Running in place doesn’t have to be mind numbing: Tips to make the treadmill a little more fun.

The other day I mentioned my running vacation and how that basically equated to still running all the miles, but doing so inside where I would have an easy out if I wanted to stop. I have always viewed the treadmill as a friend rather than a foe and actually enjoy it whereas it seems most of the general running population prefers to reserve the “dreadmill” for times of extreme inclement weather and sometimes not even then. For those of you who do reluctantly choose the warm gym over running on a sheet of ice or in the midst of a tornado, I have a few suggestions of things to do while on the treadmill that might make the whole experience not-so-terrible.

Salt’s Top 5 Tips for a Less boring Treadmill Run 

Run with a friend.

El Niño keeping you and your running buddies inside? Group runs are totally possible on a treadmill. Sara goes to my gym and we’ve had some great conversations while on the treadmill before. I even made friends with an elderly gentleman once who was walking on the machine next to me.

And yes sometimes I do compete with the people running next to me although they probably don’t realize that I’m doing it. This is also a fun way to pass the time.

Musical Fartleks.


Sorry. Almost 3 years of running and I still giggle at the word fartlek.  

I’m a big fan of the speed interval function. Once a week I will do a few miles of repeats and toggle between run and jog every 400, 800, 1200, etc. meters, but sometimes I like to use my music to do fartleks on the treadmill rather than pay attention to distance. For example: I will kick the speed way up and run as hard as I can through the chorus of a song and then dial it back when that part is over. I feel like it makes my workouts fly by!

And speaking of intervals…manual hills.

I am also a big fan of the hill function and if I’m just doing a regular treadmill run, this is the setting I use most often. (For those of you not familiar with this, it will give you an elevation change every minute.)  However, sometimes I like to use manual mode, but constantly adjust my hills throughout the run rather than let the treadmill change it for me. It keeps me a little more awake and involved in the run rather than just zoning out.

Closed captioning.

So this one might be a little weird. My gym has a bunch of TVs mounted in front of all the cardio equipment and sometimes I’ll plug my headphones in and watch something. Most of the time I’m listening to music though and when I get in a particularly tough spot such as my treadmill is suddenly taking me up a massive fake hill, I’ll focus on reading the closed captioning until I get through it. Or sometimes I will read it if I’m on there for 9 miles and just feeling a little bored.

People watching.

My gym is full of characters, especially right now with all the new resolutioners that have joined. The treadmills are set up in such a way that I have a very clear view of other cardio equipment and also the entire free weight area. Many a treadmill run has been made more interesting with a little bit of people watching. This might make me sound totally creepy, but seriously…if your workout includes dancing on the treadmill, I’m going to watch you.  Or if you are so jacked that you can’t even put your arms down completely at your sides and you are wearing a three-sizes-too-small Superman shirt that looks it’s about to explode off your body…I am going to look at you. And be very confused by your fashion choices.

How is your relationship with the treadmill? Have you ever tried any of these things to make a treadmill run more interesting? Do you have any other tips to share? 

I hope everyone had a great weekend!




52 thoughts on “Running in place doesn’t have to be mind numbing: Tips to make the treadmill a little more fun.

  1. Anna @ Piper's Run says:

    I love having a treadmill in my house and but dislike using the ones at the gym! Probably because my treadmill space is comfortable at home and I can watch what I want on my tablet 🙂
    I too, like changing up the speed or incline throughout my run.

  2. SuzLyfe says:

    I have read so many classic books on the mill. They are typically free from Amazon because the copyrights have expired, so you can read tons of great books for nothing!

  3. prettylittlerunner says:

    I now have more of a love relationship status with the treadmill than before because I am no longer forced to do my work outs and long runs on it. In NY it would be so cold that I wouldnt even want to leave my house, lol. Here, it’s an option and a fun one. I break it up. I go running at the lake on the weekends and when I can’t make group runs, my boyfriend the treadmill is waiting for me…lol.

    • runsaltrun says:

      That’s pretty much where I am right now. I wish I had some Florida weather! I should have spent more time outside before it got really brutal here.

      I want to come run outside with you!

      • prettylittlerunner says:

        OMG… Do it!!! I would love that!!! I’m being a weirdo…. Even though I joined a group, I have yet to go to an actual run😳… Lol. I know…. Get over it… I will starting next Monday;)

  4. Sam @ See Sam Run says:

    Awesome tips! I never thought of musical fartleks but they sound fun! I typically watch TV or netflix while on the treadmill. While I don’t hate running on it, I would still rather go outside. I like to find a treadmill far away from others because I am so self conscious about everything while I’m on the hamster wheel!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Anyone who claims to hate the treadmill must live in Southern California! Or, I’m a ginormous wimp who doesn’t see the joy of running is freezing temps while avoiding snowbanks.
    I just started listening to audio books while running (in or outside) I’m not entirely sold, but, so far so good.

