Using the Treadmill (When You Hate Running Indoors)

I can almost feel the algae growing on my skin.

Photo of large red RUN sign in a puddle
Wet, rainy weather is not an excuse for skipping a run.

In Texas, we’re not used to a rainy spring. Oh, sure; there are some April showers and whatnot, but weeks of daily drizzle punctuated by thunderstorms and downpours? That’s out of the norm. Normally, we’re either on the cusp of or marking a first 100-degree day.

Except for this year.

The Austin area has had weeks of relentless rain.Trails are closed to protect against developing ruts; creeks are too swift to cross. It’s disheartening to slip on shoes that fail to dry and face another soggy workout. Which forces me toward that less palatable option, the DREADmill.

Treadmill/Dreadmill: Spicing It Up

I’m a trail runner for a reason. With only distance and speed for focus, running on the roads feels two dimensional. My brain and body needed more engagement and distraction. Call it RADD (running attention-deficit disorder).

Being old school to the extreme, I hate running with gadgets. I eschew all forms of distraction — music, TV, Garmins, etc. I don’t want to go there in a race, so I don’t practice and reinforce any electronic dependencies.

These proclivities make working out on the treadmill an exercise in extreme mental fortitude for anyone with RADD. How, then, do I manage a mind-numbingly boring treadmill session?

I spice it up.

5 Treadmill Tips

Mimic the Road

Set the treadmill’s incline to 1 or 2 percent, regardless of your speed or workout duration. This slight slant provides resistance found when running outside, offsetting any aid provided by the belt’s motorized rotation. While this setting doesn’t make the run more interesting, at least you know you’re getting full benefit from your indoor efforts.

Go For Intensity

The treadmill is an excellent method for training quick foot turnover and combatting the tendency to poke along (I’m totally guilty of this). Aim for 30 minutes, including warm-up and cool-down, but make those middle minutes peak in a big way. Gradually build to a short, max run effort; hold for 2 to 3 minutes; gradually decrease from peak effort.

Mount a Monster Hill

Dude, this is the opportunity to climb the mother of them all–the Manitou Incline. Picture it: 1-mile long, 2,000 feet up, at an average incline of 41 percent. Note that’s average; the steepest portion is 68 percent (everyone can visualize what 90 percent looks like, so think about that 68). Set your imagination to Pikes Peak’s “purple mountain majesty” while gradually bumping up the incline as much as possible. Most treadmills max out between 12 to 15 percent, unless you’re using an incline trainer (that’s a treadmill that goes as steep as 40 percent). Note that, unlike speed on a treadmill (1, 2, 3, etc.), incline on a treadmill is the actual percentage, not a level. And have fun checking your heart rate as you go.

Play Games

I am so not above utilizing the person dreadmilling next to me. Racing a stranger throws an element of exciting, weird randomness into the workout. (Employ some subtlety, though, or you can come across as the creepy exercise stalker you actually are.) Another game I like involves running intervals. Use a nearby TV, sans audio, to set rules, much like in drinking games. Forbid stopping between “ask your doctor about” commercials. Increase the incline whenever there’s an ad for a car or truck. If you see a Kardashian, sprint. Possibilities are endless…and entertaining.

Break it Up

If the gym’s empty enough, I’ll do 5 minutes on the treadmill, move to something else for another 5, and return. Rinse and repeat as needed. In addition to muscle shift and monotony break, this helps reinforce a mantra, “I can do anything for 5 minutes,” a great mental tool to employ during races and sucky runs. Plus, I tend to run faster during each 5-minute segment than when stringing together 15 (or more) continuous minutes.

Are these treadmill workouts not your cup of tea? Here’s a fun one involving negative splits — and who doesn’t want to develop negative splits? — from the blog Popsugar: “Go Long, Get Fast, Burn Calories: Treadmill Run”

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

0 thoughts on “Using the Treadmill (When You Hate Running Indoors)

  1. We\’re having a very #ATXfloods kind of week right now (Aug. 2016), and this never gets old. Now, all I need are tips for how to actually make it out of the house and into the gym! LOL

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