I’ll just get it out there: I hate running on a treadmill (or the dreadmill as I often think of it). I will do everything in my power to run outside, whether it’s finding the best gear to run in the cold or running super early or late at night in the summer to avoid the heat. However, this winter has been a doozy here in Utah. If you live anywhere where the weather can be harsh then you know that sometimes in order to get your training in, it’s necessary to hit the hamster wheel.

For me, the treadmill is a mind-game. It really tests my mental toughness, because I can run 5 miles outside and it seems easier than one mile on the treadmill. Because of that, I’ve had to find ways to make sure my eyes are safe from being poked out when I have no choice but to run indoors.

Here are five of the top tips I have found to make sure I stay sane during treadmill workouts:

1. Warm Up and Cool Down

Sometimes it’s easy to forget proper running routines and just jump on the treadmill and go. However, the confined space and repetitive pounding on a treadmill can wear on your body, especially your hips and glutes, making it extra uncomfortable. It’s important not to get lazy. Do a proper warm-up and cool down just like you would if you were outside. I enjoy dynamic warmups such as leg swings, walking lunges and clamshells prior to running. After I’ve completed my workout, I like to cool down at an easy pace/ walk on the treadmill, and then stretch again.

2. Know Your Pace

One of the biggest tips for me is to have a plan before I step on the treadmill. A big part of that is knowing what pacing I want to have. Most treadmills are set up by mph but many runners prefer minutes-per-mile pace. If you’re anything like me, you might get on a treadmill and realize you lack the math skills to convert your pace and you end up “just winging it”. Do the math beforehand so you know what number to set the treadmill on.

You can use Running World’s pace calculator or use the following chart:

  • 6mph is 10 min-per-mile pace
  • 7 mph is about 8:30 min-per-mile pace
  • 8 mph is 7:30 min-per-mile pace
  • 9 mph is 6:40 min-per-mile pace
  • 10 mph is 6 min-per-mile pace

3. Vary the Incline

One advantage of the treadmill is the customized way you can vary your run. If you end up just running on a completely flat surface the whole time you might not only lose your mind but add too much wear and tear on the same muscles and become more prone to injury. Varying the incline is a great way to mix up your run and focus on different muscles.

My basic rule of thumb is if you are used to running hills, I recommend a 1-5% incline, and if you’re used to running on more flat surfaces, stick to a 0-2% incline. But don’t be afraid to push yourself and try increasing the incline to focus on strengthening glutes and hamstrings.

4. Try an Interval Workout

Treadmills are a great time to try out an interval workout. Not only does it break up the run and add variety, but it can also be a great way to build strength and endurance. Remember, it’s important to have a plan BEFORE you step on the treadmill. Don’t decide once you’re on. Think ahead what your goals are: whether you’re going for speed or distance or trying to work on certain muscles.

  • Running and Strength Intervals– Run 1 mile, 10 pushups, 10 squats, 60 second plank, 60 seconds Russian twists, Run 1 mile, Repeat.
  • 30 minute Speed Intervals
    • 5 min at easy pace
    • 2 min at 10K pace
    • 2 min jog recovery
    • 5 min at half marathon pace
    • 2 min jog recovery
    • 2 min at 5k pace
    • 2 min jog recovery
    • 5 min at half marathon pace
    • 5 min at easy pace
  • Pre-programmed workouts– Some treadmills have great pre-programmed workouts like a hill-climber or a fat-burner option

5. Vary the Entertainment

Sometimes I can get away with nothing extra to entertain myself when I’m on an outdoor run. But I have never enjoyed that when it comes to running on a treadmill. It’s more important than ever to find a way to distract yourself from the mind-numbing view of staring at a wall in front of you or the minutes ticking by at an impossibly slow rate. I suggest that whatever you usually do for enterainment- find something different for your treadmill runs. If you’re at home or at a gym with TVs, find some brainless TV show to keep you entertained. I also enjoy podcasts or a different genre of music/playlist to mix things up.

Remember, the treadmill is as much about winning the mental game as it is the physical one. With these 5 tips, you can beat the treadmill blues and still get a great workout in.

What tips do you have for staying sane on the treadmill?