6 Secrets to Take the Dread Out of the Treadmill


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/2/2011 6:00 AM   :  139 comments   :  167,287 Views

There are two kinds of people in life: those who love the treadmill and those who can't stand it. In case it wasn't already obvious from this blog's title, I'm in the latter group! I will run outdoors in a foot snow, below freezing temperatures, 90-degree heat, and even torrential rain before I will run on the treadmill. But I do draw the line somewhere: ice. When conditions are icy (OK, also if temps hit single digits), I'm not willing to risk injuring myself by running outside. Luckily, this winter has only forced me inside (count 'em) three times, and with spring on the way, I have my fingers crossed that I won't have to use the treadmill again until next year.

Usually, I can only muster about 10 or 15 minutes on the treadmill before boredom wins and I leave the gym feeling frustrated with myself. So I had to come up with some new ways to make the most of the treadmill. And to my surprise: These tactics really worked. I'm not talking about listening to music or watching TV either. If you really want to have fun on the treadmill—or at least pass the time more easily—this is how you do it.

1. Add Intervals.
This is my #1 tip for beating treadmill boredom. I tend to tell people that I have exercise A.D.D. because I can't do any one thing for long before I get really distracted. To me, simply being on the treadmill is boring. Why add to it by running (or walking) at the same pace or incline the entire time? Intervals are by far the BEST way to pass the time on any cardio machine. Rather than 30 minutes of running (or walking) at one continuous pace, you can break up your run into six 5-minute intervals, for example. It really helps the time fly by and gives you something to focus on. Now if you're not sure what to do, don't worry. Interval training is not rocket science. All it means is that you work harder, then you work easier by changing up your speed and/or incline. Here are some examples of how I incorporate intervals on the treadmill to pass the time. Note that you may need to adjust the speeds here to suit your fitness level, as these are just examples to give you ideas.

Interval Example #1
  • Run at 7 mph for 1 minute.
  • Run at 7.5 mph for 1 minute.
  • Run at 8 mph for 1 minute.
  • Sprint at 9 mph for 30 seconds.
  • Recover at 6 mph for 2 minutes.
  • Repeat until you reached your workout goal (30 minutes, 3 miles, etc.)
Interval Example #2
  • Run or walk at a moderate pace for 2 minutes.
  • Run or walk at a challenging pace for 1 minute.
  • Run or walk at an easy pace for 1 minutes.
  • Repeat until you reached your workout goal (minutes or miles).
The types of intervals you can do are really endless. Shake things up and change it each time you hit the treadmill. For more ideas, check out these Interval Workouts for Walkers and Interval Workouts for Runners.

2. Race someone.
I discovered this by accident. One of my good friends is a trainer at my gym, and when I hopped on the treadmill—all set to do my own interval workout—he jumped on the treadmill next to me a couple minutes later and said he was going to race me. "First one to a mile wins!" I know it seems silly, but it really motivated me to push myself and to have fun with my run. That first mile was over in the blink of an eye! Bring a buddy along to try this out. If you're working out alone, visualize yourself in a race. Or if you're in a crowded gym, peek at the console of the person next to you and race him or her (they don't need to know!).

3. Watch yourself…Or Don't.
This tip might not work for everyone, but it does work for me. Although some research shows that watching yourself in a mirror while working out can sap your motivation, I think it depends on the person. I don't exactly LOVE looking at myself in the mirror, but when I chose a treadmill positioned across the room but facing a mirrored wall, I found that watching myself run made me feel motivated. I'd glance up and check out my form. Seeing myself run made me feel strong and fit, and that inspired me to keep going. But if you're the opposite, choose a treadmill without a mirror view to stay motivated.

4. Cover the console.
There is nothing motivating about seeing the clock slowly tick away when you're on the treadmill. So I do my best to cover up the clock (or look away from it) as much as possible. It's almost like a game I play with myself to see how long I can resist looking at it. A watched pot never boils, and a watched treadmill clock never ticks. You're better off looking at something else if you're trying to prevent boredom!

5. Challenge yourself.
It's true that running and walking on a treadmill is not as challenging as doing the same exercise outside. (Learn the many reasons why here.) But the treadmill has other perks: like showing you exactly how hard you're working. I take advantage of these truths when on the treadmill. I push myself to run faster than I normally would outside (and I can see exactly how fast I'm going!), which proves to be a fun challenge. The other perk of challenging yourself to work harder is that you can get in a great workout in a lot less time, which means less time on the treadmill! So next time, push it on those speed intervals. Try a few sprints. See how long you can maintain a quicker clip. It will all help you pass the minutes and get more accomplished in less time.

