in Training and Runs

Seven Ways To Keep Your Treadmill Runs Interesting

With the arrival of winter, and the start of training for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in May, I’ve been doing more treadmill running lately.

Escaping the cold and wind is an obvious positive aspect of treadmill running, but the downside is that the view never changes and the training runs can get boring. So what is a fair-weather runner to do?

TreadmillsYou could abandon the hamster wheel and head back outside, but sometimes that’s just not all that appealing (or safe).

Instead, try a few things with your treadmill workouts to keep them interesting. I put together seven ideas to try that I’ve used in my treadmill running to keep it fresh:

  1. Add incline: The neat thing about a treadmill is that it can go from flat to 15% grade at the push of a button. Give the hill or random program a try if you like surprises, or just dial in some incline now and then during your run to keep it interesting and challenging.
  2. Play with speed: Fartleks are fun outside, and there’s nothing stopping you from doing them on the treadmill too. You can do short bursts of faster running, with rest periods in between, or start at a lower speed and gradually build up then back down over the course of your run.
  3. Listen to a book: Grab an audio book from (your first one is free!) and listen to a book while you run. I’ve got Born to Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Chris McDougall, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes, and a few other running books ready to go on my iPhone for days where I want some runspiration.
  4. Run with a friend: If you work out at a gym that has multiple treadmills, bring a friend and run together. One of the best things about side-by-side treadmill running is that each person can run at their pace so you can run with someone you don’t normally get to train with.
  5. Simulate the real world: Print out a real world route map, indicate the inclines and distances, and then pretend you are running it. Add incline where the route has hills, and as you watch the distance counter rise, match it up to where you are along the mapped out route. If it’s a familiar route, you can even visualize where you would be if your were outside running it in a blizzard instead of inside on the treadmill.
  6. Cheer on your team: I have a bad habit of sitting around and watching sports on Sundays (Go Seahawks!) and weeknights (Go whoever is playing the Leafs!). If there’s a big game on you want to watch and your treadmill has a TV or is within view of one, put on the game and workout while they play. It beats laying on the couch and you won’t be reaching for those salty, fat-filled snacks either.
  7. Work on your form: The treadmill gives you a chance to think about your running form and work on improving it. Bring along your smartphone and set it up to video yourself from the side, and behind. Take a look to see if you are a heavy heel-striker or if you are rolling in and might need a more supportive shoe. A lot of newer phones have amazing slow-motion capabilities that can show you exactly what’s happening in your stride.

Whether you love the treadmill or hate it, with the winters we get in Canada, sometimes running indoors on a machine is not only the best option for safety and comfort, but it can be the only option.

What’s your secrets to making runs on the treadmill not only tolerable, but fun? Let me know in the comments!