Let’s be real: running on the treadmill isn’t fun. In fact, if you’re anything like me, lacing up your sneakers and jumping on the hamster wheel of exercise machines ranks pretty high on your “Things I Never Want to Do” list. Still, for anyone who’s working on their fitness, the treadmill remains a relatively convenient tool to help get a quick sweat session in, no matter how uneventful the experience may be.
Determined to put a little excitement into my current workout routine, I tapped the experts to find out how I can break up with the treadmill once and for all.
“A treadmill can be a fantastic tool for getting fit — if you use it right. But plodding along reading a magazine is not getting your heart pumping where it needs to be,” fitness guru Jillian Michaels, who’s also the creator of two digital fitness platforms — FitFusion and the Jillian Michaels app — told me in an interview. “This kind of steady-state cardio training isn’t the most efficient way to train, especially for fat burning.”
If you’re ready to really take your workouts up a notch, Michaels says that high-intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) is the way to go. “HIIT means pushing yourself during short bursts of your workout session so you’re exercising at close to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate then recovering at a lower intensity of roughly 70 percent of your maximum heart rate,” she told me. “The interval lengths can range depending on your fitness level. HIIT workouts are one of the best ways to enhance your burn after your workout is over.”
FitFusion trainer Kenta Seki is also a big fan of HIIT workouts. “Treadmills don’t work the whole body evenly, they can get boring, and even lead to plateaus,” he told me. Instead, he recommends the My Fusion 15: Total Body workout video on FitFusion since it “includes resistance training, HIIT cardio bursts and core exercises all packed into one 30-minute workout.” I actually got a chance to try this workout for myself — talk about intense!
In addition to HIIT workouts, Michaels says plyometrics are another great treadmill alternative because they can significantly increase your strength, speed, and endurance. This type of workout includes explosive movements like squat jumps and has long been a go-to for athletes because it helps maximize performance, according to Michaels.
“Both HIIT and Plyometrics workouts get your heart pumping for killer cardio and they build strength for full body strength/toning at the same time,” she told me. “The intensity also makes them highly efficient meaning more burn in less time and enhanced burn for longer after the workout ends.”
When it comes to mixing up his exercise routine, celebrity trainer Reggie Chambers, who’s worked with stars such as Christina Ricci, and Alison Williams of HBO’s Girls, loves the jump rope. “It’s one of the most effective cardio ‘machines’ one can use,” he told me in an interview. “First of all, it could be done almost anywhere because it’s small and portable!”
Turns out jumping rope is also super effective. In fact, Chambers explains that just 20 minutes of jump rope is equivalent to about 45 minutes of less intense cardio. Plus, it can be pretty fun. “Once you become good it, you can do a variety of jumps to make it more effective and not boring,” Chambers said.
Mohamed Elzomor, head trainer at NYC’s Core Club, is also a big fan of the jump rope. “This is a quick way to burn calories and challenge your endurance, and your hand-eye coordination at the same time,” he told me.
If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, Franklin Antoian, ACE personal trainer and founder of the online personal training website, iBodyFit.com, says hiking is a fun activity that can give you the same cardiovascular benefits as running. “When you hike, your body is forced to work harder to navigate the rough terrain, to go uphill, downhill and long distances,” Antoian explained to me in an interview. “All of this causes your heart rate to go higher, which leads to a great cardio workout.”
Personal trainer and nutritionist Jamie Logie of the podcast Regained Wellness, told me he loves hiking because it offers both a physical and mental workout. “You have to be more aware and your brain needs to be engaged to tackle getting up and down hills, over tree roots, etc. compared to zoning out on a treadmill,” he explained. “It takes more coordination and athleticism.”
Prefer the water to the hiking trail? Antoian suggests taking a dip in the pool or ocean during your next workout. “Swimming is another example of a fun activity that requires you to constantly move just about every muscle in your body to move through the water or to simply tread water,” he said. “All of this elevates your heart rate.”
Logie agrees, saying, “Swimming may be the king of all cardiovascular exercises. It is a full body exercise that works pretty much every muscle and builds strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness.” The best part: it doesn’t impact the joints, so, Logie says, it’s a great option for people who may have knee or ankle problems.