6 Secrets to Take the Dread Out of the Treadmill

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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I use my kindle to watch either YouTube videos or something on Amazon Prime. It makes the time pass quick. I use wireless headphones to hear over the noise of the treadmill Report
KRISZTA11 10/19/2018
Portable DVD player and episodes of ER, Desperate Housewives etc. were my best friend when stationary biking was my main cardio activity.
My other secret was: put a fan in front of me, no sweating! Report
Great tips on making the treadmill easier to undergo!
Great tips on making the treadmill easier to undergo!
I love doing intervals on the treadmill! Sometimes I do it with increasing/decreasing the incline. Report
Like these ideas. Report
Good ideas Report
I do # 4. I also listen to music either on t.v. or on my head phones plugged into my phone. When I hear a song that I like I turn up the pace to walk faster. It makes time fly. But I like the other tips also. Going try some of them. Report
Great tips! Report
I definitely do #2 (Race Someone)and #6 (Break It Up). I can be extremely competitive and I LOVE pretending I'm racing against the stranger next to me. They don't know we are competing so they never have the chance to step up their game, but who cares? It's still a nice distraction from the burning muscles and clock that moves at a glacial pace. I also love to do the milestones. I'm not particularly good at math until I am on the elliptical or the stairmaster and suddenly I'm all, "I've done 12 minutes which is one-fifth of the full sixty which is 20% which means I have 48 minutes left....." Makes me feel like I'm crazy sometimes so I'm so glad I'm not the only person who does this! Report
I hope this works Report
AHA, The Treadmill, the ultimate boredom. Tunes in my ears, The virtual run on the treadmill's screen and the television overhead and having to read the captions. Anything to distract from that damned slow-running clock! Report
I have always had a fear of falling on a treadmill - esp with the hands off the handles approach that I often see. My balance is somewhat challenged to begin with. Report
Love my treadmill, but this helps add variety. Thanks Report
I'm one of those people that love the treadmill. But I'm still going to try some of these tips to make it even better. Report
I watch action/black-op/conspiracy/spy type movies or old TV cops shows while on the treadmill. Any time there is a chase-(be it foot chase or car or boat or helicopter) I run--either to chase down the bad guy-or run for my life. Jason Bourne movies are great for this--as is James Bond. Silly--but fun; more importantly, gets the job done. Report
The article had great ideas, and the comment section EVEN MORE! So many good tips. Thank you all for leaving them! And, so nice to read a comment section that is uniformly POSITIVE! Report
I do virtual walks. Last year I walked 1100+ miles from Land's End, Cornwall, to John o'Groats, Scotland. I've just started the French Pilgrims' Route of the Camino de Santiago, which is 800+ km... I've done 38 km so far. I'm 73, so,walk instead of running, but the treadmill has helped me lose 33 lbs. so far, with 9 to go to reach my goal. Report
I live in flat Florida. Even though I do a lot of hiking here, I have problem dealing with elevation changes when I get a chance to hike in other states. I'm using the incline treadmill to train for non-Florida hiking.
I also use interval of different speeds but mostly at the highest incline. Report
I like finding a show I like on Hulu or Netflix, and watch the whole series - only at the gym. Pick up where I left off the last time I was there. One more incentive to get there - gotta see what happens next!! Report
I complain always about being bored on the treadmill in the winter and my daughter in law who never complains told me her secret was daydreaming about places to be, or hunky men. Report
Great new find for the treadmill (or exercise bike, etc). I searched for treadmill scenery on Youtube and found a whole list of videos that show you scenery as if you were driving or cycling or whatever through various locations. The one I tried today was for the Cotswalds. Gorgeous scenery and nice music too. I increased my speed quite a bit more than usual during the fast portions of it. I'll have to say it made the treadmill time go by MUCH more quickly. Looking forward to trying more of them. Report
My elliptical is in my parents' basement. I can't always walk outside (allergies) I go over to work out and my mom comes down to talk and catch me up on latest events. Time goes by fast!
this is true for an elliptical and for boring walking route too. Thanks! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
GREAT ideas !
Thanks for sharing. This week will be a LOT EASIER ! Report
Loved the treadmill when we still had one. No rain, nasty neighbor dogs, heat waves, or other annoyances. Report
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. Report
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.
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. Report
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. :) Report
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 Report
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. Report
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! Report
Now that I listen to music I LOVE the treadmill and I do interval runs/walks. Report
Thanks for the great tips! I do the covert race with the person next to me too (heheheh) :) Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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) Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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". Report
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)! Report