Boredom Busting Treadmill Workouts

Let’s face it, the treadmill can be a little boring. Necessary evil in the middle of winter or heat of summer, but almost no one’s favorite place to run. That being said, the treadmill offers some great training opportunities that can also reduce “treadmill dread.” Because it’s a controlled environment, it can be a great place to practice a marathon pace or attempt a workout that you aren’t sure you’re totally ready for; after all, you can always tone down the pace if you find that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Here are my favorite treadmill workouts that don’t even require a towel thrown over the display:

1. The Progression Run. The ultimate boredom buster, this gives you a little workout stimulus and keeps you entertained. Warmup at your regular run pace then add .1 to your speed every minute for 15 minutes. Assuming you don’t do your regular runs incredibly slowly or your tempo runs fast (too fast, I might add), this should end you right around your tempo speed. Return to your regular run pace for 2 minutes and repeat 1 to 2 more times.

  • You can also do this as a pyramid; build for 15 and step back down by .1 for 15. This is a much harder version because you’re spending a lot more time at higher speeds but another great way to shove your fitness forward.

2. The Wave Run. Warmup at your regular run pace then begin sets of 1 minute at interval pace, 1 minute at cruise pace. Your cruise pace should be harder than your regular run pace but easier than marathon pace. I usually set my cruise pace about 30 seconds faster than my regular run. Repeat 1 hard, 1 cruise for 30 minutes. Although you get a “break” between hard segments, it’s much faster than you usually go and works on running fast on tired legs.

  • If you want to focus on endurance, you can swap to 2 minutes at interval, 1 minute at cruise. If you want to focus on speed, do 1 minute at R-pace (faster than interval) and 2 minutes at cruise.

3. Mount Von Gym. Warmup at your regular run pace then add 1.0 of incline every minute up to 10%. By the end, you should be working hard. If not, consider that your regular pace may be too slow! Recover for 4 minutes on flat then climb up to 10% again. Repeat up to two more times for a total of 40 minutes of climbing.

A note on treadmill effort: there are various schools of thought about what adjustments are needed for the treadmill to be “equivalent” to outdoors. I’m in the camp that finds treadmill running much harder than outdoors; the stagnate air really bothers my lungs and I feel that my effort is way above my pace most days. For other people, the treadmill is easier than outside. One commonly accepted strategy to compensate for the lack of wind resistance is to adjust your incline to 1.0. Another adjustment calculator is here if you need it. I don’t tend to use 1.0 when I’m doing more speed oriented stuff but I do for warmup/cooldown and for tempo oriented runs.

What treadmill workouts are your go-tos? How do you fight treadmill boredom?

8 thoughts on “Boredom Busting Treadmill Workouts

  1. foxrunsfast

    I’m a big fan of the progression run and use that sucker all the time when I’m bored to death on the ‘mill. I also like the “run fast during commercials” trick that I use when I’m watching something on the computer (liked “Chopped”) with commercial breaks. I will ramp up to tempo pace for the duration of the commercials, then take it back to easy. It breaks it up a bit and wakes up the legs. I also like the alternating tempo-marathon pace run: warm up for a few miles, then run a half mile at tempo pace, followed by a half mile at marathon pace and repeat that 3-4 times. It’s fun because you teach your body to feel more comfortable at marathon pace as that serves as your “recovery”. This week we are getting some significant snow. I had to do a total of 15 miles today on the treadmill and will have a similar schedule tomorrow – so don’t be surprised if you see a similar treadmill-related post on my site! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      Oooph 15 on the TM. My PR is 16 and I’m still oddly proud of it. It took a lot of trashy magazines to accomplish, however! Can’t wait to read your treadmill workout ideas (and love the commercial break one too).

      Reply
  2. runnermarci

    I would love to try one of the cruise/hard interval workouts. I have done hard bits within a tempo before and its great to practice changing gears during a hard effort. Great advice here. Lots of folks trapped on the treadmill in this crazy cold

    Reply
    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      One of my weakest skills as a runner is changing gears, especially in shorter races, so I’m hoping all these “opportunities” to improve from this crazy winter pay off! Let me know how you like the cruise/hard workout!

      Reply
  3. Jason

    Great post! I tend to a agree with you – the treadmill is no picnic for me and I’m definitely not using any extra incline or anything like that! My tempo on the treadmill is about 30 seconds slower/mile than on the roads for what I consider to be the same effort. Fortunately, it’s almost time to put the treadmill into hibernation 🙂

    Reply
    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      I thought it was treadmill retirement time too until the little red weather advisory arrow popped up on my phone again, just in time for my long run tomorrow!! NO MORE SNOW!

      Reply
        1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

          Ugh I’m biting the bullet and forcing myself out for 90 minutes of slipping around. I can’t mentally handle another moment on the treadmill!! Have fun at the track meet, indoor is a whole other world of misery!

          Reply

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