If your treadmill workout is as much fun as being on hold, waiting for your computer to update, or listening to former prom members talk about the glory days, you’re doing it wrong! Of course, your workouts may not always be pretty much just as engrossing as a post-game brainstorming session with your BFF or people-watching at your local first-date spot. But, your time on the treadmill or any exercise machine shouldn’t be boring.
Luckily, if your treadmill runs start to feel a little more Zzzz than Wooo! there are some simple changes you can make to make your workouts exciting again. According to running and obstacle course expert Chris Rugloski, an elite competitor with HIROX, there are so many ways to make your treadmill workout interesting, so your treadmill run will only be as boring as you let it be.
Ready to kick boring to the curb? Read on. Ahead, a set of trainer-approved tips for replacing treadmill monotony with treadmill variety!
10 tips to make treadmill running more fun
Strut It Out
Grew up in a dance studio? Notorious for catching auk while traveling? Show your love with curated playlists? If you answered yes to any of these questions or otherwise enjoy music, this tip is for you.
ICIMI: TikTok’s famous treadmill booster, which went viral thanks to Allie Bennett’s brainchild, involves walking on a treadmill to the beat of music streaming from your AirPods. Listening to your favorite music while you’re on the treadmill is a great way to stay motivated as well as build confidence in the gym, says Bennett Shape.
To give it a try, you can download one of Bennetts Spotify playlists such as The Original Taylor Swift Strut, Disney Channel Strut or Emo Treadmill Strut. Then synchronize your walk with the beat. While strutting, sashaying or strutting, go ahead and pretend you’re working at New York Fashion Week and strike a pose or wave to your fans, she suggests. Routing your indoor runway model is a lot more powerful than you think.
Try interval training
Unless you’ve been hiding under a treadmill, you’ve probably heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). A quick refresher: HIIT involves alternating bouts of very high-intensity work with periods of rest and recovery, explains fitness expert Heather Grace Kashak and instructor at Barrie in Chicago, IL. As far as treadmill running goes, that’s basically it the opposite slow, shaken running.
High-intensity interval training has many benefits, including muscle strength, endurance, agility and, of course, burning those calories, she says. Because the training style involves fluctuating between different speeds and inclines, interval training can also be much more mentally stimulating than steady-state running, she says. In other words, goodbye boredom, hello intensity!
Most treadmills have a handful of pre-programmed interval-style workouts programmed right into them. This is a great way to dip your toe into this style of training. If your treadmill doesn’t have that option or you’ve already exhausted it, you can try doing a few sets of the following interval training:
- 30 seconds of sprinting followed by 90 seconds of rest
- A 20-second run followed by a 10-second sprint
- A half-mile sprint, then a half-mile run, followed by a quarter-mile recovery walk
Worth noting: Due to the high level of intensity and thus the strain on the body, Kaschak recommends that most people do HIIT no more than 3 to 4 times a week. Depending on your fitness goals, you can do stationary running or strength training on other days of the week.
Achieve some big goals
Usually enjoy your treadmill workouts, but haven’t been recently? A lack of specific fitness goals may be to blame. Having a goal is incredibly important to staying motivated and engaged in your workouts and exercise routines, says Kaschak. When it’s realistic and specific, remembering your long-term goals can help re-energize you on days when you feel blah about exercise.
Remember: There are a number of health and fitness benefits of using a treadmill, such as improved cardio, stronger legs, increased body awareness and improved mental toughness, all of which carry over to sports outside of walking and running. So don’t feel like you have to limit your health and fitness goals to those specific to running. As it goes, your goal might be to run a marathon, says Kaschak, but it might also be to PR your deadlift.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what your goals are, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Are there current activities or actions in my daily life that I wish were easier?
- Are there certain health markers that I could improve with a fitness routine?
- Is there something related to fitness or movement that I’ve always wanted (to be able to) do?
Write a daily goal
In addition to setting long-term goals, Kaschak says it can also be motivating to set a goal for the specific treadmill workout you’ll be participating in. Going into a workout with an intention like I want to run at a faster pace than yesterday or I want to stay on the treadmill 5 minutes longer today will help you stay motivated, she says.
You can also create a daily goal for your mental and emotional state while on the machine. For example, you could set a goal to keep your self-talk positive even if you get bored on the treadmill, or be kind to yourself if you need to slow down on a day when you’re not feeling 100 percent.
These daily goals are designed to help you keep your head in the game, not to hold you to an unattainable standard. So don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t achieve this particular goal, she says. After all, there’s always tomorrow (or whenever your next treadmill workout is)!