6. Break it up.
If you had 100 pounds to lose, you wouldn't wait until you lose all 100 pounds before celebrating would you? No! You'd probably break it up into smaller milestones, and celebrate each one. I do the same thing when I have to hit the treadmill. Instead of dreading a 30-minute treadmill run, which just seems FOREVER long for me to run in one place, I'll break it up into 5-minute increments. Each one I accomplish gets a mini "WooHoo!" and makes me feel like I'm closer to my ultimate goal.

Do any of these tricks work for you? How do you stay entertained and motivated on the treadmill? 

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  • 139
    this is true for an elliptical and for boring walking route too. Thanks! - 4/20/2016   2:32:35 PM
  • 138
    If not for my treadmill, I probably wouldn't be exercising as much as I am because walking outdoors in the winter on a regular basis is NOT for me. Mine is in the basement and doesn't come with all the digital controls that one finds on the gym treadmills (dial for the speed control e.g.) but it gets me moving. Listening to favourite music is what keeps me going and helps the time to pass quickly. I can get lost in the music and the time flies by. I also change my pace and step depending on the tempo of the song so I get my intervals in that way. I've come to enjoy my treadmill walks. - 4/20/2016   11:36:57 AM
  • 137
    A treadmill is a tool, like anything else - the idea is always to make the tool work for you. These are some good ideas. I wish most people would get over the "dreadmill" phobia though. I prefer the treadmill to running outdoors and I've achieved amazing results with that useful tool. - 4/20/2016   9:30:52 AM
    I bought an inexpensive 19" TV and a ROKU just for my treadmill. I taped it to the magazine rack w 2" clear packing tape. The ROKU sits in cup holder. Remotes in other cup holder. Best thing I've ever done. I use it now to watch Netflix series ONLY if I am on the treadmill walking fast or hills. I rarely sit to watch anything, unless with DH during the evening. - 11/23/2015   6:11:34 PM
  • 135
    GREAT ideas !
    Thanks for sharing. This week will be a LOT EASIER ! - 11/22/2015   8:32:53 PM
  • 134
    Loved the treadmill when we still had one. No rain, nasty neighbor dogs, heat waves, or other annoyances. - 11/21/2015   9:35:40 AM
  • ---E---V---A---
    7 miles per hour, then 8, then 9? Thank you for making me feel like the world's slowest land mammal with that example there. - 8/5/2015   10:43:11 PM
  • 132
    the YMCA now has bikes & treadmills with the virtual courses. You pick a course, and the monitor shows the scenery. The elevation automatically changes to match the course you are watching.
    I've done a hike in Germany, the National Parks of Utah, the coast of California, and Washington state.
    - 7/25/2015   9:59:29 PM
  • 131
    I listen to hip hop and do intervals. That keeps me moving. But then I don't mind the treadmill. My gym routine also involves at least two and often four machines so I don't get too bored on any one machine. - 5/2/2015   10:43:23 AM
  • 130
    I watch a TV show or movie. Going back through the seasons of the current Dr. Who right now (David Tennant seasons at the moment.) I find I work faster as the action picks up. Plus, I only allow myself to watch it while I'm on the treadmill, so sometimes I get on the treadmill just to get some screen time. :) - 1/10/2015   7:35:24 PM
  • 129
    I dont really enjoy the treadmill. 10 mins on it is daunting to me, I enjoy a bike much more, BUT, the treadmill is easier on my knees and ankles as I have arthritis and Im so unfit the cross trainer/elliptical just KILLS me( I do 90 secs at a time, followed by a 30 sec rest then repeat) so the treadmill is the safer option for my joints(and lungs). I will use these tips for my walking - 1/4/2015   5:53:49 PM
  • 128
    I wish I had long enough legs to run 7-9 mph. My top, a-lion-is-chasing-me-sprint speed is about 6.5 mph since I'm 5'2". I actually prefer walking on the treadmill to running, but I jack up the incline and turn on the "mountain" display on the fancy treadmills at my gym so I can see how high I've climbed. - 12/16/2014   1:03:50 PM
  • 127
    I love my treadmill and probably couldn't get through the holiday season without it. It's a great stress-reliever and I love watching the mileage accumulate. I do intervals and listen to podcasts or audio books. I'm NEVER bored! - 12/12/2014   11:27:41 AM
  • 126
    Now that I listen to music I LOVE the treadmill and I do interval runs/walks. - 10/16/2014   8:28:22 PM
    Thanks for the great tips! I do the covert race with the person next to me too (heheheh) :) - 8/5/2014   11:03:23 PM
  • 124
    I made up a treadmill music channel to on YouTube - its a mix of slower and faster songs that inspire me and get me pumped up - I like to run really hard for a fast song or two and then recover with a melower song, run hard and then recover - I keep repeating until either my time's up or I just can't do it anymore - its my favorite way to exercise in winter! - 2/24/2014   8:10:35 PM
  • 123
    I totally love the treadmill and if I have great music on, I won't stop even if I have hit my goal. I like looking at the read out. I have tried to cover it with a towel but if I can't see it, I quit. The numbers interest me. Maybe that is because I am an accountant. - 12/14/2013   11:29:20 AM
  • 122
    I can't put a link, but do this search in google: Beyond Running: 4 Unique Moves to Shred It on a Treadmill

