Pushing yourself on a treadmill can be challenging. For those of you taking your running indoors for the winter, but struggle with the treadmill, here are my tips and tricks to motivating yourself and conquering your cardio workouts year round!
Winter is coming. It’s the most wonderful time of year, but that also means if you want to go outside for a run in Minnesota, you won’t be able to do so without multiple layers, probable frostbite on your face, and the fear of slipping on ice (let’s not deny it, we’ll have snow soon). So if you’re like me and don’t like the cold one bit, where does this frigid weather leave us? The blessed indoor treadmill.
Some people take running as a seasonal form of exercise. They ramp up their long runs in the summer because the weather suits an outdoor jog, and in the winter they’ll decrease their cardio or won’t workout at all. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve always been more of a treadmill runner because I like the convenience of being in a gym where I have access to other machines and equipment to use. However, I understand that running in place without a change of scenery can get boring sometimes, which makes it a struggle to continue your run. I’ve developed a few things over the years that have me accustomed to the treadmill. For those of you who want to run indoors in the winter but struggle staying on the treadmill, here are my tips and tricks to motivating yourself and conquering those cardio workouts year round!
5 Tips for Surviving the Treadmill:
1. Create a playlist reserved specifically for running.
Make a playlist of songs that pump you up and get you excited to move. This playlist should consist of the songs you love to listen to—those songs that you automatically turn on when you get in your car and play on repeat because they make you feel so good.
But then DON’T let yourself listen to them in the car–or anywhere–except the gym. Only let yourself listen to this playlist when you run and workout. Listening to this compilation of songs every time you exercise will signal to your body that it’s time to work. By keeping this playlist reserved for the gym, it will ensure you’re not equating these songs to high-stress times like driving to work in the morning. Instead, you’ll be linking these songs to times of carefree, ‘happiness-for-your-body’ running.
Don’t know where to start? Check out the playlists I have on my website and follow “Meghan Bergman” on Spotify.
2. Turn your run into an interval workout.
Just because you press a button on the treadmill at the beginning of your run to tell the machine how fast you want to go doesn’t mean you have to stay at that pace the whole time.
Challenge yourself with interval sprints!
Pick a base pace.
- This should be your normal jogging pace. Something you’re comfortable at.
Jog at this pace for your choice of distance.
- I usually choose the halfway point, or a little over halfway, of the total distance I have planned.
Once you’ve reached that jogging distance chosen above, start adding your sprints:
- 1-2 minutes at base pace
- Increase speed to a sprint for 30-60 seconds
- Return to base pace, stay there for 1-2 minutes
- Sprint 30-60 seconds
- Base pace 1-2 minutes
- Alternate this, never going below your base pace (so that you are consistently jogging/running the whole distance of your run)
You’ll be surprised how quickly time passes when you’re switching up what you’re doing every minute. This is a fun way to challenge yourself and bring some flare to an otherwise ‘uneventful’ treadmill run. I usually find myself adding sprints when my mind starts to wander and all I can think about is when I get to turn off the treadmill (AKA when I’m bored).
The sprints also add in some extra calorie burn due to manipulation of your heart rate being brought up and down, and will build the leg muscles more than a consistent jog would.
Bonus: By adding sprints you’re speeding up your run and getting to your end distance faster 😉
3. Get your best thinking in.
There’s no better distraction than getting lost in your own thoughts.
Evidence supports the claim that your mind is more clear and open to new thoughts when you’re running. Very, very, simply paraphrased, our bodies are naturally made to run, so the action of running is an automatic process in our brains. Therefore, conscious space is cleared up in our brains for other cognitive activity while we’re doing something as automatic as running.
Do you have some studying to do? Prepare things to recite to yourself while running.
Do you create content like I do? I think of a plethora of blog/social ideas while I’m running. I’ll even take notes on my phone here and there if I really want to. I don’t recommend always fiddling with your phone while you’re running, but if you must, it’s worthwhile to record those clear thoughts.
You can also practice mindfulness meditation while running. Since your mind and thoughts are naturally more open, train your brain to acknowledge any negative thoughts that may creep in, and then practice pushing those thoughts away while replacing them with positive ones.
4. Listen to a podcast.
Try listening to podcasts while you run. Going along with Tip #3, our minds are more open when we’re engaging in an activity like running, making us more receptive to new ideas and learning. Listening to podcasts is a good way to double up on productivity—learning something new while getting a workout in. There are a variety of podcasts out there including ones specifically about running, comedy, diet and health, murder mystery, the audio bible, you name it. Anything you are genuinely interested in would be great for this!
Here are some podcast recommendations I’ve found:
The story of one reporter’s attempt to solve a murder mystery from years ago. Each episode is around 30-60 minutes long, perfect for getting in a decently long run!
A quiz-based podcast to keep you engaged.
The link above has a great list of podcasts specifically about running.
NOTE: This is the alternative I’m adding to watching a TV connected to the treadmill (or on your phone). The idea of combining something that is usually so sedentary, with an exercise machine, seems contradictory. I personally haven’t ever liked to rely on television while I exercise.
Another reason treadmill television is not something I recommend is because of the postural effects it may have on your running form, and how it may further aggravate postural problems you might not know you have (altering the position of your head and upper body while running).
**However, this is my personal opinion. If a TV in the gym is your key to getting out of the house and working out, by all means keep doing what you’re doing! Working out with a TV is better than not working out at all, and I will support you and commend you for doing what you need to do!
It’s always important to plan ahead and prepare for whatever your work out is, physically and mentally. If running on a treadmill is not your favorite, you especially want to stack the deck in your favor. Think about how much easier it is to just stop your run and step off the treadmill than it is to stop and be done on an outdoor run when you’re unmotivated or tired. At least when you’re outdoors, you’ve run AWAY from your starting point and still have to get back. When you’re on a treadmill, you can literally just hop off , making it way easier for you to convince yourself to just stop.
That’s why I emphasize preparation being key.
- Pick a time of day that you’ll do your treadmill run and not have any outside distractions keeping you from continuing.
- Make sure your body is fueled up and energized, ready to go. Eat a good pre-workout snack or meal before running so you’re not lacking energy or thinking about when you get to make dinner the whole time you run.
- Make sure you have your headphones with you!! (and if they’re Bluetooth, make sure they’re CHARGED!) Anyone who has ever forgotten their headphones when they get to the gym knows how painful this is.
- Wear comfortable clothes that you feel good and confident in! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel more motivated when I’m feeling like I look my best. And on the note of wearing comfortable clothes, make choices so that the only remotely “uncomfortable” thing when you’re working out is the challenge of the workout itself.
There you have it, my 5 tips to surviving the treadmill. Use 1 of them, or go through all 5 of them at once. This is YOUR run and YOUR time to do something great for your body. Just because it’s getting chilly out, and the the amount of time we see daylight seems almost non-existent (sorry), doesn’t mean our workouts have to suffer! Go get ’em.
With healthy intent,