Staying Sane on the Treadmill {Run It Round Up}

Run It Round Up - Tips for Staying Sane on the Treadmill from Six Running Bloggers

Another month, another edition of Run It! While spring may be inching closer, there’s still plenty of winter weather yet to come. This month’s Run It offers you advice on staying sane on the treadmill from six running bloggers. 

Whether you are maintaining your base or training for a race, the treadmill is an inevitable part of winter running for most runners. And most runners can agree that running on the treadmill is more boring than running outside – and at times, treadmill running is mind-numbing. 

Run It - tips and tricks for runners by runners.

Warm Up with Mobility Work 

The confined space and repetitive pounding of the treadmill can lead to tight hips and poor glute activation, both of which make treadmill run quite uncomfortable. If you don’t already include dynamic warm ups as part of your training routine, spend a few minutes before a treadmill run warm up. Focus on mobilizing your hips and activating your glutes with exercises such as leg swings, walking lunges, and clamshells. Try one of these dynamic warm ups before your next treadmill run and you will notice the difference when you start. 

Bring Your Own Entertainment

Music can help pass time on a treadmill, but the short nature of the songs can draw attention to just how little time has passed on your run.  Audiobooks and podcasts will engage your mind for a prolonged period of time. Most podcasts range from 30-70 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time of most treadmill runs. Save your favorite podcasts for the treadmill, so you have a sense of novelty when you step on the mill. 

Run It Round Up - Tips for Staying Sane on the Treadmill from Six Running Bloggers

Adjust Your Pace Expectations

In my experience of coaching and my own running, you simply cannot compare the paces on a treadmill to pace outside. Some runners find that running on the treadmill is easier and go faster than they do outside, while other runners find that even their normal easy pace feels challenging on the treadmill. Since you are not actually moving forward and don’t see changing scenery, your mind’s ability to perceive effort is skewed. 

Don’t try to hit the same paces on the treadmill as you hit outside, whether you are doing an easy run or speedwork. Aim for the same perceived effort by focusing on your breathing and using the talk test. If you can hit the same paces as outside, that’s great, but don’t beat yourself up if you end up running slower overall. 

Vary the Incline

Of all these strategies, I have found this one the most effective for staying sane on the treadmill: vary the incline. 

Even if you live in the flattest of flat areas, you likely experience some variation of incline. The change in incline is often what makes outdoor running interesting when compared to the treadmill (along with the change of scenery). You also use different muscles to run uphill versus downhill, so changing incline provides physical variety as well as mental variety. Reducing the sensation of tight and overworked muscles will also help you stay sane on a treadmill run. 

Running on a completely flat treadmill can also increase your risk of injury, due to the repetitive pounding or poor muscle activation. When running on no incline on the treadmill, many runners fail to properly activate their glutes and end up relying more on smaller muscles such as the calves. This can lead to muscle fatigue or injury over time, so in addition to activating your glutes, vary the incline on the treadmill to decrease the repetitive pounding and use your glutes. 

You don’t have to set the incline for anything extremely steep; simply vary the incline every few minutes between 0-2%, if you are accustomed to flat running, or between 1-5%, if you regularly train on hills.  

Have a Plan

Unless you are gifted at zoning out while running on the treadmill, starting a treadmill run with no more of a plan than how many miles you want to run can set you up for boredom. Even if it’s an easy run, have a workout plan of sorts – maybe it’s changing the pace every few minutes while staying within a certain range or adding a hill in at the end of each mile. A plan will mentally break up the run and give you something to do if you can’t just plug the pace and chug away for an hour. 

Try one of these treadmill workouts for runners or this easy treadmill run workout to beat treadmill boredom, depending on what your plan calls for that day.

What helps me with staying sane on the treadmill may or may not work for you – which is why you can find treadmill running tips from these five other running bloggers as well! 

Brooklyn Active Mama offers her tips for staying sane on the treadmill all winter long.

Vita Train for Life has spent this winter training for a Cuba triathlon on the treadmill, so she knows her treadmill running!

Run It Round Up - Tips for Staying Sane on the Treadmill from Six Running Bloggers

Run Far Girl has a fast-paced treadmill workout to help you stay engaged while running indoors. 

Stay sane on the treadmill with this 30 minute treadmill workout

Fine Fit Day will motivate you to not let treadmill boredom get the best of you! 

Happy Fit Mama is training for a marathon during a New England winter, so she knows how to make the most of a treadmill run!

How to stay sane on the treadmill

[Tweet “Can’t run outside? @runfargirl @happyfitmama @vitatrain4life @BklynActiveMama @CarlyPizzani @thisrunrecipes share treadmill tips! #runit”]

Linking up with Coaches’ Corner and Wild Workout Wednesday

How do you stay sane on the treadmill?
Do you prefer to play with speed or hills on the treadmill?

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24 Responses

  1. Great tips! I always make sure to have entertainment for treadmill runs. I dont listen to music when I run outside, so its a nice change to have it on the treadmill. I also turn on the TV if the treadmill I am running on has one. All those distractions seem to help the time go by a little faster.

  2. Yes to adjusting expectations for pace! It truly is so different from running outside. For speed work I always forget the treadmill seems a little easier for me and have to pick up the pace halfway through my workout to get the same training effect I would outside.

  3. This is all spot on! My friend Tammy just ran her first half marathon and she didn’t do as well as she’d like because it was tough to train through the winter and she hates treadmills. So I am going to direct her to this page! It’s perfect.

  4. I can only do interval work on the treadmill. And I like it. It definitely makes the time go by faster.

    At my gym there is also an indoor track, so if I’m ever doing a treadmill workout like hills or short intervals, I will do my warm up and cool down on the track. Switching back and forth helps combat treadmill boredom AND track boredom, and helps me to not violate the 30 minute equipment rule 🙂

  5. Having a plan for the treadmill and not having the same pace expectations are good reminders because I can be way too impatient on the treadmill or feel like I’m going so slowly. Treadmill workouts are also really fun!

  6. There’s nothing more demoralizing than not being able to maintain pace on the treadmill. But one of my clients LOVES the treadmill and can run so much faster indoors than out.

    I actually prefer to run at a level 0% because my normal routes are so hilly that easy miles on the treadmill are kind of a welcome change every now and again.

  7. I’m not sure sanity and the treadmill really go together 😉 I have to add speed or hills about every half mile to convince myself to keep going!

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