Turn on the tube
Why waste your favorite episodes of a TV show on a Netflix & Chill date boringly swiping right when you can enjoy them while you exercise? Tip: You shouldn’t.
Saving your favorite shows for when you’re on the treadmill can be a great way to get in a great workout that lasts an entire episode, says Kaschak. If you’re craving movement during the week, this is a great tool to use to feel good while also having fun, she says.
Watching TV or a movie can be a great way to help pass the time while you exercise, while also helping your brain make a positive association with running (or other treadmill work), she says. Indeed, in a 2016 study published in Journal of sports science and medicineresearchers found that watching television while exercising led to greater enjoyment during that exercise.
However, watching TV while on the treadmill will divert your attention from your steps to the screen. As you can imagine, this can increase your risk of tripping while stomping or otherwise injuring yourself during your sweat session. To be safe, wait to pair your workout with tubing until you’re very familiar with the treadmill you’re using.
Kaschak also says it’s okay to keep your treadmill session nice and casual on days you pair it with TV Time. Watching television is a leisure activity, so be it, she says. Go as slow as you need to safely combine the two.
Amp up your tunes and back it up. That’s right, Kaschak suggests incorporating walking backwards into either a treadmill warm-up or the workout itself.
Walking backwards is a great tool for activating and strengthening your quadriceps, calves, and calves, which are the primary muscles used for running, she explains. A little back support before a long (inverted) running workout can help prepare those muscles for the hard work ahead, she says.
Because walking backwards also puts less force on the knee per step, compared to walking forwards, she says. As such, this can be a good rehabilitation exercise for individuals with pre-existing knee pain.
You might consider incorporating one minute of walking backwards into your treadmill workout for every half mile (or five minutes) you run or walk forward, for example. Or simply add two minutes of walking backwards to your warm-up routine. Just make sure you stick to the fences for safety and use a low speed, says Kaschak.
It’s worth noting: Not all treadmills have functionality that lets you walk backwards, Rugloski says. You won’t be able to walk backwards effectively on all treadmills because you have to be able to manually force the treadle into reverse, she says. Even if the machine won’t let you manually move the treadle, you could incorporate 5 minutes of walking backwards around your gym to get the same benefit for your tendons and ligaments, she says.
Strut from side to side
Whether it’s bootcamp, cycling, or CrossFit, most workout routines and fitness classes these days require you to move forward or backward 99 percent of the time. Since most movements in everyday life require you to move in these directions, it is important that we can move back and forth with the sound form for long periods of time.
However, lateral movement on either a treadmill or land is a great way to strengthen the hip adductors and abductors, which aren’t just targets of running, says Kaschak. Research shows that together these muscle groups help stabilize your pelvis which supports balance, stability, mobility, flexibility, as well as athletic performance.
Your move: Walk or move sideways on the treadmill. Make sure you spend an equal amount of time facing each direction so that your right and left sides get equal strength and mobility. (Muscle imbalances between the sides can lead to muscle compensation, increasing the risk of aches, pains and injuries down the road).
Sweat In Style
Gone are the days when the Nike Tempo Running Short was staple running gear. If you want to stick to your tried-and-true running clothes, go for it!
But don’t underestimate how motivating it is to slip into something a little more fashionable before breaking a sweat. Indeed, Bennett says that taking her fun gym outside really helps her get excited about her workouts. It may sound silly, but whatever keeps you moving is always the best option.
If you’re currently in the market for some new workout clothes, we recommend these Lululemon leggings or these from Gymshark.
Consider Cosi Cardio
On the other hand, if the lack of a dedicated workout wardrobe prevents you from going to the gym, consider a comfortable cardio workout. Another trend popular on FitTok, comfortable cardio involves working out in any clothes and in any way that suits you best! For individuals who don’t hit the gym for fear of not having the right workout clothes or not looking cute enough, adapting a comfortable cardio mindset can be powerful.
Cosi Cardio Club founder Hope Zuckerberg hits her treadmill (or treadmill) in her pajamas. But really, anything goes, just be sure to read the gym’s dress code beforehand, as some gyms won’t let you work out in just a sports bra, while others forbid you to work out in jeans.
There’s no doubt that treadmills are a great way to run when you need to train indoors, don’t have access to childcare or pet care, or are limited on time. But don’t forget about the natural treadmill (AKA the outdoors).
Rugloski is an advocate of running outdoors wherever possible, especially if your training starts to feel boring day after day. There are so many benefits to being outside in the fresh air and sunshine, she says.
Plus, many races are held outdoors rather than indoors, she says, which can make outdoor training a little more transferable on race day.
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