A blog by runners. For runners.

Beat boredom, get faster with these treadmill workouts and tips

The treadmill. Also known as the dreadmill. I used to hate it. One of the best things about running is the journey from point A to point B. So, why would any runner want to stay stationary?

The main reasons: climate control and safety. Most runners will only opt for the treadmill when outside conditions are too hot, too cold, too rainy, too snowy, too windy, too dark, or too dangerous. And let’s face it, if you plan on running year round, one of these “toos” will likely send you running for the treadmill sooner or later.

I used to dread the treadmill so much that I’d do anything to avoid it; I’d rather cut my runs short or skip them all together. This is not a good tactic if you’re training for a race. Trust me.

But then a few years ago, I learned the treadmill isn’t so bad. In fact, I credit the treadmill with helping me to become a faster runner.

I run 90 percent of my tempo runs on the treadmill for one reason: The treadmill can teach your legs how to hold a pace. During a past round of half marathon training, my tempo runs called for me to run 5 miles at a 7:47 minute/mile pace. I couldn’t do this outside. I’d either run way too fast, slow, or just be erratic. I really wanted my body to learn this pace so I went to the treadmill. When I finally ran that half marathon, my pace was a 7:53 per mile. Pretty close to 7:47, especially when you factor in hills. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

These tips helped me go from loathing the treadmill to loving it:

  • Interval train. This is the big one. Break your workout up by running intervals. When I run 5 miles at a steady pace, I change my incline every 3 minutes. By doing this, I view the workout as a bunch of 3 minute intervals instead of 5 long miles. It’s also fun to change your speed. I do mile repeats on the treadmill. Go hard for one mile, run easy for a half mile, and repeat as needed. My favorite treadmill routine is a pyramid. Start out slowly and increase your speed by 0.2 every tenth or quarter mile. When you get to your highest speed, go back down the pyramid using the same intervals. Pyramids are great workouts and make time fly by.
  • Distract yourself. Most treadmills are in the vicinity of TVs for a reason. Your run will go by a lot faster if you watch your favorite shows or catch up on the news. When the weatherman reports that it’s 95 or 15 degrees outside, you’ll be very thankful to have treadmill access.
  • Try mind games. Use mental tricks to guide yourself to the imaginary finish line. I also enjoy racing the person next to me, but shhhh, don’t tell them!

Treadmill running will never replace outdoor running for me, but I now see the treadmill as an invaluable training tool.

How do you feel about the treadmill?

Written by Jenilee Matz, MPH. Jen is writer, runner, and new(ish) mom living in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C.

Creative Commons photo