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14 Tips for Treadmill Running

As it starts to get colder, more and more of your runs might be happening on a treadmill.

If you’re like me, the treadmill isn’t your first choice for running; you’d rather be outside. However, when that’s not an option, there are things you can do to make your treadmill runs better!

In this article, we’ll cover 14 tips for treadmill running, from how to stay motivated, to safety tips, to maintaining good form, to how high to set the incline. Hopefully, these tips will help you enjoy the times you do have to use the treadmill.

1. How to Stay Motivated

Although it can be hard to motivate yourself anytime to go on a run, it can be even more challenging to get yourself on the treadmill. It’s just the same thing over and over, step after step. At least outside you have some scenic variation.

Thus, it’s important to think ahead about motivating yourself for treadmill runs. Planning ahead, and knowing what to expect, can help keep you from skipping them. Don’t let the monotony cause you to dread the treadmill run. You just need to psyche yourself up. Here are a few ideas to try:

First, consider setting a running goal, such as running at least a mile every day, or running a 5k two or three times a week. Either way, you’ll get around 6-10 miles in a week, which is a really good start.

You might also consider meeting up with a friend to run side-by-side on treadmills at the gym. This can also work at home if your friend or family member does strength or cardio exercises as you run on the treadmill. And since it’s 2020, why not Zoom your treadmill workout with a friend?

Another way to reward yourself is reserving a certain podcast, audiobook, or music for when you’re on the treadmill. Then you’ll want to work out to hear that music or get to the next part in the book. You may even want to purchase Bluetooth wireless earbuds for ease.

If you’re someone who loves competition, try tracking your runs with your GPS watch or Strava. Compete with your friends to see who has run the most/the farthest/etc.

Finally, you can always reward yourself with a treat! Splurge on a fun Starbucks drink or get yourself something new when you achieve a goal!

2. How to Prepare for Treadmill Runs

Have everything ready to go before you get on the treadmill so that you don’t have to stop mid-run. Gather your water, headphones, book, tablet or phone, and a towel before you start running.

Even if it’s really cold outside, you should still wear shorts and short sleeves or a tank top. It will get hot inside, especially if your treadmill does not have a fan. I tried running on a treadmill once in leggings, and it was just really hot.

If you typically run outside, make sure that your shoes are clean so that you don’t get dirt or debris on the treadmill. And don’t forget to use the bathroom beforehand, especially if you’re planning to go for a longer run.

3. How to Stay Safe on the Treadmill

Although this should go without saying, make sure that you stop the treadmill whenever you want to get on or off. Do not jump on or off it! You may even want to use the safety clip and attach it to your clothes so that the treadmill stops if you go too far back.

If you need to stop immediately because of something unexpected like a cramp, make sure that you use the large-stop button. Don’t fiddle with the other buttons. Finally, don’t use any treadmill where the belt is slipping. You need to adjust the belt first.

4. How to Warm Up

It’s always important to get a warm-up in. Spend at least five minutes walking or jogging on the treadmill to get some oxygen to your muscles. This is also a good time to prepare mentally for your run.

You may also want to do some light sprints for 10-30 seconds if you’re planning to run at a faster pace. This will help you prepare for that workout mentally and physically. Finally, make sure that you get your heartbeat up into Zone 2 during your warm-up. The actual heats per minute will vary for each individual, but if your heart rate’s not up, you’re not warmed up yet.

5. How to Maintain Good Treadmill Running Form

Running form is always important, including on a treadmill! Make sure that you’re standing nice and tall. Keep your hips below your shoulders. You shouldn’t be slouching or leaning forward.

Engage your core and keep your chin and head up. Aim to touch the belt with your mid-foot underneath your hips. Also, make sure that you maintain a short stride and keep a good cadence aiming for 170-180 steps per minute.

Finally, something unique to treadmills is that you should avoid holding onto the railing or the console. Doing so will cause you to slouch—especially if you’re taller—and it’s important to stand up straighter.

6. How to Make the Most of Your Run on the Treadmill

Anyone who has run on atreadmill knows that it can get boring. It’s important to have tricks up your sleeve to minimize that feeling. First, try distracting yourself during the run with a video or a screen that has virtual courses/real marathon races.

Having something else to focus on instead of the repetitiveness of the treadmill is sure to help. You can also try one of the programs to change things up, because then incline and pace will be constantly changing, and you’ll get some variety.

