Q: I’ve recently changed gyms. However, I’m discovering the new gym and I are a poor fit. I need more variety. At my former gym, I had access to a pool, indoor running track and group classes as well as the usual assortment of cardio machines and weights. At the new gym I’m left with only the (admittedly excellent selection of) cardio machines and weights. I’m not able to do much cardio outside due to exercise-induced asthma. Do you have any tips for staying motivated on a cardio machine for the next nine months, until my contract expires? Staring at a wall for 30 minutes at a time while I’m sweating my tuches off is starting to get irritating and uninspiring.
A: Sounds like you and your gym could use some couples therapy, and I happen to know just the guy to help: Kevin Owens, who teaches Treadmill Race Training at the Tysons Corner (Va.) Equinox. He says he can convert anyone into a machine maniac. “Most people who exercise indoors are bored out of their minds, but of course I know how to make it interesting,” he boasts.
The key, he explains, is to plan your workout before you punch in your age and weight. Otherwise, you’re likely to take it too easy, or push full throttle right away and poop out. “I’ll write it down on a piece of paper and say this is what I’m going to do,” he says. “Plop it in front of you. You’re more likely to stay true to your goal that way.”
So what should those goals be? Well, Owens starts with ground rules. His students always need to keep their treadmills at a one-degree incline or higher, and always keep moving. Then he gives them intervals to struggle through. “You want to be tired and keep your heart rate up, but you don’t want to be over-stressing your body,” he says. He might start students at 70 percent of their top pace for two minutes, followed by one minute of recovery, for five sets. The bulk of the workout is generally more intense: Think longer spurts at a faster pace or upping the incline while trying to stay at a quick clip.
If you’re better buddies with an elliptical or a bike, the same interval tricks apply. Keep changing up the challenge and you’ll forget all about that wall.
Owens has a bonus idea that’ll get you using those weights, too: Break up your cardio into chunks. Run for six to eight minutes, then hop off to do abs exercises. Then run again, until you break for another exercise set. It’ll keep your heart rate up, pump your muscles and, best of all, limit excessive wall-staring.