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Dread the tread? Use these expert-backed tips to shake off your no-good-very-bad treadmill ‘tude, and get the most from this cardio machine staple.
1. Go halfsies.
If it’s not dangerous outside but also not ideal in terms of temperature (read: it’s super cold), you can plan to do the first half of a long run outside and then finish up on the comfort of your home or gym treadmill. “I know several people who have even done 20-milers on the treadmill,” says Coach Angie Spencer of The Marathon Training Academy. The strategy of breaking it up makes it feel less mentally intimidating.
2. Take your mind off it…
If you do have to do a super long run entirely on the ‘mill, “it helps to have something to take your mind off the monotony,” says Spencer, who recommends audiobooks, podcasts, music, and even Netflix.
3. …But spend at least some time sans distractions.
“Take elements away from the treadmill that you can transfer outside,” says Shodan Rodney, a certified personal trainer and run coach at the Mile High Run Club. As mentioned, the treadmill is always going to be moving at a constant speed whereas outside, you alone have to generate your own ground force impact to keep moving. “So it’s having a certain degree of mindfulness when you’re on the treadmill, and noticing where it’s helping you, so you won’t be as surprised when you do go back outdoors,” says Rodney.
4. Check your form.
Grab a treadmill in front of a mirror (there are often at least a few in many gyms) and use the indoor run as an opportunity to work on your form. “You can look at things like your gait, shoulders, and arm swing,” says Spencer. “Sometimes what we think we look like when we run is a lot different than what we actually look like. Just make sure you aren’t too distracted and stay safe.”
5. Set a timer.
“When things get hard for me personally, I’ll set a timer on my phone for a certain time,” says Rodney. “It’s just me against that clock. If I tell myself I’m going to run for an hour and I run for 15 minutes, I don’t view that as ‘you did 15 minutes, good job.’ It’s like, I kind of let myself down. It’s holding yourself accountable and even if you meant to hold a certain pace for an hour and you couldn’t, you still finish that hour.”
6. Always have your ultimate goal in mind.
“It always comes back to your goals—how bad do you want it?,” says Rodney. “If you have a goal, then everything else is just part of that process to get to it.” Maybe your goal is an upcoming race PR, or simply to finish your first race. It could also be something more aesthetic like to lose weight or simply to increase your overall health or decrease stress and anxiety. Whatever it is, keep it in mind when the going gets tough.
7. Be flexible.
Say it’s going to snow on the Saturday on which you’d planned to do your long run. Yes, you could run all or half of those miles on the treadmill. But is it possible that the weather will be better on Monday and you could shuffle things around in your life so you can go long outside then, and on Saturday, do Monday’s “recovery” 3-miler on the ‘mill? “Know that there is wiggle room in training plans and that it doesn’t have to be 100 percent by the book,” says Rodney.
Bonus tip: Remember the 50% Rule.
“If you’re training for a race it’s important to do some running on a similar surface to what your race will be on,” says Spencer. “For road races, I recommend doing at least 50 percent of your training on the road.” And in fact, pushing yourself to run in inclement (but safe) conditions builds toughness and gives confidence that you can do hard things, Spencer notes. “If you’re facing bad weather on race day you’ll know that you conquered runs like that before. If it’s just a matter of not feeling like running in the rain, cold, or tackling the hills then that’s an indication that you need to challenge yourself to do just that.”