October 7, 2015

Long runs on the treadmill, tantalizing or torturous

On Sunday, when a long run of 18 miles was on my training plan, my first attempt was an outdoor run.  But with the winds howling and rain imminent (thanks Hurricane Joaquin), after less than one mile my car transported me to the gym where I would log 17.4 miles to complete the distance.  This was definitely the longest run I have ever done on a treadmill. It was not without dread that I signed in at the gym and proceeded to get ready for the run.  Our gym has a cardio equipment limit of 30 minutes if the gym is busy and someone is waiting for a piece of equipment. With this in mind, I was prepared to make several trips to the gym to complete the mileage.  However, luck was on my side because there were always at least two free treadmills during the time I was there from 7:15am to 10:30 am.  How did I get through the distance?  I have a few things that made it easier.

1. Stopping after each 6 mile increment:  This gave me a chance to take a good break for water, a gel and a bathroom break.  The treadmills automatically go to cool down mode after 55 minutes so I got in my 6 miles by increasing my speed during the cool down and that got me to the nice even number!

2.  Trash TV:  Being mindlessly occupied during a very long run can help ease the boredom when you are stuck indoors. My preference is always to run outside, in fact I frequently use the word dreadmill when I refer to running indoors. Watching TV can really help pass the time quickly if you choose your shows wisely!  I love to watch HGTV, the ESPN sports channels, Bravo and sometimes an old movie.  Any show that captures my attention is a winner!

3. A visit from Tom:  Having a great support system can make marathon training much easier. When I spotted Tom approaching my treadmill with a Gatorade in one hand and a couple protein bars in the other, I broke out in a huge smile.  He knew what a tough day it would be and the Gatorade came at exactly the right time.

4.  Accountability:  Having a coach and reporting back about my workouts makes me try harder.  There is no reason I should feel this way, but I don't want to disappoiint someone who works hard to come up with my workouts and encourages me every step of the way.

And some thoughts on additional ways to make the treadmill something you can enjoy and not dread:

5. Grab a friend:  Our weather has not been kind to us this fall and one Friday after driving to the track, my friend Pam and I decided to hit the gym since practice outdoors was cancelled due to heavy rain. We had a pretty tough speed workout, but being on a treadmill knowing someone else felt your pain made it so much easier.  We also treated ourselves to a coffee date afterwards.

6. Bargain with yourself:  I like to play "Let's Make A Deal", and come up with some really fun treat to have once a difficult and very long treadmill workout is done. While on the mill for my 18 miles, I had lots of great ideas, but the best one came after I returned home and a friend wanted to meet at Starbucks.  Now that was a great way to relax and bask in the post run glow. I have also been known to do a little internet shopping too, usually for new running gear!

7. Be prepared for the worst: Some days, these runs will not go your way and it will be very painful getting in your mileage no matter how strong you are mentally. My best runs are the ones where I have to work the hardest.  The easy ones are a no brainer, but the hard ones prepare you for race day. You won't quit on race day, so keep it up during the training runs.

Do you have ways to get through long runs on the treadmill?  I would some ideas! 


  1. wow! High-5 to you ;-) My 'mill record is 5 miles (last winter), and that was a struggle.Prior to that, I had only been able to make it to 4 miles. I can handle intervals (sometimes), but even with music (or tv), it's just too repetitive and robotic for me.

  2. I would do the same thing!! I kept looking at the wind this past weekend and luckily the trail I ran on was sheltered and I didn't even notice the wind. I have run two 20 mile runs on the treadmill, because I'm also not into slipping on the ice in the winter or being out in -10 degree weather (Ohio)! Our treadmill is in the basement with a nice big TV in front of it. I usually start with a movie, and then move on to the mindless TV you mentioned. I love watching HGTV shows or the Bachelor. That stuff just goes on for hours!
    Good job on getting your run done!!

