5 Workouts Runners Can Do When the Treadmills Are Taken

Molly Hurford
by Molly Hurford
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5 Workouts Runners Can Do When the Treadmills Are Taken

While the treadmill gets a bad rap, it’s one of the more popular cardio machines at the gym. Per MapMyRun user data, indoor runs increase by about 11% from October to November. So if your fellow gym-goers are ignoring the 30-minute time limit per machine — or if you consider 30 minutes on the treadmill just a warmup — here are some effective options to try when treadmills are in high demand.

Try: Stairclimber

Ironically, most runners would gain more from hitting the stairclimber on occasion instead of the treadmill, so consider yourself lucky if all the treadmills are taken. The stairclimber is the best way to climb fast and work on form. It’s great for trail runners who have to take higher steps to clear rocks and roots. While running on a big incline on the treadmill might work for a climb in a road race, trail runners need more pick-up. Focus on your form and expect to feel slightly different muscles (like your calves and glutes) activating in unfamiliar ways.

Try: Stationary bike 

Alternate between the treadmill and the stationary bike in 30-minute intervals and focus on holding a similar heart rate or perceived exertion to what you were doing on the treadmill. It won’t sync perfectly, but the point of a long run is to train your aerobic system. Your focus should be on keeping your effort steady. (If your long run was measured in mileage, convert to a rough estimate of how much time that run would take and do that amount of time between the machines.)

Try: Elliptical

No, the elliptical machine won’t get you marathon-ready, but it is a great low-impact way to warm up and cool down without stressing your joints or hogging a treadmill when you have an hour-long workout to get done. Reserve the treadmill for the actual intervals, but use an elliptical machine to warm up and cool down instead of wasting precious minutes of your allotted treadmill time running at a jog. That way, when you finally get on the treadmill, you can get right to work and hit those intervals like a boss.

Try: Strength training

You’ve managed to find a few minutes to squeeze in a gym session. Trouble is: not a single treadmill is open. That’s OK. Rather than heading home defeated, warm up on a stationary bike or elliptical for 15 minutes to get your blood flowing, and then go through a quick strength circuit focusing on runner-friendly moves like squats, calf raises, planks and bridges.

Try: Rowing Machine

While likely better than running on pavement, treadmills can highlight any running-related injuries and muscle tweaks. If you’re recovering from an injury and don’t want to risk a flare-up (or don’t have a choice because all the treadmills are taken), a rowing machine works muscles you haven’t worked in years. Contrary to popular belief, it’s a great core and lower-body workout. Rowing machines can easily let you put out the same level of effort as you would on a treadmill, so don’t be afraid to aim for the same set of time-based intervals you had for your run.

About the Author

Molly Hurford
Molly Hurford

Molly is an outdoor adventurer and professional nomad obsessed with all things running, nutrition, cycling and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside, travel and athletic style on TheOutdoorEdit.com, or she’s interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete Podcast. You can follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat at @mollyjhurford.

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