7 ways to make running on a treadmill less boring

Running on a treadmill

A treadmill is a handy bit of kit. It serves its purpose: doing a quick stint in the gym, or squeezing a workout in at home while the kids are distracted. But most runners will always prefer to get outside when they can, especially for the long runs. However, sometimes needs must and running on a treadmill is the only option.

It’s not called a ‘dreadmill’ for nothing… it can feel tedious and unproductive. If you simply set the treadmill at one pace and run for an hour staring at a wall, you’re not going to be filled with joy. But there are ways to make your treadmill experience a little more interesting.

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Vary the pace and incline

The easiest way to add interest to your treadmill run, is to mix up what you do on it. time goes faster when you do an interval session – you’re only focusing on a small chunk at a time. Try doing a 1-mile easy warm-up, then launch into a pyramid session. Do 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minutes at a fast pace, with 1 minute of easy running in-between each time to recover. Finish with a 1-mile easy run to cool down. Or you could try a longer session, where you aim to run a chunk of your miles at a faster pace to challenge your legs.

You can also use the treadmill for a hills session. You should always set the incline a little (about 1.5%) anyway, to better replicate outside running. Throw in a few steeper inclines throughout your run to keep your interest high.

Have a plan

If you start running on a treadmill with no real idea of what you’re going to do, you won’t feel motivated. Go on the treadmill with a clear plan of what you are going to do, whether that’s distance, duration or intervals. There are a number of apps that offer treadmill workouts you could look at. Or you can print a plan from the internet and stick it somewhere you can see it. It helps you mentally get ready for the workout, and gives you a clear goal.

Change your view

If you can move your treadmill, do it. There is nothing worse than focusing your attention on a crack in your wall for an hour! See if you can place your treadmill near a window so you can see outside. Open doors and windows for a fresh breeze while you’re running. It might even feel like you’re running outside. Maybe. Well, no, it won’t, but it’s still fresh air.

Choose some entertainment

Don’t run in silence and bore yourself to tears. Get some banging tunes on run to and crank up the volume. Belting out your favourite power ballad is sure to help motivate you to keep going. If the neighbours complain, that’s not on us… You could opt for a podcast or audiobook instead.

Alternatively, hook up a tablet somewhere you can see it. Use your run time to work your way through Netflix’s finest. Pick an episode and run till it’s done – it might just keep you going that bit longer.

Running on a treadmill rewards

If you’re motivated by treats, promise yourself a little something special as a reward for completing a full treadmill workout. The phrase ‘run for cake’ is apt here – no treadmill, no cake. It’s a bit like running to the aid station at your favourite trail event – sort of.

Hide the screen

If you’re watching the little numbers on your screen tick away, you’re in for a very long and boring workout. Those numbers will never move as fast as you want them to. Cover your screen with a towel, and just don’t look. Set a timer for the length of your session and run until you’re done. This also hides the Pause button, which can be a huge temptation when it’s right in front of your face.

Try virtual training

If you’ve not tried Zwift yet, it could be just the thing you need to stay motivated on the treadmill. Connect your Strava or Garmin Connect account, and run in real-time with others around the world. You can choose lots of different environments and events. You will need a treadmill (obviously!) and a footpod, smart shoe, treadmill sensor or smart treadmill to connect to Zwift. Then you need a device (tablet or phone) to run Zwift on. There’s more info on getting started here.