  3. Long runs on the treadmill are definitely a test of mental strength. Kudos to you for tackling as many miles as you did. Mindless TV always helps me to get through a long run (or in my current case, a walk) on the treadmill. On Saturday I resorted to catching up on the latest season of Bachelor in Paradise on the iPad (I love that our gym has free wifi). It doesn't get more mindless, and trashy, than that!

  4. I could never do it. The most I have run is 4.

  5. Kudos to you for doing a run of that distance on the TM. Perhaps if I was at the gym running I would be able to hang on longer but on my home TM I can never seem to go that far cus I get pre-occupied with all the other stuff that needs done!

    That is so sweet that Tom stopped by the gym to give you some treats!

  6. Actually, I think all of your ideas are fabulous!
    I rarely run on a treadmill unless like in your instance, weather forces it!
    My longest was an 18 miler too, and I swore I'd never do that ever again, LOL Of course a few months later the weather was so bad for so many days in a row again and I was forced to do a 16 on it.
    It isn't so much the mileage, as the time. I mean techincally they say it takes 3-4 miles on a treadmill to equal 1 on the road, so the miles aren't the hard part, its all that bored time!0
    Treadmills have a good purpose, they are better than nothing. But like you if I am on one I need a TV in front of me. If it's going to be a while, I need a good movie, with loud sound:) And I know its bad for the body, but it's the one time that I actually run with ice-water. I figure cold water like that during a run every once in a while can't hurt me that much:)
    Great job though, I am always impressed when others can pull off long runs on treadmills, because they are just not easy getting through at all!

  7. Great tips! I've done some long runs on the treadmill too while training for half marathons, and I've used a lot of these strategies! Each time the treadmill shut off I also took a break which was very helpful mentally, and I'd take a very short walk break every 5 minutes to break it up and make it less monotonous. I also made it through by watching HGTV. For some reason watching people renovate their houses really takes my mind off of the pain of running! Great job on the 18 miler, you totally deserve Starbucks after that!

  8. Love your tips! I trained for my early spring half marathon all on the treadmill and did a few of my marathon long runs on the mill as well (16 being my longest) and the little things certainly do help. I love the idea of taking breaks to fuel! I got by mostly on trash TV and bargaining with myself...it was also nice to see the countdown timer on my treadmill which reminded me that there was an end in sight!

  9. I tried to comment on my PC and couldn't. I'm using my phone. Weird! Anyway, I'm very impressed you did that many miles on the TM. I think 7 is my record. I'd be ok with interesting TV I think. I want to thank you Pam for your kind words and encouragement! It means a lot.

  10. WOW!!! I can't imagine running that long on a treadmill! Way to go!!!

  11. I'm not very good at long runs on the treadmill but being from the Canadian Prairies, winter runs aren't very realistic a lot of the year. I found an indoor track where I can complete my long runs. I do my short runs on the treadmill and the longer ones at the track. It's still a lot of laps of the track (100 and up) but I find it less boring than the treadmill. Sometimes there's a fitness class being held in the middle, that gives me something to distract myself and I run by huge mirrors that look down onto the lane swimming and recreation pools. :)

  12. You know I've logged a lot of miles on the treadmill, so I am SO proud of you!! It's hard to do, but it looks like you did it right!! Great job!

  13. I give you a TON of credit for running so many miles on a treadmill! No joke, I can usually make it to 3 or 4 miles, MAX, before I become so completely miserable and frustrated and bored that I HAVE to stop. I just can't do it. I've run in the pouring rain, snow, extreme cold, etc., just to avoid that treadmill, haha. But you definitely know how to get it done -- WTG!

  14. I think the only way I could be on a treadmill that long is if I could stream Netflix and I found a great show to binge on. Kudos to you for getting it done!

  15. I just came across this post on your site and loved it. I had so many long runs on the treadmill, too, during my training for the NYC Marathon. A long run on the treadmill can really be dreadful. I did 16, 18 and 20 Milers on it. The only thing I like about it is that it trains your mind to push through boredom:)