Another month, another edition of Run It! While spring may be inching closer, there’s still plenty of winter weather yet to come. This month’s Run It offers you advice on staying sane on the treadmill from six running bloggers.
Whether you are maintaining your base or training for a race, the treadmill is an inevitable part of winter running for most runners. And most runners can agree that running on the treadmill is more boring than running outside – and at times, treadmill running is mind-numbing.
Warm Up with Mobility Work
The confined space and repetitive pounding of the treadmill can lead to tight hips and poor glute activation, both of which make treadmill run quite uncomfortable. If you don’t already include dynamic warm ups as part of your training routine, spend a few minutes before a treadmill run warm up. Focus on mobilizing your hips and activating your glutes with exercises such as leg swings, walking lunges, and clamshells. Try one of these dynamic warm ups before your next treadmill run and you will notice the difference when you start.
Bring Your Own Entertainment
Music can help pass time on a treadmill, but the short nature of the songs can draw attention to just how little time has passed on your run. Audiobooks and podcasts will engage your mind for a prolonged period of time. Most podcasts range from 30-70 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time of most treadmill runs. Save your favorite podcasts for the treadmill, so you have a sense of novelty when you step on the mill.
Adjust Your Pace Expectations
In my experience of coaching and my own running, you simply cannot compare the paces on a treadmill to pace outside. Some runners find that running on the treadmill is easier and go faster than they do outside, while other runners find that even their normal easy pace feels challenging on the treadmill. Since you are not actually moving forward and don’t see changing scenery, your mind’s ability to perceive effort is skewed.
Don’t try to hit the same paces on the treadmill as you hit outside, whether you are doing an easy run or speedwork. Aim for the same perceived effort by focusing on your breathing and using the talk test. If you can hit the same paces as outside, that’s great, but don’t beat yourself up if you end up running slower overall.
Vary the Incline
Of all these strategies, I have found this one the most effective for staying sane on the treadmill: vary the incline.
Even if you live in the flattest of flat areas, you likely experience some variation of incline. The change in incline is often what makes outdoor running interesting when compared to the treadmill (along with the change of scenery). You also use different muscles to run uphill versus downhill, so changing incline provides physical variety as well as mental variety. Reducing the sensation of tight and overworked muscles will also help you stay sane on a treadmill run.
Running on a completely flat treadmill can also increase your risk of injury, due to the repetitive pounding or poor muscle activation. When running on no incline on the treadmill, many runners fail to properly activate their glutes and end up relying more on smaller muscles such as the calves. This can lead to muscle fatigue or injury over time, so in addition to activating your glutes, vary the incline on the treadmill to decrease the repetitive pounding and use your glutes.
You don’t have to set the incline for anything extremely steep; simply vary the incline every few minutes between 0-2%, if you are accustomed to flat running, or between 1-5%, if you regularly train on hills.
Have a Plan
Unless you are gifted at zoning out while running on the treadmill, starting a treadmill run with no more of a plan than how many miles you want to run can set you up for boredom. Even if it’s an easy run, have a workout plan of sorts – maybe it’s changing the pace every few minutes while staying within a certain range or adding a hill in at the end of each mile. A plan will mentally break up the run and give you something to do if you can’t just plug the pace and chug away for an hour.
What helps me with staying sane on the treadmill may or may not work for you – which is why you can find treadmill running tips from these five other running bloggers as well!
Brooklyn Active Mama offers her tips for staying sane on the treadmill all winter long.
Vita Train for Life has spent this winter training for a Cuba triathlon on the treadmill, so she knows her treadmill running!
Run Far Girl has a fast-paced treadmill workout to help you stay engaged while running indoors.
Fine Fit Day will motivate you to not let treadmill boredom get the best of you!
Happy Fit Mama is training for a marathon during a New England winter, so she knows how to make the most of a treadmill run!
How do you stay sane on the treadmill?
Do you prefer to play with speed or hills on the treadmill?