If you have a treadmill at home (or if you don’t get easily embarrassed), you might try placing a mirror in front of yourself so that you can check your running form and give yourself a dose of happiness by smiling at yourself.

Checking your running form every ½ mile and drinking regularly can be two helpful tasks that will give you something to do. Depending on how fast and how far you’re running, you may need to drink fairly often.

Typically, you sweat more when you’re running inside, so make sure to factor that in for your hydration. You can drink either just water, or water with electrolytes to make sure that your body is getting the replenishment it needs.

7. How to Set the Incline on the Treadmill

If you don’t change the incline on the treadmill, it’s actually easier than running outside because the deck is moving for you. You’re also avoiding wind resistance. To simulate outdoor running, set the incline to 1%.

Then you get a little bit more of a workout, but you aren’t hurting your back, hips, and ankles. Too steep of an incline for too long may cause issues later on. If you keep it at 1%, though, you should be fine.

8. How to Track Your Progress

If you don’t tend to enter races, or do so only once or twice a year, you might consider making your own personal race every couple weeks. Try running a 5k or 10k as hard as you can, thinking of it as a race, not a training run. This is a little easier on a treadmill, because you can set a hard pace at the start and let the machine hold it steady for you. Then all you have to do is keep up.

And then write down the results. Every couple weeks (or months), do another “race” to see your progress. Chances are you’ll see improvement if you track your results. And that will help you stay motivated.

9. How to Keep Improving

If you want to keep improving even as you have to run on the treadmill, you need to set goals so that you can give yourself something to strive for. Consider setting goals like increasing your weekly mileage by a certain percentage for a particular number of weeks.

You could also try to run at least a little faster for each run for a particular number of weeks, or run a minute or two longer. Pick a goal that is reasonable and not too challenging, but that will give you something to do.

10. How to Complete Treadmill Intervals

Treadmills are the land of steady-state cardio, which is not an ideal way to achieve fitness. Varying intensity with intervals gives you more bang for your workout buck. Interval runs are the bread and butter of track workouts, and there is not reason you can’t bring that same idea inside. Yes, they are harder than slow runs, but that’s the point. They are also more mentally interesting, and help keep you engaged on the treadmill.

You can start by doing very basic intervals, like running one minute fast and one minute slow and repeat for 5-10 reps. You could also try something a little harder like running 10 x ¼ mile sprints with brief jogging in between each rep.

11. How to Get in Long Runs

It’s painful enough having to run for thirty minutes on the treadmill, let alone an hour or two. If you need to do a longer run (over 1.5 hours), consider splitting it in half and doing part in the morning and the other part in the evening. This is not exactly the same thing from an adaptation standpoint, but at least you are getting your miles in.

12. How to Train for a Marathon on a Treadmill

If you’re training for a marathon on a treadmill, be prepared to get very acquainted with the spot on the wall just in front of you. This is probably a great time to get hooked on a show that you can binge-watch during your training.

Make sure that you’re prepared with fuel, such as energy gels, fruits, and electrolytes/energy drinks whenever you have to be on the treadmill for a long time. If you have a treadmill at home, consider asking your significant other to bring you stuff for a much needed break!

13. How to Cool Down

Just like you want to make sure that you get a warm-up in, you need to take the time to cool down. A good rule of thumb is to walk one minute for every mile that you ran. If you ran five miles, then you should walk for five minutes as a cool down.

Make sure that your heart rate gets below 100 beats per minute before you finish your cool down, and then give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done! You got your workout in, no matter how ugly or pretty it was!

Finally, don’t forget to stretch the major muscle groups after you walk it out for at least 3-5 minutes. You may also want to foam roll or have someone massage your muscles and take an ice bath or put your feet in ice water.

14. How to Clean Up the Treadmill After Your Run

If you run outside, there really isn’t anything that you need to do to clean up after a run. Obviously, the treadmill is a little different. You need to make sure that you wipe the dashboard and the belt after you finish your run.

This is especially important if you’re using a public treadmill in a gym or other exercise facility. Additionally, if you own the treadmill yourself, make sure that you clean and maintain your machine every month so that it lasts for a long time!

Final Thoughts

Running on the treadmill as compared to running outside might not be your first choice. But there are plenty of ways to make running inside more enjoyable. Plus, you’re able to do things like watch Netflix or complete a virtual course.

By focusing on the positive things and less on the negative aspects of running on a treadmill, you’re sure to be more open to the days and months when you have to run inside because of the weather!

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner