Master your indoor miles with these five tips to beat treadmill boredom.
I spend almost all of my runs outdoors, but every once in a while, an indoor run is necessary. I always get asked by friends, family and blog readers how I don’t get bored on the treadmill. Of course, the treadmill isn’t my first choice (I love running outside, even in the rain, heat, or cold), but I have 5 tips that help get rid of the treadmill boredom whether you walk or run.
Treadmill Boredom Tips
(1) Bring good entertainment, e.g.playlists, podcasts or TV shows
I feel like most articles about “how to not get bored on the treadmill” have 5 tips and one is a podcast, one is music, and one is a TV show. In my mind, those are ALL the same tip since they’re just a form of entertainment. And it totally varies what type of entertainment I’m in the mood for every time I hop on the treadmill. I have my go-to playlists, and I also really like using the Discover or Artist Radio playlists on Spotify. My favorite podcasts are I’ll Have Another with Lindsey Hein, C Tolle Run, and How I Built This. I rarely watch TV when I run these days, but when I was Nashville junkie, I only watched episodes on the treadmill. I loved saving my favorite tv show just for runs.
Whatever you’re feeling, go for it. And if you start to listen to a podcast and you’re still bored, try listening to music. You’re not stuck with whatever you started with, and it’s easy to pause and switch it up. I often utilize both music and podcasts throughout a long treadmill run. And sometimes I end up turning it off altogether.
(2) Alternate miles between zoning out & problem solving
Sometimes I want to zone out on runs and sometimes I want to work through problems. If I have anything longer than 8 miles, I go to the treadmill with a sticky note of things that are on my mind, with a game plan to dedicate miles to them. I typically start with one mile zoning out to music to get me going, then I turn down the music a little and dedicate mile 2 to thinking through a problem. Then I go back to blasting music and zoning out. I move onto the next problem for the next mile (or pick up where I left off thinking about the first one!).
Having dedicated blocks to work AND relax helps it feel like less of a slog because I give myself the freedom to zone out vs. feeling like the entire run has to be a “productive” one. But, having a list helps keep my mind busy with other thoughts if they start to drift into the “oof, I’ve been on here for a long time” territory.
(3) Incorporate Intervals & Pace Changes
I LOVE the treadmill for interval work since it really helps push me. (Note: I don’t think you should do ALL your interval work on the treadmill. Be sure to hit the track for some speed sessions so you learn to push without the help/threat of the treadmill belt.) But, if you aren’t on a specific training plan or you never do intervals, use the day(s) that you need to head inside to add in some treadmill workouts. You can see some of my interval workouts here, here, here, here and here.
But, what if you have a long run you need to do on the treadmill and running intervals really aren’t a good idea? I still like to include some pace change just to give the legs a little variety. Sometimes that is 1-2 miles mid-run at 15-30 seconds faster per mile, followed by 15-30 seconds per mile slower for a mile. Sometimes I plan to do a light progression and very gradually increase the pace (starting very easy!) and then decrease the pace as a long cool down. Just do something to mix it up so your legs aren’t running the exact same pace for 1.5-2 hours. I also play with the incline a little bit.
Think about it – when you run outside, your pace is rarely exactly the same. You adjust for hills, you adjust for traffic, you adjust with your running partner. Increase the incline a tad and then take it back down. All of that is variety that you lack on a treadmill, so try to add it back in.
If you have a running coach, he or she may even recommend a few treadmill sessions for speed training.
(4) View the treadmill as a reward
While I don’t always look forward to the treadmill, I definitely don’t dread it. I try to think of it as a reward where I can truly relax. When I run outside, I can rarely zone out for long stretches. My mind is constantly assessing and evaluating, “Is that a pothole? Is that black ice? Am I safe? Should I turn off my music so I can hear what’s happening around me? What’s my plan if someone came at me? Is there a car coming? Can I beat that car? Ugh, it’s so dark. UGH, tree limb! Agh, did I hurt my ankle? Should I stop? Wait, I think I’m okay. Ooooh boy, I’m glad I didn’t roll my ankle.” And so on.
There are just so many variables when running outside, especially when it’s dark and/or rainy and/or cold. I’m not complaining, but it’s the reality that your mind HAS to be assessing a lot when you’re out on the roads, especially as a female. So, I look forward to my treadmill time as an opportunity to actually zone out and not think about all those things.
And, when it’s cold, think about how nice it is to run in shorts and a tank top when it’s 10 degrees (or worse!) outsides. Oh, and I NEVER call the treadmill a “dreadmill.” Ever. Positive thinking folks. Positive thinking. Also, don’t watch the clock or stare at your speed in miles per hour. With the screen right in the front of the treadmill, it’s hard not to stare at it, but it usually distracts me from enjoying my run.
(5) Run next to a friend (if possible)
One year, my friend Kate and I were training together a lot and headed out for an easy Sunday run. We got about half a mile into the run, and were both MISERABLE. It was rainy and the wind was awful. I can’t remember who suggested it, but we decided to turn around and run on the treadmills in my gym. We still chatted like we would outside and she was able to run faster than I was since I just wasn’t feeling it. This is a tip I rarely get to take advantage of since most of my running friends aren’t members at the gym I go to. But, if you have the option, it’s a nice one. (It’s an especially great option if you and a friend run different paces!)
Note – pay attention to the vibe around. People chatting nonstop on the treadmill might be super annoying in some gyms, so use common sense and manners. Kate and I were the only ones in my gym the few times we ran side by side. And of course you can tuck this tip away for post-covid restrictions.
Running next to a friend helps pass the time too, it’s more enjoyable and helps get you motivated to run.
Bonus tip: Build some grit and mental toughness.
When it gets boring or frustrating, EMBRACE it. Let yourself feel that. Part of being a runner — especially a long-distance runner — is getting comfortable with discomfort, both physical and mental. Use the treadmill as an opportunity to build some mental toughness and prove to yourself that you CAN push through, even when it’s boring.
And don’t forget to take your water bottle, nuun, gu, earbuds, whatever else you’d typically need on a long run to the treadmill. And enjoy how nice it is to just to set them down and not worry about circling back to get them or carry them with you. Another reward of the treadmill! 🙂
Your turn: What are your tips to enjoy running on the treadmill?
I generally avoid the treadmill at ALL costs because I honestly don’t feel like I have a good sense of how hard I am working on the treadmill because I am not propelling myself , the treadmill is. BUT about 2 weeks ago it was -14 degrees outside and windy and I needed to get in an 8 mile run … so I asked a running friend to join me on the treadmill. It was 5 am and even though we were talking I tried to be aware of the folks around us and tried not to talk too loud or too obnoxiously. HAHA! Tomorrow morning I am running 16 miles OUTSIDE even though it is only going to be 8 or 9 degrees. Brrr….
It’s been quite a while but at my old gym I used to snag one of the treadmills in front of the mirror. I found it really helpful to work on my form, just like any other workout. Plus, any time I wanted to quit early or take it easy I would make myself actually look myself in the eye to make the call.
With the temperatures being so extreme right now it’s been necessary that I get in at least one run on the treadmill each week. I’m fortunate that I have friends who will join me on the next treadmill and we chat and help push through the challenge that is running 8 miles on the treadmill.
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