Running on a treadmill: it still sucks

Treadmills suck

I look happy… but deep down, I am suffering.

When I was training hard for past races I was motivated to get in my long runs no matter what the weather was like outside. Rain, snow, high winds, freezing temperatures. It didn’t matter. If I had a run planned, I’d get out there and do it.

Lately, the weather has been kind of rainy, and I just can’t get motivated to go outside and run in the rain. Sometimes I can convince myself that a rain run is refreshing and fun, but lately, I just can’t get out there if the weather is nasty. Last week, Graham and I set out on a run, it started raining and we turned around and went home after a measly 1km.

As a result of this inclement Spring weather, I’ve done several indoor runs on the treadmill in our condo building’s tiny gym. When I first started running, I ran almost exclusively on a treadmill and had no problem with it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it, but I certainly didn’t hate it. After running outdoors in all seasons over the last 2 years, I have grown to detest the treadmill with growing hatred.

It is so god awfully boring. Perhaps it has something to with the fact that I’m isolated in a tiny room, staring at a wall with no visual stimulation whatsoever, but 10km on a treadmill seems to drag on for hours. Despite the fact that you’re inundated with measurements – distance, time, heart rate, calories – the numbers seem to creep up at an impossibly slow rate. I usually cover them up with a towel because I can’t stand to look at them. And the worst part is, I sometimes finish my arduous treadmill run, and I don’t even feel like I got a very good workout! What gives?!

Turns out, running on a treadmill is actually easier than running outdoors for several reasons:

  • The treadmill belt assists in leg turnover so it’s actually easier to run faster.
  • There’s no weather conditions or wind resistance on a treadmill so overall, you’re not as challenged. You can compensate for this by setting the treadmill to a 1.5% incline but running at 0% is definitely easier than an outdoor run.
  • The base of the treadmill is springier than road surfaces which makes it easier on your body to run faster and longer

As far as I’m concerned, the only real benefit of the treadmill is that it protects you from the elements. I think I need to just suck it up and get outside – rain or shine.

And for those days where I wimp out and begrudgingly head to the treadmill, I’d love to hear tips from any avid treadmill runners. How do you make long runs less arduous? Are there any workouts that make treadmill running more enjoyable?

Treadmill Racing


  1. Guy April 30, 2013 / 10:45 pm

    Miranda, I am a particularly picky runner – I refuse to run outside when the temperature is less than 15 degrees Celsius. Why? I hate running in pants. But more to the point, this causes me to run most of the year on a treadmill. How do I make it more tolerable? I always run after lifting weights. Being a runner first and foremost, I sometimes have to force myself to lift the weights just so I can get to the pleasurable part of my workout – the run. It’s kind of like finishing your greens before your dessert. In short by forcing myself to do something I like less and rewarding myself with a run afterwards – even on a treadmill – makes it seem more enjoyable. Hope this helps!

    • Miranda May 1, 2013 / 9:50 am

      Hilarious. I love the analogy. I will for sure give this a try.

  2. herbirthmarks May 1, 2013 / 12:37 am

    I typically run outside, but when I used to have a gym membership I’d use the treadmill during the winter. My trick to using any machine for long periods of time is to:
    -Cover the screen with a towel as you already mentioned: There’s nothing more dreadful than seeing the seconds count down and being fully aware of how much time is left.
    -Give myself a good distraction: Music is great for getting charged, but on longer workouts, it’s easier for me to stay on target by watching a movie or a TV show. I usually watch shows that are at least 1 hour long so I can commit to that much effort.
    -I would also suggest trying one of the programs to change things up.

    • Miranda May 1, 2013 / 9:46 am

      Amazing. Thank you for the tips. I updated my playlist last week and that certainly helped get me through the first half of an indoor run. Unfortunately, the gym in my building has no TVs, but I do have a gym membership, so I may have to relocate my indoor runs. Thanks for your suggestions!

  3. Jesse - Questionably Texan May 1, 2013 / 8:04 pm

    I used to run on the treadmill quite regularly, but I find it to be painfully boring. I’ve thought about jumping back on for some speedwork, to help with my leg turnover rate (since it easier to run faster on a treadmill).

  4. aprilcunningham May 1, 2013 / 10:53 pm

    I like to run faster on the choruses of the songs I’m listening to. It helps! Interval training!

  5. Joe Anderson May 22, 2013 / 5:38 pm

    Running on the treadmill is a mental game for me. Yes it is painfully boring. I like to consider it exercise for my mental toughness…After a winter of logging long hours on the treadmill, running outside again is a breeze and exciting. It renews my love for it. Suddenly running 20k seems like a jog around the block. I also began this winter making myself run with no music. It’s a Zen like experience, I find myself slipping into a bit of a trance. Just me and my breaths.

    • Miranda May 22, 2013 / 7:03 pm

      Interesting! I have sometimes also experienced those trance-like moments while running. I got a Nike GPS Sportwatch for Christmas and it was the first time I ran without music. It’s definitely a different experience. Although, running on a treadmill without music would be challenging. I’m not sure I could do it!

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