What’s the longest you’ve run on a treadmill?

Me: 20 miles while staring at a brick wall.

What?! After 20 minutes I want to poke my eyes out, how do you do it?

Me: There are a ton of mental tricks, but I’ve just fallen in love with how running makes me feel.

Ahh, I only run so I can eat and not weigh 400 lbs.

This is a true conversation and one that I tend to have with some variation on a pretty regular basis once people find out about RunToTheFinish. Do I mind? Nope! I’ll talk running with anyone, anytime!

I’ve spent plenty of Saturday mornings happily hammering out 13+ miles with only my thoughts (oh and iPod!)…so you could say I feel like a pro at providing tips on how to get through some extended time on the treadmill.All right sure that quote technically comes from people in prison, but treadmill running really isn’t all that bad!

In fact, there are actually some serious benefits to doing some treadmill running, including giving your knees a break and switching things up!

I’ve detailed them all here with some other insane mill runners: Benefits of treadmill running.

What’s more important getting in your training run or a little mental discomfort? Mental discomfort that could serve you come race day! Some of these are obvious solutions, but none the less great ideas and reminders that you CAN do this if you need to! Half marathon training on the treadmill is totally doable and doesn’t mean you won’t be prepared for the race, let those silly thoughts go.


I’ve made many a deal with myself like “I can only watch Real Housewives” while I’m on the treadmill. These are mindless shows that I don’t have to be too involved in and would never let myself sit around and watch.

Many other runners I know save Netflix shows or record movies to watch during their run. It can take your mind off of the treadmill and remind you to enjoy yourself!

If you’re watching LIVE TV it’s an easy opportunity to build in some change by increasing the pace during commercials. Mute the TV for those few minutes and focus just on your form, then relax again once the show returns.


This won’t work for everyone, but the truth is that with a good sturdy treadmill you can indeed READ!! Grab the large print books from the library, your newest copy of Runner’s World or your Kindle with the font all the way up.

Reading on the treadmill used to be one of my favorite ways to pass the time on longer runs!

Even if you choose not to read during the run, a few pages of Runner’s World could help ensure you spend at least 1/2 mile walking for both your warm up and cool down. I never seem to make it through all the magazines I love, so this is a chance to get some extra motivation out of those articles!

Checkout these Top 50 Running Books for ideas >>


Science has proven that music can indeed help us to runner farther or workout harder, so why not take full advantage of that?!

Long time readers know that inside or out, my favorite thing to do is spend part of the run in quiet then part of the run listening to an audiobook or podcast. On the treadmill, I’ll switch to music for the last few miles which helps to keep the pace on track and push me through any final mental wall.

Checkout these Top Podcasts for Runners and Top Audiobooks for ideas>>


Stop trying to run the entire thing at an even pace, this is play time!! Outside it’s called running fartleks, on the treadmill I think it’s called sanity savers.

Here are some of the ways I keep it interesting:

  • Every 5 minutes change the incline or pace
  • Use each commercial break as a reminder to up the pace
  • Do ladder runs which take advantage of your changing energy (increase pace .1 every mile until half way and then work your way back down)
  • Do an interval every time they say a certain word during your show (healthier than the original version which is a drinking game)

Or mix things up with on of these fun treadmill workouts from Maybe I Will.

Some people will tell you that running on the treadmill is easier and that’s why it doesn’t prepare you for races, but that’s only true if you aren’t taking full advantage of it with inclines, speed plays and consistency.


Ahhh just because you might not be wearing your fuel belt, doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan for fuel! Get that water bottled filled up and ready to sip, bring your chomps or gels or electrolytes! You may need them even more if the run feels like a mental struggle.

In fact, the treadmill is actually an excellent time to really test out your fuel! With everything close at hand, including a bathroom, you can test out whole food options or a new gel to see how your stomach is going to react. It’s also a chance to see what water consumption keeps you hydrated without the need to hit the potty every couple of miles!

Checkout these whole food running fuel options>>


While I can indeed run my 20 miles on a solo treadmill in my basement, for many it’s way easier at the gym. First you could ask a friend to meet you and run along side you for some chatting, second you can simply spend hours watching others workout which makes you feel kind of bad ass as they come and go, but you remain!

Finally…let’s be honest there is something about a runner hoping on a treadmill next to you. A little inner talk starts “Oh look at your speed, yeah well I’m going to out last you“.

There is NOTHING wrong with having little competitions like this to keep your spirits up and your feet moving.


My dear friend Jodi has an amazing support crew around her and I LOVED to see kids making signs for her which she could post around her treadmill.

Others I know have family members stop in throughout the run to give them a high five, tell them how strong they look and remind them of their race goal!!


Break the mileage into segments and reward yourself at the end of the segment. Slow the speed and walk for 30 seconds or so and get a good long drink. Stop the treadmill and hit the restroom. Hop off and stretch if you need to. Short little breaks will not hurt your training in the long run and will help you keep mentally strong to finish your mileage on the treadmill.

