Some call it the dreadmill, others avoid it altogether—the treadmill gets a bad reputation amongst runners. In reality, the treadmill is a fantastic training tool. The treadmill allows you to run when it may be too hot, too cold, too icy, or too stormy outside. With a few tweaks to how you use it and reframing the way you think about it, you may find the treadmill provides an enjoyable run after all. 

Mimic outdoor terrain

Many runners dislike the treadmill because of the monotony. However, the treadmill is only as monotonous as you let it be.

When you run outdoors, you do not run at the exact same pace on the exact same terrain for the entire run. Even the flattest runs will feature slight inclines and declines. Your pace likely changes throughout the run. Most runners start slower in the first mile and then naturally vary slightly by even just 5-10 seconds per mile. 

You can make a treadmill run feel more like an outdoor run by mimicking the slight variations. Use the incline button to adjust your gradient every few minutes. For a flatter treadmill run, you may only vary the incline within the range of 0% to 3%. If you are accustomed to hills, a range of 0% to 6-8% will make a run feel more exciting. Then, adjust your pace accordingly; slow it down on uphills and increase it on flat to mimic the outdoors. Each treadmill run can be different, which will help overcome boredom if you run indoors all winter long. 

Engage your mind

Whether you prefer the sounds of nature or music outdoors, most runners will want some form of music, podcast, or audiobook to listen to on the treadmill. Having entertainment will distract you from the lack of changing scenery. If it helps, cover up the numbers on the treadmill dashboard so that you can fully immerse your mind elsewhere. 

To make the treadmill time even more exciting, save your favorite playlist or podcast just for the treadmill. You will have something exciting to look forward to each time you run. 

Attitude makes a difference 

If you call it the dreadmill, the treadmill will naturally feel dreadful. Your mindset plays a huge role in how runs feel, and the treadmill is no exception. 

You can promote a positive attitude in multiple ways. You may find motivation in visual cues, in which case setting up a vision board or medal display in your home gym will help. You may simply find that changing how you talk about the treadmill changes your mindset. You do not have to run on it. Instead, you get to run on it during inclement weather, which is certainly better than no run at all. 

Try a treadmill-specific workout

You can control pace, distance, and incline with absolute precision on the treadmill. This control allows you to do workouts that may otherwise not be possible for you. 

For example, you can run on long inclines on the treadmill. Or, you can run intervals on a flat, fast surface. Such a workout may not be possible where you live. If you struggle with pacing outdoors, you can use the treadmill to help you nail your exact paces without going too fast or too slow.

As with any workout, be sure to include a 10-20 minute warm-up at an easy effort. A warm-up reduces your risk of injury and helps you perform better. One added benefit of the treadmill is the ability to control your pace to ensure the warm-up is as slow as you need it to be. 

Some treadmill workouts include:

  • Progression runs: A progression run starts at an easy effort and becomes progressively faster near the end. On the treadmill, complete control lets you progress in small increments often. One sample progression run: start at your easy pace and increase by 0.2 mph every 10 minutes for 30-60 minutes. 
  • Incline workouts: Long, moderate inclines offer a huge aerobic boost – but it can be challenging to find the appropriate hill based on where you live. On the treadmill, you have complete control. A sample incline workout: 2-3 miles on a 3-6% incline, based on your fitness level. 
  • Musical fartlek: Fartleks are a more unstructured version of an interval run. You pick up the pace as fast as you want for a short amount of time, then resume easy running until you are ready to repeat. If you listen to music on the treadmill, you can use each new song as a cue to change your pace or incline.

Please note: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.