step, practice absorbing the impact of gravity as your legs rotate inward slightly and your feet flatten. Allow your pelvis to rotate with your legs as you push off each foot with long, symmetrical strides. Keep your elbows bent and allow your shoulders to rotate with your body.
Focus on your breathing. Keep your abdominals gently engaged as you inhale and exhale, paying attention to the way your ribs expand with each breath. Envision moving from your center.
If you’re using a treadmill, walk without using the support bars if possible–you’ll improve your balance and make it easier to translate these skills into your everyday life.
As you continue your journey towards a healthier and more mindful lifestyle this year remember to start where you are and build up your practice slowly. Most of all, be consistent, persistent and present. Best of luck, and happy walking!