Even the most enthusiastic runners can feel intimidated by seeing a long run on their training schedule. Long runs are a real test of physical and mental endurance, and if you’re having an off day on either front, they can turn into a battle of wills.
The challenge takes on a whole new dimension when you have to do your long run on a treadmill. Whether the roads are covered in fresh snow, it’s pouring buckets of rain, or you’re traveling in an unsafe or unfamiliar area, you might find yourself obligated to take it indoors.
Doing a long run on a treadmill can feel like an endless slog, as one of the best things about a long run outside is the distracting and engaging scenery you encounter along your route.
In this guide, we will cover how to nail your long run on a treadmill to help you not only pass the time and not get bored but also feel elated with the quality of your workout when you finally step off the machine.
We will look at:
- Doing a Long Run On a Treadmill
- How to Nail Your Long Run On a Treadmill
- Tips for Doing a Long Run On a Treadmill
- 11 Tips For How to Not Get Bored When Running On the Treadmill
Let’s jump in!
Doing a Long Run On a Treadmill
What exactly is a treadmill long run? Ultimately, the term “long run” is subjective, so what may be a long run on a treadmill for one runner might be classified by another runner as a very short run.
For example, a beginner runner training for their first 5k may consider a 3-4 mile run a long run, whereas, for a marathoner, a long run might be between 18-22 miles.
Either way, it’s all relative, and doing a long run on a treadmill can feel equally daunting to both runners if it’s one of the longer distances you cover. That said, of course, the longer your long run, the harder it might be to stay engaged and not get bored running on the treadmill.
How to Nail Your Long Run On a Treadmill
Particularly if you’re a competitive runner, it’s not enough to just get through your long run; you’ll also want to know how to nail it. You want to be able to check that workout off your training schedule knowing you did a great job and that the treadmill did not detract from the quality of the workout.
In other words, you want your long run on the treadmill to provide the same training and performance benefits as it would have if you had been able to run outside.
Therefore, to nail your treadmill long run, it’s important to replicate your outdoor long run, or whatever your training schedule dictates, on the treadmill to the best of your ability.
For example, if you usually run a hilly route for your long runs because you’re training for a race with rolling hills, be sure to adjust the incline throughout. Add a mix of hills of various grades and lengths in addition to flats.
This is also a helpful tip to prevent boredom, muscle fatigue, and overuse injuries when doing a long run on a treadmill.
Similarly, if, for instance, you usually run with a heart rate monitor and try to keep your heart rate on long runs at the top of Zone 2, use your same heart rate monitor and target heart rate when doing your long run on the treadmill.
Finally, if you train by pace, set the treadmill speed to your normal long-run pace. By replicating your long run as much as you can on the treadmill, you’ll set yourself up to nail it!
Tips for Doing a Long Run On A Treadmill
Before we cover getting over the mental barriers of how to not get bored running on the treadmill, let’s touch on a few practical tips for doing your long run on the treadmill.
An important aspect to consider with treadmill long runs is your fueling and hydration strategy. Just because you’re running inside does not mean you can forget to take in long-run fuel. In fact, you may even need more fluids, depending on the temperature and humidity in the gym or wherever the treadmill may be.
Follow your normal nutrition timing strategy. You can either store food like energy bars, gels, dried fruit, or other real food energy gel replacement options right in the console of the treadmill, or set up a small table next to the machine.
Alternatively, you can wear whatever fuel belt or pack you normally wear running outside. The same advice applies to your fluids.
Another good tip for doing a long run on a treadmill is to set up fans and have a towel readily accessible for sweat. Even the airiest rooms can start to feel stuffy after running on a treadmill for 2-3 hours or more, so a fan and AC can be lifesavers.
You’ll usually sweat more running indoors, so the towel can help keep you comfortable. A sweatband can also be really helpful for preventing sweat from getting into your eyes—ouch.
11 Tips For How to Not Get Bored When Running On the Treadmill
The main challenge for even the most experienced and diehard runners of doing a long run on a treadmill is figuring out how to not get bored.
