Surviving Treadmill Season In The Pacific Northwest


It’s beginning to feel a lot like treadmill season. The days are getting shorter, the hours of dark seem to last forever. There is a bite in the air that will turn into frozen ice particles—or driving icy rain in no time. That means, the dedicated runner will either run in the dark and ice or will turn to the treadmill.

I depend on my treadmill year-round. It means I get to run on those days I am unable to leave the house—either because of kids, time constraints, or weather. It feels as if I’m cheating by using the treadmill—as if I’m not getting the workout I would if I were trudging up hills and battling the wind. But at least I’m on my feet.

Due to all that time spent on the treadmill, I’ve come up with some tested ways to make it through a short run, or even a long run while running in place like a hamster.

Rocking Music

My usual choice of background noise (and I highly suggest using one) is rocking music. Like really loud, and really energetic music. I have a running music playlist on Pandora and I crank it up! It never fails that when I start feeling tired and like I want to do something else, anything else, a good song comes on that gets me right back into my running groove.


Audiobooks make good background noise as well. I like to listen to something exciting—like a thriller—that has me committed to every word. If it’s a boring book, forget it. I tune out and start thinking about everything else I have to do that day.

The podcast can also be a good choice. I like to listen to running podcasts while on the treadmill. It adds that extra splash of motivation when you need it.

TV Shows or Movies

I know a lot of people watch Netflix while running on the treadmill. This one is hard for me. Shows aren’t usually exciting enough for me to pay attention to them while running. And if I have trouble hearing the dialogue over the drone of the treadmill motor, it just ends up frustrating me. But if it works for you, do it!

Imagine Being Outside

This is something new I’ve started doing. At each step of my run on the treadmill, I imagine that I’m on that portion of my normal outside route. Mile 1: Ah, there is the church and that crazy white dog that likes to escape from his yard and run with me until he’s called home. Mile 3: Aand I’m crossing the bridge over the river, waving at the people fishing in their boat. Mile 5: And I’m almost home. Just a few more hills and I can walk. This has been very helpful lately to fight the boredom.

Fun with Math

Even if, like me, you are horrible at math, it’s a great thing to do when you are trying to pass the time. You can do any number of math problems with the number of miles you’ve already covered, how many miles you have left, or time per mile. Add, subtract, multiply, divid—you can do it all! Convert to fractions or decimals, and then back again.

Counting works well too. Count every left step for a minute to come up with your cadence. Count the number of words you hear in a song. Count the red lights on the treadmill face. Whatever you see or hear, try counting it.

You can even form your own word problems to work through. Keeping your mind focused on something other than how bad it sucks to run on the treadmill helps.

Break it Up

If the weather is awful, and you have a long run scheduled that must be done on the treadmill; try breaking it up into two manageable chunks. Run half in the morning and finish the last half in the evening. This isn’t ideal, but it can help you get your miles in when you otherwise wouldn’t.

The Mill Zone

This doesn’t always work, but when it does, I can run on the treadmill forever. I go into my zone by un-focusing my eyes and completely zoning out. I don’t look at the display. I don’t look at my phone or my watch. I just shut down my brain and run. I wish I could do this all of the time, but I can usually only get there when I’m just the right amount of exhausted. If I’m too awake, my mind flitters around to different topics or problems I’m working through. And if I’m too exhausted I’m more focused on how I want to stop and lay down.

That is the list of things I employ to make it through a run on the treadmill. What do you do to pass the time when you are stuck on one?


About Author

Liz Ward

Liz Ward is a running fanatic, avid reader, and amateur farmer. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband, three kids, and a small herd of animals.

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