Winter pushing you to more treadmill runs? Tips from a treadmill running pro to survive #runchat #marathontraining


If you are lucky enough to have a treadmill like mine with the built in Google Maps then you can actually pretend like you’re outside running! If you know your race course you can plug it in or use one on the treadmill giving you either a street view or map view, definitely a fun way to mix things up!


Not only is it nice to have a towel to wipe down the buckets of sweat you’re likely to work up as the gym is going to be warmer than the miles you’ve been putting in outside, but it also works for focus.

I love to toss the towel over the screen so I can’t spend every mile looking at my distance and time. You gotta block those out just like you do outside!


Sometimes you just don’t have the combined mental and physical energy for hours on the treadmill. In those instances, it’s time for splitting your run…the weather might still mean 2 treadmill runs, but potentially it could mean part on the treadmill and part outside. If it’s 2 treadmill runs, choose to make one shorter and faster, the other longer at your easy pace.

If all else fails, just zone out and get it done and be happy you have the treadmill as an option.
Boredom busting treadmill workouts

What’s your longest treadmill run?

What keeps you going on longer treadmill days?

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I’m at the point in training where I’m questioning why I signed up to run a spring marathon. I’m tired of being cold. Despite my house being a lovely 71 degrees, I walk around wearing a hat and finger-less gloves.

The thought of running 18 miles outside this weekend is enough to make me want to curl up into a ball and possibly shed a tear. I’m one of those people who is either always cold or crazy hot. These extremes make it really hard to dress during the winter because I sweat – a lot – even when I feel like I’m freezing.

Right about now, the treadmill seem like an enticing option.

Last weekend I ran 17 miles for my long run leading up to Boston Marathon. 17 miles on the treadmill. Was it boring? Yes. Am I glad I ran inside? Yes.

I know runners who just LOVE the treadmill. I’m not one of those people. Leading up to one of my marathons, I ran a 30 mile long run…..on my treadmill. It’s a tool to me. A tool that I use in the winter, when the going feels personally tough.

Here are my tips for running long on the treadmill:

Quit the negative self talk: Is it fun to run long runs on the treadmill? Not for most of us. That doesn’t mean we should defeat ourselves before we even start by telling ourselves how terrible it’s going to be. Before every longer run on the treadmill, I literally talk to myself. “You can do this Dorothy. You will be fine. This is not hard. This is a run on a machine.”

Dwell on the positives: Once you have kicked the negative self talk to the curb, start thinking about the positives about running on the treadmill. I dwell on the fact that I am not cold. There is a bathroom 10 feet away. I can watch a movie or catch up on a tv show. And I can listen to music without wearing headphones.

Accept that you will likely be bored at some point: I often get bored on long runs when I am alone, which is very often. The treadmill isn’t any different. I simply focus on it more when I am running to nowhere. Accept that long runs are long, often hard, and sometimes boring. Then move on to other thoughts.

Start slow: This can mean a variety of paces for me, depending on the day. Last week starting slow was starting so slow that I felt like I may be able to speed walk faster. This made the first 5 or so miles go by in a flash because I wasn’t struggling in the beginning. Other times it can mean starting out at the slowest end of my training zone that cycle, which is usually very different from my crazy-slow-maybe-I-could-speed-walk-faster pace

Vary the pace: Start slow, then speed up. If you get tired, slow down to the point that it feels like you are easily running, then slowly pick the pace back up. If even running slowly feels extra hard, then really push the pace for a couple of minutes so that when you slow it back down, it feels easy. You don’t run the same pace every moment of every mile outside, even if you are pretty good at keeping your splits consistent. Mixing it up also can help distract your mind from the monotony of the treadmill.

Don’t run at an incline or if you do – vary the incline: I don’t run at an incline. I’ve read countless studies and I understand all the various arguments for and against it. I run outside enough that I’m not concerned about my treadmill run being similar to an outdoor run. A treadmill run is a treadmill run, and an outdoor run is an outdoor run. They are different. I wouldn’t run 16, 18, 20 miles and beyond at a constant incline while running outside, so why would I do it inside. (As a coach I believe it leads to injuries, but that’s a discussion for another day.) If you don’t agree and like to use the incline, mix it up during the run.

How bad do you want it?: I ask myself this on almost every treadmill run. It’s mind over matter most days. Some days my mind wins, like the time in January when I was supposed to run 14 miles and I quit after 1 mile. I didn’t run a long run that weekend. I still have a bitter taste in my mouth about it. The key for me is making sure that MOST days my mind wins and I finish the run. I don’t like winter training but I do like running spring marathons. Today I want that finish badl. Tomorrow might be another story, but today I want it bad enough to run long on the treadmill.

The “dreadmill.” The “hamster wheel.” If you’re like me, you’ll run outside in almost any treacherous condition to avoid running on the treadmill. Although there are some ways to make treadmill workouts more enjoyable (like the studio class I tried out last summer, for example), the reality is that no matter how you jazz up your treadmill run, you’re still, you know, on a treadmill. Running is hard and tiring whether you’re inside or outside, so I’d always rather be enjoying some scenery or the sunrise when I do it.