    It's a short video that will show you 4 moves that use the treadmill in a non-walking way to give you an amazing workout. I haven't tried it yet but am dying to ... I just have to get my hubby to help me move my treadmill away from the wall. - 2/7/2013   10:02:58 AM
  • 121
    I have tried to get it to line up, sorry if it looks confusing ...

    1) Try his workout - adjust speed or incline accordingly, and remember to STRETCH out your leg and butt muscles after this workout or you will feel it for days after!! Enjoy :)

    Time ........ Speed .. Incline ... Leg work off treadmill
    0 - 5 min....... 3 .......... 1 ....... (this is your warmup)
    5 - 10 ........... 4 .......... 6
    10 - 11 ................................ Alt. front lunges
    11 - 16 ......... 3.5 ........8
    16 - 17 ................................. Squats
    17 - 22 ......... 3 ......... 10
    22 - 23 ................................. Alt.reverse lunges
    23 - 28 ......... 2.5 ...... 12
    28 - 29 ................................. Plie squats
    29 - 34 .......... 2 ........ 12
    34 - 40 .......... 2 ........ 1 ........ (this is your cooldown) - 2/7/2013   9:42:45 AM
  • 120
    Good music or a Talking Book tape works. Also talking on the phone with a head set passes the time quickly.Breaking it up into smaller intervals helps a lot. - 1/16/2013   9:13:06 PM
  • ABAILEY377
    Good music always helps and I change my speed or incline every 5 minutes to break it up and make it more challenging! I am learning to love the treadmill these days. - 1/16/2013   1:07:01 PM
  • 118
    I hate to walk outside, because the farther I get away from home, the longer it will take to get back home. I know that if I need to stop for any reason, I can pause the treadmill and do it. I also like "the numbers" so I know exactly how long, how far, and how fast I have walked. I have my TV right by the treadmill and watch DVD's that I otherwise don't have time to watch. So, altho, I dread the dreadmill, I have to make myself get on it and walk, walk, walk, to get stronger and reset my metabolism. I can't/ won't take the time to drive to the "gym" when I can stop and get the same thing accomplished at home. Just not enough hours in a day to do everything that I want to accomplish.... Anyway, I do the things that are mentioned in the article and will be "switching" up my speed and incline, as I can set a program on my treadmill.... happy exercising to all! - 8/9/2012   2:42:19 PM
  • JULIA1154
    I love my treadmill but must admit that I've been covering the console for years! I go by the length of my music CD (or tape) and my pedometer, instead of checking the display creeping along.

