Is Your Treadmill Getting Enough Exercise?

Find your treadmill. Wipe your finger along the walking belt. Find any dustballs? Maybe you need our treadmill makeover.

Any of these steps might make your treadmill every bit as inviting as the sofa. And it might get you excited all over again about indoor exercise. Here are some of my ideas about what can turn an out-of-shape treadmill into a constant companion. (Even steadfast treadmillers might find some extra inspirations here.)

Play a name game.

Think about it. Do you have positive associations with the word treadmill? “Treadmills” are for rats or people who spend a lot of energy going nowhere. From now on, it’s not a treadmill, it’s a steppepper. Or a pepstepper! (We’ll keep calling it a treadmill, though, till you’ve gotten used to the pepstepper term.) A convenient, energy-producing machine, it can pep you up in the morning, give you an added boost in the afternoon or early evening, or relax you after a tough day. While its adding energy to your life, it’s burning fat off your thighs! It’s a friend, and it’s calling, “Hey, I’m over here! Let’s walk together!”

Perk up the placement

Environment has a lot to do with how a treadmill gets used — a lot more than you may think. So perk up your workout surroundings with these simple steps.

Place a mirror in front of your ‘mill

Most folks are people watchers at heart and are endlessly fascinated watching themselves in the mirror. You can critique your technique. You can see if your head is bobbing up and down (which you don’t want) or if your hips are swaying side to side. There is something incredibly uplifting in watching yourself grow taller and stronger right before your very eyes on a treadmill — especially as you work on my posture. Little nuances, like a slight rise in your breastbone or lift of your chin, make dramatic changes in the image you project — to yourself and others. With the feedback of a mirror, you can improve your image more easily. You’ll find time passes very quickly when you walk in front of a mirror.

Pick a great space

Put your treadmill in a room that is well-lit, freshly painted and pleasantly decorated — perhaps even a sunny bedroom. If you have the opportunity to look out a window while on a treadmill, take it — it’s really nice to be able to gaze out into the distance.

Make scents

Make sure the area around your treadmill is clean and fresh. Light a scented candle or open up a pot of peachy potpourri. Aromas have been shown to boost moods and even make people work out longer or harder. One study showed men worked out harder to the smell of baking bread. Women picked up their pace for strawberries. Really, though, there are no hard-and-fast rules about aromas. Experiment with scents you like. After a while, you may find that just the smell of peaches makes you ready for a walking workout.

Let there be light

Good lighting over your treadmill gives you more options. You can read a magazine or a book or a paper. You just have to be careful to keep up the proper pace so your treadmill isn’t moving faster than you are. Make your lighting adjustable. Sometimes a dim light may be just what you need for a relaxing, meditative stroll.

Hang up a few of your favorite things

It may be an intricate mobile. Or a favorite abstract. A mandala or an inspiring poem. Anything that might turn your exercise area into a sanctuary that you retreat to out of choice, not force.

What to do while you’re walking.

You shouldn’t feel like you’re in exile (unless you want to be) when you’re on your treadmill. Try these diversions.

Watch the tube

For some, the news seems to be the best walking companion. (Many walkers feel irresistibly compelled to curl up on the sofa when they turn on a drama or a sitcom.)

Another option that works for some people is renting a movie and watching it in workout-sized segments. Just as a good novel can draw you like a magnet to a cozy corner, a good movie may get you to the treadmill to snatch a few minutes of the plot.

Go faster, stronger, longer

There’s nothing like a treadmill to force you into an interval training session, whether your goal is to get faster, burn more fat or increase your endurance. Most treadmills have at least a timer. Some have elaborate settings to create your own programs. Try creating a program as you go along, listening to your body as you push and then kick back.

Listen to your favorite tunes

Sometimes, when you’re listening to the right music, your walk can feel like a powerful dance. Listening on headphones makes the music seem to filter right into your bones. One tip: Get a good piece of equipment to hold your tape player close to your body so your arms are free to swing.

Get poetic

Hang one or two of your favorite poems in front of your treadmill. Or write your own while you’re walking. Poems can have a powerful effect on your mind. While the treadmill may not be going anywhere, a poem can start you on an inner journey. Many great poets and writers walked for inspiration. Why not walk while you tune in to their thoughts? You may just find a whole new connection — to poetry and your treadmill!

Talk on the phone

Have difficulty finding the time to catch up with friends? Can’t coordinate with a walking buddy? Hop on your treadmill and grab the phone. Heaven knows, you can spend a half hour on the phone painlessly. If you want to swing your arms, get a headset! Just think, you can walk with anyone in the world!

Always on standby

Most walkers prefer to walk outside, but your treadmill can be a real asset, not just in inclement weather, but when time, darkness or “too much to do” have robbed you of a daily walk outside. And you’ll always be glad for another half hour of walking, especially if you can combine it with another activity like reading or meditating or catching up with a friend.

What you have in your mind?