  6. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine says:

    I have a tough time adjusting to the treadmill but once I am running on there regularly I find that it becomes easier. Right now I don’t have a gym membership so if the weather is bad I just wont be running. We will see how long that lasts! I may cave and join a gym before the end of the winter.

    • runsaltrun says:

      I almost want to run outside this Saturday just so I can say I ran in a blizzard (if we end up getting a blizzard). This year I’m feeling especially wussy about the cold though. Maybe because it stayed so warm for so long.

  7. Mar on the Run! says:

    I happen to like the treadmill. Not so much for long distances but I did just recently review the Ultimate Treadmill workout (check my blog!) and it was a game change for me in terms of speed sessions and mixing things up!

  8. irishrunnerchick says:

    One word: Netflix! That’s been my latest “oh God how will I survive this run”. But honestly, doing tempos on the treadmill isn’t so bad – an hour at the same pace is just a big no. And also doing math – that also gets me through my long outdoor runs too.

  9. Running Boston and Beyond says:

    I haven’t been on a treadmill in so long I’d be the one flying off the end or stepping on the side then getting pushed off the end. I dream of one in July though, just something less than 87 degrees with 9000% humidity. I used to watch action movies and that was fun. Now, when I ride on my trainer, I listen to good music and just go. Time actually doesn’t go by one. second. at. a. time. If I ever do get back on a mill, I’ll be sure and use your tips, they’re awesome!

  10. Jessica @ Fit Talker says:

    Hi! (just found your blog)
    I’m totally with you on people watching. The gym I belong to has a unique clientele and it’s very entertaining to watch them walk/strut around.
    Next up may be TV shows or movies on my tablet.
    I definitely do intervals based on music. I’m a spinning instructor and how I use songs in class sometimes translates well to the treadmill as well.

  11. Kathryn @ Dancing to Running says:

    I too am a fan of listening to my music while watching something on the TV with the closed captioning on. I’m sure I look crazy to others, and they probably wonder why I don’t just plug my headphones into the TV, but its what works for me.

  12. Nora @ 2 Generations Running says:

    Great tips Salt! I actually signed up for a spring marathon so I know there are PLENTY of treadmill runs in my future this winter. I’ll try some of your tips and see if they reduce my hatred at all, lol. So glad you’re back to blogging, I’ve missed reading your posts!

  13. Ange says:

    People watching is KEY.
    On Christmas Eve Kaella and I were treadmill walking (yay injuries!) and we saw firefighters and then the manager of the gym brought his PUPPY to the gym. It was epic.

  14. Alanna says:

    I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the treadmill, but it’s also not usually as bad as I anticipate. I’ve definitely done the closed captioning and people watching. You just never know what you will see! On a rare occasion I will watch something on my iPad.

  15. Maggie says:

    I have a love / hate relationship with the treadmill. If I can, I usually choose outdoors, but I do end up on the treadmill usually a few times a month. I find the treadmill more mentally difficult than running outside, and it’s helped in building up my “grit.” I also LOVE to people watch at the gym. 🙂

  16. DarlinRae says:

    I actually love the treadmill, and exclusively ran on the treadmill at my gym last winter. I’m trying to mix it up this year and still get outside sometimes, but I’ll be inside plenty too. I’m a big fan of audiobooks right now. They’re super good at distracting me.

  17. klregan says:

    These are all great tips. I have so much trouble motivating myself to get to the treadmill. I have easy access to them, but I just hate it so much. I like the closed captioning idea. Maybe next time I’m forced over to the treadmill, I’ll give that a try.

  18. sarahdudek80 says:

    I am totally with you on this! I start marathon training next week and I’ve been doing intervals on the treadmill and I can tell my speed is coming back strong. Plus, it makes it so nice when you get back outside when it is warm. Change of scenery is great. I love closed captioning too. Watch some TV, listen to some music, and watch the sights!

    • runsaltrun says:

      I’m so glad to find another treadmill interval lover! I have a hard time getting to a track, so it has always worked out better for me. I just did my first 800s tonight since last summer. (And nearly keeled over at the end, but it was awesome!)

  19. charissarunning says:

    Haha I love your musical fartleks! Never thought of doing them quite like that before. I actually love using the treadmill and have often tried to draft my own post on making the treadmill your friend 🙂 But, I never got around to finishing it…maybe I should do that one of these days! My main strategy is constant changing of the speed and incline (and I mean like every minute!).

  20. Sue @ This Mama Runs For Cupcakes says:

    Yep, definitely LOVE my treadmill as you know. We have a mutual respect for each other. I have done musical fartleks, that’s always a fun one and I love to do my speedwork on it!! Thank goodness for Netflix because I can binge watch my shows and stay distracted!

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