6 Ways 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 (okay, also if temps hit single digits), I'm not willing to risk injuring myself by running outside. 

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 number one 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.

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 and then you work easier by changing up your speed and/or incline. To incorporate intervals to pass the time, try these examples. Note that you may need to adjust the speeds here to suit your fitness level.

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).

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!

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. To combat this, 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. But the treadmill has other perks, such as 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 feels like forever for me, I'll break it up into five-minute increments. Each one I accomplish gets a mini "Woohoo!" and makes me feel like I'm closer to my ultimate goal.

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RYCGIRL 5/8/2021
thx Report
TOMG155 1/11/2021
I enjoy the treadmills with cable tv at my gym but need to loose more weight in the pool before I return. Report
A good show Report
SOFT_VAL67 10/14/2020
For me it is wind. I dont walk when its icy either, because I have vitamin d defiency and am afraid of injury. But wind will keep me home every time. I watch the mph on the weather the way some watch the temperature. My dreadmill has bluetooth and you can download an app on your phone or tablet to do challenges, but I havent figured out how it works. Report
KITTYHAWK1949 10/14/2020
Calling it a "dread"mill just makes it worse. Report
SUNSET09 9/24/2020
Good information, SparkFriend. I enjoy walking a variety of scenic views while on the dreadmill. Report
Love my Dreadmill Report
Great advice! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!! Report
Thanks for sharing!!! This great Article!!!!!! Report
I gave my treadmill away. It just got to boring for me. I love our walk path. Sometimes, I use a walk video Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Good suggestions! I do prefer outdoor walking, but use the treadmill happily when the weather is inclement! Report
I like listening to audiobooks or podcasts on the treadmill. Hiit intervals are great, indeed:

Warm up until you reach 3minutes.
Then run for 30 seconds and walk until you reach 5 minutes and run again the same way, maybe increasing speed. Repeat until minute 19. Then cool down walking for a few minutes. So basically you’re running 30 seconds at every odd-numbered minute. If you can increase speed .5 mph each time you run it will be very challenging. The workout I get from this is more intense than if I had just run for 20 minutes at a lower speed. And I can feel the fat burning effects for a few days! Try to do this a few times a week. You won’t be sorry. Report
Thank you for the post.
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I prefer cinema hd to Netflix or hulu. get it from www.cinemahdapk.com Report
Great tips! Thanks! Report
Thank you Report
I prefer walking outside, but with the winter we just survived, my treadmill got a lot of attention. I love that I can count on a workout no matter what the conditions outside. Report
Awesome...thanks... Report
Thanks for sharing Report
thanks Report
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
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