    I also love doing intervals - they've helped bust through a couple of fitness plateaus and add some interest. - 8/2/2012   1:44:00 PM
  • 116
    My wife got me started at a gym back in January to relieve my backache. Although it has helped tremendously, it means I don't run outside much anymore.
    After five minutes on a treadmill, I just want to quit. however, I run for 30 minutes. I increase the speed two notches every five minutes. After 15-20 minutes, I start increasing it in the middle of the five minute interval. In the final five minutes I increase speed every minute or two practically sprinting for the final minute or so. I don't touch the incline. I feel too uncoordinated to mess with anything else while on the treadmill. I keep worrying I will trip and fly off. (I've done it!)
    Paradoxically, I may even be getting a "better" work out pushing my self harder and faster on the treadmill, it is still a substitute for the "real thing". - 6/6/2012   6:49:53 PM
  • 115
    As I don't like extreme heat (my definition of extreme is anything over 85), and I live in the desert where the temperatures are in the triple digits for about 6-7 months of the year, I tend to use the treadmill frequently. I don't love it, but not running at all would be tragic. So, I watch movies (gotta watch out for certain scenes--usually high action--as I tend to run off the treadmill) and get caught up in them which is a great distraction. When I first started running on the treadmill, I loved the console once I learned to use it to my advantage. I'd play games with my mind. For example, I'd decide to run a 1/4 mile, but when I got to the 1/4 mile, I'd realize I was only a minute or two from the next 5 minute segment, so I'd decide to go until I hit the 5 minute marker and guess what! I'd be close to the next 1/4 mile marker so I'd run for that and then only another minute or two until the NEXT 5 minute marker. You can see how this cycle kept me running. Of course, now I find it hard to stop when I need to because I keep wanting to go to the next mini-goal. I run a bit faster now, so the mini-goals change and I even use the calorie counter. Hmmm, I'll just run until I hit the next hundred calories (400, 500, etc), then when I get there, I'll realize, geeze, just another 1/4 mile and I'll hit 3 miles or 4 miles (depends on whether it's meant to be a short or long run). LOL Music doesn't help me much as it doesn't distract my eyes and staring at a wall, no matter how great the music, is deadly dull. Happy running (or walking)! - 6/6/2012   1:46:39 PM
  • 114
    THANK YOU!! I am looking outside now thinking, great, I get to go walk in the snow, then I stumbled across this blog. My treadmill is sitting here right next to me, but i HATE it. It's funny, I don't mind the one so much at the gym,and I think it may be because I do change it up. Every 5 minutes I put in inclines, change speed up and down, etc. Don't know why I never thought to do it at home. THANK YOU because I have gone out in the ice, and ended up slipping, so I totally get it, and really needed some ideas to keep me from dreading the treadmill. - 3/13/2012   12:35:21 PM
    Great tips! I ride a stationary bike and I learned to ride in intervals too or I am totally bored out of my mind. Covering the numbers helps a great deal, along with pedalling to fast music is a must. - 3/13/2012   11:26:25 AM
  • 112
    I like to increase my speed one minute, my incline the next, every minute up a speed then up an incline...boy the minutes fly by when you have to go faster or harder at the next one! You actually hope to slow it down! - 1/28/2012   12:58:37 PM
  • 111
    Exercise ADD = I totally have that!! lol! Love this bog - Thank you! - 1/27/2012   8:47:15 AM
  • 110
    Intervals and trying to beat my previous workout's time keeps me motivated. - 11/13/2011   8:29:44 PM
  • 109
    For me, the biggest tip is find something to listen to. I just discovered a great podcast that I listened to today while getting my three miles in. It made the time fly. When I'm running outside, I listen to music with a beat to keep my pace, but since there is nothing to look at in the gym, and for some reason watching the tvs doesn't help, plugging in the iPod and listening to the podcast was like a conversation with friends, rather than a lonely run with a machine. :) - 11/10/2011   4:09:17 PM
  • 108
    Love the treadmill with a good movie. - 10/26/2011   10:24:21 AM
  • 107
    I like the treadmill when the weather is too severe to make running outside comfortable. It's also a good tool to help change to faster paces, although when you start getting up to 8- 9 mph on the treadmill it feels a little scetchy and one catch on the side will send you crashing or looking a little cluzty. I like the freedom of outdoor running and being able to focus a little less on not tripping on the machine. - 8/7/2011   12:09:01 PM
    I am the same in that the treadmill BORES me to tears. I have found with my bad knees, however, it is easier on my joints and allows me to run. Without it I would only be able to run outside once a week. I have found that intervals and little games help me get to my mark and I'm glad I stumbled on something Coach Nicole has deemed great advice as well. I feel validated. :) - 4/5/2011   11:19:12 AM
  • 105
    Love the tips and have tried a few. Getting a friend to do a treadmill workout is the beat. We talk and change it up. Take turns making up the next interval. Confusing the body is always good. Happy treadmill ! The season for great outside runs are almost here.

