How to Run Long on the Treadmill Without Losing Your Mind

Stephanie asks: I’m training for a marathon. I’ve been doing all my long runs on a treadmill and I’m up to 25 kilometres. Do you have any tips to help get me through the boredom? Also, how do I transition back to roads?

The key to marathon preparation is to train with quality and consistency, which you can accomplish on a treadmill. That said, running longer than an hour on a treadmill can be—yawn!—boring, because of the lack of stimulation and scenery change that outdoor long runs provide.

However, it is possible to simulate an outdoor long run indoors without going crazy. Here are my three favorite strategies.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time. One of the worst parts of an indoor long run is imagining the hours you’ll spend running in place. Instead, change something (the incline, the speed, your focus) every 400 metres. You’ll be more engaged, and it’ll be more similar to an outdoor long run. Try this:

At 400 metres Increase the pace by 0.2 to 0.3 mph for 30 to 60 seconds to change up your stride. When you return to your slower long run pace, it will feel easier.
At 800 matres Perform a head-to-toe form inventory to shift your focus from the run to your body. Relax your shoulders, swing your arms parallel to one another, and center your shoulders over your hips. Count how many times your right foot hits the belt for 60 seconds. The ideal cadence is around 85 to 92 right strides per minute.
At 1,200 metres Increase the incline slightly to two to three per cent, or just enough to make it feel a little more challenging. You’ll use different muscles and build strength. If your goal race is hilly, use the treadmill to exactly simulate the inclines and declines of your course.
At the 1,600 metre marker Before you begin, write out a numbered list that corresponds to the number of kilometres you’re planning to run. Dedicate each 1,600 metres to a person or charity that’s important to you, or spend every 1,600 metres focusing on a mantra or visualising part of your goal race’s course. This gives your mind a positive distraction for each 1,600 metres.

Entertain yourself. Binge-watching television shows or inspiring running movies while on the treadmill helps pass the time and keep you engaged. If a screen isn’t available, listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or a custom running playlist. It’s an obvious strategy, but it works to fight boredom.

Break it into two separate runs. If nothing can help you fathom the idea of completing your full distance in one shot, you can break up the run into two shorter runs that total your target distance. For example, if you need to run 25 kilometres, you could run 16 kilometres in the morning and another nine in the afternoon. To learn more about splitting up long runs, click here.

For those who are training full-time on a treadmill due to bad weather, be cautious when transitioning back to roads or trails. Move shorter runs outside before you tackle an outdoor long run. It’s also wise to train by effort instead of pace at all times, since your pace will vary from inside to outside.

In the end, it’s all about getting in the time on your feet and simulating the changes in speed and terrain a runner experiences during an outdoor long run. Have faith in your preparation this season. Although treadmill running differs from road running, it is a very effective way to prepare for a marathon.


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