4 Ways to Beat Treadmill Boredom

By Rick Morris

Treadmill training comes very close to being the perfect method for indoor exercise. It’s convenient, efficient, effective and versatile. It can be adapted to nearly any exercise goal and can meet the needs of almost every athlete. Despite all those benefits, there is one major disadvantage when exercising on the treadmill — boredom. The treadmill is a valuable training tool and can be a very enjoyable way to exercise, but how a person perceives exercise does have an effect on both the mental and physical aspects of his workouts.

A study conducted by researchers at the Duke University Medical Center tested runners during a treadmill run, a workout on an indoor track and a session on an outdoor route. The treadmill runners reported the highest rating of perceived exertion (a measure of how hard the workout felt) and also recorded the slowest performance times. While treadmill training failed this test, it is not something that cannot be overcome. With just a few adjustments to your environment and your training habits, you can stay motivated and beat the boredom.

4 Ways to Beat Treadmill Boredom

1 Keep A Pleasant Environment

Where you exercise can have a huge influence on how long you work out, the intensity of your workout and how much you enjoy your exercise routine. If your workout area is a place you enjoy, you will naturally have an easier time sticking with your training run. If you have your own treadmill, try to place it in a position in which you have a view from a window. You may not be moving, but something outside is. You can see changing weather conditions, animals, children, cars— anything to engage your mind even a little bit. If you are using a treadmill in a gym, there will probably be a window nearby. At the very least, you will have other members of your club and other machines nearby to keep your attention.

If you have a home gym, make your environment as pleasant as possible. Keep it clean and clutter-free. Paint it a color that you like. Install a water cooler for easy access to cold water. Do anything you can to make your workout area a place that you enjoy.

2 Enjoy Some Guilt-Free Movie/TV Time

Almost all experienced treadmill runners do one of two things. They either watch their iPad or iPod, or listen to music while they run. Your treadmill workout is actually a very good time to enjoy some guilt-free television. When else can you watch shows or movies and not feel like you should be doing something more productive? Some walkers read while they exercise, but reading while running is generally not a good idea for two reasons:

• It is very difficult to read while you are running. There is simply too much movement to make out the words clearly.

• It is important to focus on your form, mechanics, stride, breathing, etc. You can watch a show and listen to music without having to concentrate on them. Reading requires concentration that should be reserved for your training run.

3 Challenge Yourself With The Display Monitor

Almost all motorized treadmills will display your total calories burned, total miles, current speed and total time. Some will also give you calories per hour, average speed, current pace, average pace and heart rate data. Using the abundance of data that is available can be both entertaining and motivating. You can scan through the data and see your progress in the workout. You could also set goals for average pace, calories burned, distance or time. For most runners, the use of the console feedback functions is a motivational tool, but for some, watching the miles and minutes tick by on the console only adds to the tedium and makes the workout seem longer. Setting some personal goals to meet – and exceed – can go a long way in making the workout seem faster.

4 Change Things Up

Perhaps the greatest advantage to treadmill training is the vast, nearly unlimited number of possible workouts you can do. Take advantage of this. Doing the same workouts day after day will get very tedious. It is not only boring, but your body will “learn” those workouts and you will not increase your fitness as quickly as you could be. Mixing up your workouts will improve your fitness and keep you motivated. You can do any combination of long runs, short runs, fast runs, slow runs, hilly runs and flat runs. For a real change of pace try something out of the ordinary. Here are some unique and fun workouts you can do that will stimulate both your mind and your body.


The Commercial Cruncher

Sure, no one really watches commercials anymore – you just fast forward the DVR through them all right? Here’s another option – why not put them to use? Plan a workout during one of your favorite 30- or 60-minute shows. During this workout you will run or walk at an easy pace for the duration of the program. Whenever a commercial break comes on, increase the treadmill speed to a pace that feels hard, but not maximal. Keep going at that hard pace until the commercial break is over and your program resumes. At the end of the show, you will have completed a great interval training workout and burned a lot of calories. To add some additional variety to this workout, try increasing the elevation of the treadmill during the commercial breaks rather than the speed.

The Run Across America

How about a nice cross-country run? You could run from California to Maine or maybe Washington to Florida. No…I’m not nuts. You don’t need to take six months off from work and you won’t have to brave the roads or the elements. You can do it from the comfort of your home treadmill. All you need are maps and some stickpins. You can start small by running to the next town or the next neighborhood. Just pick a destination on your map, figure out the distance and start running. Keep track of your mileage during each workout and place a stickpin on the map to keep track of where you are. This is a fun and engaging activity that can keep you motivated and excited about your daily workout. You can set short daily goals of running from one neighborhood to another and long-term goals of moving from state to state or across the country.

The Vacation Incentive

This is an extension of The Run Across America. To add some interest and some additional motivation, find a spot that you would like to vacation in. Place a big pin or flag to mark that spot on your map. Start in your hometown and start running. Move another stickpin along your route to keep track of your mileage. When you reach your vacation destination, reward yourself with an actual vacation at your goal destination. With the vacation incentive you will be looking forward to each workout as you progress toward your goal vacation.

About the Author: Rick Morris is the author of Treadmill Training for Runners

Rick A. LaCaille, Kevin S. Masters and Edward M. Heath. Effects of cognitive strategy and exercise setting on running performance, perceived exertion, affect and satisfaction. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Volume 5, Issue 4, October 2004, Pages 461-476.