But for many runners, a treadmill is sometimes the only option. Maybe the only time you can get a run in is in the early morning hours when streets aren’t well-lit or there aren’t many other runners out there, or the snowy and icy conditions are making training outdoors unsafe. Sometimes, we all just have to suck it up and climb on that treadmill if we want to fit in a training run.

Something I’ve always wondered, though, is if I’m actually sacrificing quality when I take my runs inside. (Am I looking for any excuse I can to avoid the treadmill? Maybe.) So I asked Rebekah Mayer, a USATF Level 1 coach and national training manager at Life Time Run in Minneapolis, who assured me that when you’re preparing for a marathon or other long-distance race, training on the treadmill can come pretty close to training on the roads.

As an example, she mentioned professional runner Chris Clark of Alaska, who won the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials in Columbia, S.C., after preparing mostly by doing treadmill runs in a heated room (heated to prep for the 70-plus degree race day temperatures).

“That goes to show you that it can be done,” Mayer says. But it’s best to only do some of your training on the treadmill, instead of relying on it completely. “I recommend doing as many easy and long runs outdoors as possible to acclimate to various conditions, and to be able to work on your footing. In our training groups at Life Time Run, we often take the faster sessions indoors when training for the Boston Marathon to reach the needed paces with safe footing.”

Mayers explained the three things to keep in mind about using the treadmill to train for a race.

1. The treadmill controls your pace, which can be useful, but you don’t want to become reliant on it.

When you have the assistance of the belt pulling you on a treadmill, essentially serving as your “pacer” after you’ve chosen your target pace on the machine, it can feel easier to run faster since all you’re doing is following along. This is why you may find that your paces don’t match up and you might end up being slower when you attempt the same workout outdoors.

Since you won’t have the guidance of the treadmill belt on race day, it’s important to get a handle on what are truly realistic paces for you out on the roads. Try to fit in some interval workouts outdoors throughout your training so you can figure out how to pace yourself without any help.

2. Running on the treadmill impacts your body differently than running on the road (or a trail).

Although there ultimately isn’t much difference in the quality of activity performed on a treadmill versus outside, there are still some factors to keep in mind if you’ve been doing the majority of your runs on a treadmill. For one thing, the treadmill’s surface is different (generally considered to be more forgiving as far as impact) than pavement.

Sometimes running on the treadmill is a necessity, and everyone has their own personal style! If it’s been awhile since your last treadmill run, here are some of the most common (and inventive) habits you can expect to see at the gym. And if you happen to fall into one of the “quirk” categories, then take my advice to heart.

The TV Enthusiast

Source: Fox

Catching up on your favorite TV shows on the treadmill ensures you make it to the gym, but don’t so caught up you forget to run. Your multitasking habits should not come at the price of a quality workout.

The Music Buff

Source: Focus Features

We feel you on this one, Brad! The right music can really make or break a workout. Rock out to one of these running playlists at the gym to put a skip in your step and help you keep pace.


The Inspiration

Source: Tumblr user breezyblox

Forget the haters, and focus on your health. There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing someone who’s committed to their goals look confident in a sea of rock-hard bods at the gym. Even if you’re feeling a bit insecure, fake it till you make it!

The Dancer

At some point, every gym rat has seen some cuckoo shaking their tail feathers with killer choreography. This guy nailed it, but remember: safety first! There are too many treadmill fails that start off looking this way. (And this way = incredible.)

The Snacker

Take your Goldfish elsewhere, pal. A little water is essential to stay hydrated, but that’s all the sustenance you need for your treadmill run.

The Overzealous

Source: Pixar

Pushing yourself past your limits is necessary for growth, but don’t go too quickly too soon. Gym newbies should start slow with a walk-run treadmill plan and build up their stamina from there.

Or You Can Stay Outside . . .

It’s cold outside, but you can continue to run outdoors during Winter. Just be sure to bundle up according to the temp out there.

Running is no longer your only option when it comes to the treadmill. There’s a new way to get your treadmill workout in, and it’s a heck of a lot more fun if you ask us. We bring you: treadmill dancing.

Check this out: This man’s dancing his way through his treadmill workout at his local gym. We can only imagine the reaction of his fellow gym-goers! But, hey, this guy’s got the right attitude — keep your workout fun, and it no longer seems like you’re working out.

Meet Marcus Dorsey:

Photo credit: David Wilson

Wait… there’s more

Others are transforming the way they treadmill, too!

These high school boys sure got the moves:

Photo credit: Ben Hiler

Salsa dancing on the treadmill:

Photo credit: Bernadette Robinson

Freestyle treadmill dancing:

Photo credit: SchwarzschildMedia

Your not-so-normal aerobics routine:

Photo credit: Beni Lew

And finally, we leave you with this dance-aerobics routine:

Photo credit: Tanya Fletcher – Blandy

Tell us: What do you think of treadmill dancing? Share in the comments below!

More on workouts

15 Workouts you can do in 10 minutes
7 Ab exercises you can do on a swing set
My empowering experience with stand up paddleboard yoga

The long run treadmill

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