    - 3/6/2011   6:47:44 PM
    I place my iPad on the console and watch a show or finish a movie. I won't quit (and I usually don't want to) until it is over. I often find that I end up spending more time on the treadmill than initially planned. - 3/6/2011   1:25:06 PM
  • 103
    Before I had the dog to motivate me to go outside in the winter months (he goes out WHATEVER the weather and we do 30-45 minutes), I used the treadmill every day during the cold or wet seasons. Our treadmill lets me program speed and incline and save the programs. I saved about 4 of these and it really helped to get through the time--although some of those incline stages were HARD to get through. Now when I get a bit bored with the outside walk around the block (all I will venture to do when it is cold and snowy and icy), I will gladly go on the treadmill to mix it up a bit. I also try to read sometimes while walking and listen to music does help. The intervals do keep it mixed up and somewhat fun. - 3/6/2011   10:49:09 AM
    I've found that intervals and TV help me pass the time. I don't tend to look at the clock unless it's during one of my 3 minute jog intervals and a commercial comes on! I'd love to be able to read while on the treadmill, but I haven't quite figured out how to make that work. - 3/5/2011   11:36:51 PM
  • 101
    I don't like the treadmill either. I don't know if it's because I have short legs or what, but I always have to hold on to the side bars when I jog or run. I always feel like I am going to slide off! - 3/5/2011   11:19:34 PM
  • 100
    I love the treadmill. I found that I can challenge myself more than I would if I were outside. I also change things up by changing the incline or speed every 5 minutes. I'm competitive with myself so I also try to beat the previous day's calorie burn or mileage. - 3/4/2011   12:54:35 AM
  • SA11YB
    My daughter-in-law got a new treadmill, so the last time I babysat the grandkids I hopped on it and started a good walk. I eventually got bored, so I started skipping. The kids noticed right away. Skipping was pretty hard, so I galloped awhile, and then I also turned sideways too. Eventually I turned backwards and did that for awhile. It was lots of fun, and it was pretty funny. The time went by fast, and I hope I didn't ruin the treadmill! - 3/4/2011   12:14:17 AM
    I love walking on treadmill with all of these points!! Interval training, no doubt, gives a boost to one's workout - 3/4/2011   12:12:31 AM
  • 97
    I love the treadmill for so many reasons. I've been using them for years! I do intervals anyway, just because it's such a great workout. I can't read or watch TV, I like to push myself too hard to focus on TV or a book! Outside it is too easy to slow down and take it easy. On the treadmill I push myself much, much harder than I would outside. Also, I've never really gotten bored easily. Guess I just have a simple mind. - 3/3/2011   7:04:12 PM
  • 96
    I watch TV, while I'm on the treadmill, and just keep walking. I like music as well. - 3/3/2011   6:02:35 PM
  • 95
    One way I am sucessful is using music at the gym. I crank it up and toon everyone out and the gym. It make me want rock out. It give me that dancing vibe. So I enjoy it so very much. I have been doing a hour and a half of cardio each time I go. 30 minutes at least on tredmill doing hills setting jogging the whole time. I also do 30 minutes of elliptical crosstrainer setting at a fast pace. Then bike or stairs or both. I notice if it isnt a song I am in the mood for it effects my workout. - 3/3/2011   4:30:14 PM
  • 94
    Would love to have a treadmill for those freezing days when I cannot walk outside. I spend way too much time trying to convince myself that walking in really bad weather is better for me than staying home! - 3/3/2011   4:23:32 PM
  • 93
    There is another group that you forgot to mention.
    the ones who want to walk on the treadmill but
    forget to when the oppertunity comes. I am in this
    group. - 3/3/2011   4:01:53 PM
  • 92
    I've resorted to almost every one of these tips, with the exception of the cheering after 5 minutes. I think I may try that one tonight! I workout on my treadmill at home, so the only "race" I've done is with myself. I will keep track of how far I go, and try and beat that the next time I get on. Some days that comes easier than others. :)

    I'm definitely not a treadmill lover, but it has helped me throughout my journey, and I have to give credit where credit is due. Our Canadian East Coast winters make it VERY difficult to run outside, so I am so very thankful for it being there for me, no matter the weather! It's a love-hate relationship we have! ;) - 3/3/2011   2:26:31 PM
    I actually prop my laptop up in front of the treadmill and watch a movie or tv episode while I'm walking. It gets me thinking about something else and keeps my mind off the minutes ticking by so slowly. I also like to look at the console and keep an eye on the miles and calories burned...when i'm starting to fade I challenge myself to keep going for ten more calories, or .10 of a mile, and before I know it it's been half an hour and I feel so good about myself. - 3/3/2011   1:56:32 PM
    I prefer to run outside but I've grown to "like" the treadmill this winter. I have ran quite a few runs outisde but since I am training with specific target paces and trying to increase my average pace, doing intervals in the treadmill has helped tremendously. I have done my tempo and long runs on the treadmill too but I use music and cover the display. I count songs and only look at 4-5 songs to see how far I've gone. It makes the miles go by faster and easier. I do prefer to run outside so soon I am going ot have to "wean" myself from the treadmill and rely on my garmin to train me on my pace targets. :) - 3/3/2011   1:22:12 PM

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