Everything You Need To Know About Running A Treadmill

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 travelling 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 start and 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.

The Benefits of Treadmill


Here’s what you stand to gain from hitting the belt more often.

Less Impact

Running on hard surfaces, like asphalt and concrete, increases the risks of overuse injury. However, the treadmill belt offers extra cushioning that helps absorb much of this stress.

Forget About the Outdoor Conditions

Outdoor running exposes you to the elements, be it the weather, unsafe streets, uneven surfaces, etc. All of these can stand in the way of your running success. Luckily,  you don’t have to worry about any of this when the treadmill running.

Simulate the Race

Preparing for a race? A treadmill can help you nail your perfect pace. For example, if you are planning for a hilly 10K race, you can simulate that racing experience by incline training or even intervals on the treadmill.

Safer Than Running Outside

You can always run into troubles when doing outdoor running workouts: cracks, ruts, cyclists, cars, people, thieves, stray dogs, the wrong side of town, you name it. Again, a treadmill can help you sidestep all of these risks.


Dealing with insecurities? Worry no more. Hopping on the treadmill gives you more privacy as you don’t have to fret about anyone judging your performance. You can run at your own pace and call it to quit anytime you want.

Measurable Data

On a treadmill, you have a say on your training conditions, helping you run with more accuracy, whether it’s speed, incline, calories burned, heart rate, step count, and so on.

How To Run on A Treadmill For Beginners

To make the most out of your treadmill workouts, try to incorporate these two valuable training tips.

Know Your Treadmill

Experiencing your initial attempts on the treadmill can be intimidating. But it’s not rocket science. If you don’t have any experience using a treadmill and have no idea how to switch it on, here’s a quick guide: Press the “Start Workout” or “Quick Workout” button first. Grasp the handrails, get on the conveyor belt, push down this button, and the belt will begin its movements.

The belt will start at a slow walking speed, and it’s up to you to play with speed. Keep in mind that you may feel wobbly or dizzy when you use a treadmill for the first time—as if you were going to slide back or lean forward. Don’t panic. You’re practising a new motor skill, and it will take a few sessions to feel at ease.

Next, familiarize yourself with the speed controls, the incline/decline options, the “Stop” and the emergency stop mechanism, as well as the programming controls. Of course, not all treadmills are made equal.

Some are straightforward, offering very few choices (like a motel treadmill), while more sophisticated models provide a more involved user interface. But the basics are still the same: Start/Speed/Stop.

The Right Treadmill Workout Gear

Getting the right treadmill training gear is the first step. Start by training in proper running shoes. Of course, you won’t need specific shoes just for the treadmill.

As a rule, your running shoes have to fit well, which is why it is always advised to buy shoes from a speciality running store (here’s how to make your shoes last longer). Just like you’d choose proper clothing for outdoor runs, your treadmill runs deserve the same attention.

You also need comfortable wicking underwear. Don’t go for fancy cotton clothes. They won’t cut. They can cause more harm than good—and you don’t want that. Female runners should also choose a sports bra that holds their chest securely in place.

Keep hydrated

Remember to keep your body well-hydrated when running on the treadmill. You’ll be shedding a lot of fluids through sweat. When running on the treadmill for more than 30 minutes, it’s key to drink water to stay hydrated. As a general rule, drink about four to six ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes.

Cooling Fan

Last but not least, if you find yourself sweating more than usual when indoor running (or don’t have proper air conditioning), consider setting up a cooling fan. Sure, some treadmills have a built-in fan, but they tend to be less than powerful and effective.

Plus they only blow air at your face, ignoring the rest of your body. That ain’t good at all. In addition, expect to sweat a lot—even if it’s cold outside—so get yourself a towel to wipe your arms, hands, and face as needed.

Warm-Up For Your Treadmill Workout

Just like outdoor running, the key to effective treadmill training is a proper warm-up. Skipping it will only increase the risks of premature fatigue and injury. A good warm-up helps you get your blood pumping and heart rate ticking and be for the hard effort ahead.

Invest in at least a 5 to 10 minutes warm-up period, then aim to slowly increase your speed as you go, but never speed up to the point that your form begins to suffer. Pay attention to your body before you speed up.

Visualize a Route

Another trick to help you avoid the treadmill is to visualize an outdoor route you like running on. Imagine your favourite outdoor route and pretend that you are on it, running by certain landmarks, and play with the incline to simulate elevation change.

Your brain already has storage of good running memories, and by using active visualization, you’re tapping into that valuable resource and using it to your advantage. If you have difficulties visualizing, look for pictures on Google images of pristine running routes and imagine yourself tackling them.

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. 

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.

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, if you decide to play with the settings, keep switching it up to make for a more engaging run.

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 miles away.

Watch a Show

Use your treadmill time to binge-watch a favourite show or movie. Save it up for the long workout and you’ll have something to look forward to. 


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