Most of us can easily get through a 3-5 mile run on the treadmill, or even an hour or so, but a long run lasting several hours can be another story.
Here are some tips for how to not get bored when running on the treadmill:
#1: Keep It Varied
Doing a long run on a treadmill can inevitably feel boring if you run at the same pace and incline the entire run. Talk about monotonous!
One of the best ways to stave off boredom on the treadmill when doing any run is to vary the speed and incline. This also has the added benefit of changing the stress on your body and reducing the risk of injuries.
Try a progression run where you gradually increase your pace, or you can throw in mile pick-ups at slightly faster speeds. Some runners like to add in a surge at every mile for 0.1 miles or move the incline up to 2 or 3 for a quarter-mile every mile or two.
You can divide your treadmill long run into segments. The first quarter can be flat. Then, keep the same pace and increase the incline. At the halfway mark, do one minute faster, one minute at a recovery pace for 30 minutes. Finish with hills.
However you decide to play with the settings, keep switching it up to make for a more engaging run.
#2: Recruit a Friend
If you normally run outside with a friend, hit the gym together, find adjacent treadmills, run and converse!
Or, if you run at home, recruit your partner or child to work out or play in your vicinity so you can chat the miles away.
#3: Watch a Show
Use your treadmill time to binge-watch a favorite show or movie. Save it up for the long workout and you’ll have something to look forward to.
#4: Listen to an Audiobook
Audiobooks can be a great long-run companion, whether you’re doing your long run on the treadmill or outside. Even if you don’t have an Audible subscription, you may be able to get free audiobooks from the library with apps like Libby or Overdrive. Amazon Unlimited also has audiobooks.
Consider a book about running, or something suspenseful and enrapturing like a true crime book, mystery, or heroic adventure tale. You won’t want your treadmill run to end until the story has unfolded.
#5: Talk On the Phone
If you can’t find a treadmill buddy, call a friend and talk on a hands-free headset or Bluetooth earbuds while you run. Catch up with an old mate, call your mom, or even consider a business call, depending on the nature of your work.
#6: Use the Music to Move You
A motivating playlist can absolutely be a great way to not get bored when running on the treadmill. Choose songs you love or ones you haven’t listened to in ages.
You can even harness your inner DJ and strategically build your playlist for different portions of the long run. Mix up the genres for different portions of the run.
#7: Cover the Display
The time running on a treadmill can feel like it’s crawling when the display is showing each passing second right in front of your face. Cover the treadmill console with a towel or shirt to keep that information hidden.
#8: Add Surges
Periodically throw in surges to keep your legs feeling fresh and your mind engaged. Or, use a structure with your surges so that you increase the speed by 0.1 every mile mark for 30 seconds then back to baseline.
Then, at the 0.25 mark for every mile, kick it up 0.2 mph for 30 seconds, 0.3 at the 0.5 mark for every mile, and back to 0.2 mph at the 0.75-mile mark, and so on.
#9: Play Games
Play games with yourself like covering the console and guessing when you think 10 minutes have passed. See how close you can get.
Look around the room while you run on the treadmill and try to find something you can see that starts with every letter of the alphabet or every color of the rainbow.
Try to think of a country that starts with every letter. Then try animals, fruits, vegetables, baked goods, careers, anything! Keeping your mind active is one of the best answers to how to not get bored running on the treadmill.
#10: Use An App
There are now all sorts of treadmill running apps that can take you virtually around the world. Explore the World and Zwift, which allow you to stream immersive scenery from routes all over the world. Take your treadmill long run to the Boston Marathon course, along the streets of Tokyo, or the canals of Venice.
#11: Think Of the Benefits
Practicing gratitude is always a great way to feel better about what you’re doing. Think of how doing your long run on the treadmill is keeping you out of the terrible weather, safe, and still progressing towards your goals.
Plus, by doing your long run on the treadmill, you’re developing tremendous mental toughness, and that can only translate into awesome benefits next time you race.
So, if you’re worried about how to nail your long run on the treadmill, fear not: You’ve got this.
Looking for a starter playlist? Try out our High BPM playlist on Spotify.