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
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?