Saturday, February 9, 2013

How to Make Your Treadmill Runs Not Suck

I was going to call this post, "How to Make Your Treadmill Runs Fun," but ultimately decided that I didn't want to over promise and under deliver. Fun is strong word. I suspected you would question my sanity if I used the words 'fun' and 'treadmill' in the same sentence.

Let's just agree on, "How to Make Your Treadmill Runs Not Suck."

I love outdoor running. I never had the kind of love for treadmill running as I do for the outdoors. However, I have to admit there are many good reasons to use the treadmill: They allow you to have strict control over your speed and time, they provide shelter from the weather, and a safe environment to run, day or night. They are great for speed work training. The problem is that is that treadmills can be mind-numbingly boring. No one likes to feel like a hamster, going nowhere.

The thing is, you may be going nowhere is terms of physical space, but treadmill runs can help you meet your running goals. If your goal is to run faster, treadmills can bring you places.

1. Hide the Clock:


First and foremost, hide that clock. Staring at the seconds tick by on the clock will make the time seem like it is moving backwards. Only on the treadmill can five minutes feel like an eternity. I always cover the screen with a towel or a sweatshirt. Sometimes I measure the time passed by the number of songs I've heard on my iPod. One song generally equals three minutes, but sometimes songs are slightly longer, or I lose track of how many songs I heard, so I end up underestimating the time. It is a great feeling when you think you have eight more minutes to go, but you actually only have two.

2. Distractions: 


Music. I wouldn't dare step on the treadmill without some upbeat music to distract my brain. Unlike outdoor running, the last thing I want to be alone with on the treadmill is my thoughts. I have a special playlist on my iPod called treadmill running that only has really fast songs. The faster the beat of the song, the faster my pace. Music puts me in a good mood and helps counteract the pain of the treadmill.

TV: I love the TVs at the gym that display the closed captions on the screen. Before you choose a treadmill, be sure you are getting in front of a TV that has a program that is interesting to you, nothing will bore you faster than a thirty minute infomercial for a no-pinch bra. I've been there.

My sister says she downloads her favorite shows to her iPad and only allows herself to watch the latest episode on the treadmill.  She says she looks forward to the treadmill and the miles fly by because she is so engrossed in the show, often staying on the treadmill longer than planned to see what happens. 

3. Mantras: 


It may sound strange, but repeating a positive thought in your head over and over can go a long way in drowning out the negative thoughts, especially during the high intensity portions of your run. I like silly poems that rhyme (like below), but you should use whatever works for you.  Here is a Runner's World post on mantras for some more good ideas.

I can do this
I can run,
I can make
the treadmill fun!


Treadmill, treadmill
you won't last.
I am winning,
I run fast.

4. Intervals:


To make your treadmill runs suck less, I recommend sticking to short but effective interval workouts. I have a deep respect for those tough-minded people who can run 10 miles on a treadmill. I can't do it. I save the long tuns for outdoors and do my shorter speed work sessions inside. Intervals help break up the time into manageable portions. If you do 20-30 minute speed intervals on the treadmill you will find that you are focusing only on the minute that you are currently working in, not the overall workout. So instead of stepping on the treadmill and thinking, 'Oh gosh, I still have 19 minutes and 30 seconds to go until I am done,' you will be thinking, 'Only 30 seconds until my next interval.'  It goes a long way mentally when you vary the speed and intensity of your workout.

This is just an example. Adjust the speeds up or down to fit your current fitness level

5. Friends:


If you are lucky enough to have friends who run, the best way I know to make a treadmill run not suck is to run with a friend. I love to get on the treadmill next to a friend and chat the time away. We take turns doing speed work; When I am on a fast interval, she does the talking and I nod and smile (because I am unable to speak) and then we switch. You can get an interval workout in and catch up with a friend. Just don't spend the time complaining to each other about it, keep it upbeat and positive. 

Remember that making a treadmill run not suck is mostly about conquering your mind. For me, it is more of a mental battle than a physical one. When I finish a high intensity treadmill run, I usually step off the hamster wheel treadmill and onto cloud nine. It seems like the more I sweat, and the harder I worked, then the more intense the runner's high...and runner's high doesn't suck!

How about you? How do you make your treadmill runs not suck?

Keep Running,


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photo credit: eccampbell via photopin cc


  1. I definitely have to have a distraction - preferably a TV playing an engaging show! - and usually do intervals. I've run side-by-side with a friend once, but then I had to listen to her griping about how much she hates the TM! ;-0

  2. I think these are all spot on! I HAVE to have fast music to listen to on he treadmill. I will even have some of my favorite "push yourself, you can do this" songs play twice during a workout just to keep myself pumped!

  3. Stopping by from FFA. Pinned your run workout. I am lucky that my treadmill is in front of a TV or I can even watch stuff on my iPad sitting in the magazine rack. Just music alone doesn't do it for me.

    1. I agree, I need music AND TV and an interval work-out all rolled up in one to make it work for me! :)

  4. All great tips! I really detest cardio on machines and wrote a similar post a while back. My last tip is to incorporate other types of cardio intervals into your strength workouts; skipping, burpees, squat jumps. Quick bursts are just as good as long slow distance!

  5. I always hated the treadmill cause I got too sweaty on it and there was no natural breeze to help .. so I set up a fan nearby and it made all the difference for me.

    1. good idea! those little fans built into treadmills don;t do anything for me!

  6. THANK you for the this! I'm actually going to buy a treadmill today! It's a bit snowy and icy here to expect to be able to get outside for consistent runs. Have a great weekend!

  7. This is great! I am a winter treadmill runner and love this post. I would love to re-post this on my blog sometime!!

  8. The tv is a great distraction for running on a treadmill. I trained for the Rock N Roll New Orleans 1/2 Marathon on a treadmill because I wanted to increase my speed and the race was on a flat course so only made sense. Those tvs on the machines were so imporant when doing those long runs. When I did my longest run of 10 miles, I was lucky to have Lord of the Rings playing! It was the quickest 2 hours ever!

    1. You are my hero! 10 miles on the tready?!?

  9. Great tips, Lea! I tend to keep them shorter on the treadmill - definitely with music (or a movie on the rare occasion I'm attempting a long run). I usually do some kind of intervals. I figure the more buttons I push, varying speed/incline, the easier it will be to get through. Sometimes I am thwarted by this mentality, though, and end up pushing myself harder than I'd intended. :)

  10. Music is definitely key for me! I also love interval work because it keeps you on your toes and your constantly counting down to a change! Thanks for the other tips!

  11. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, I love running on my treadmill and in Ottawa, it's a necessity. The video link in this is really cute anyway and worth the read. Enjoy

  12. These are great tips, and I think I've done each of these at least once (even down to the infommercial!).

    Happy running!

  13. I watch the TV that is on each treadmill at the gym. When a movie is on I don't mind running!

  14. If I'm on the treadmill at the gym I teach at, I'm a sucker for USA during the run (NCIS is often on and since I've seen most of them, if I miss some CC here and there it's not a big deal.

    If I'm on the treadmill at my office (usually by myself) I generally will sing along to the music or dance while I run.

  15. I definitely needed to read this today. Heading out of town for a girls' weekend, and hubby has told me he doesn't want me running outside by myself. I promised him I would stick to the hotel treadmill, but I'm not happy about it!

  16. With Florida rain, heat, and humidity my midweek runs have been on the 'mill! I have hidden the clock with my towell, I play games with when I can check in looking at a wall clock at the gym, I play great music, take breaks when needed - it's hard, but doable!


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