By Simon Gould
Treadmills have a terrible reputation. People who like to run outside look down on anyone who runs on a treadmill. When I’ve told people I exercise on a treadmill, I sometimes get a comment from people who say how boring it is. I explain I like it but that gets me no where! So lets look at why it’s considered boring and how to make it fun.
You don’t go anywhere – Treadmills used to be punishment for prisoners many years ago. You’re running on the same spot so you have nothing much to look at. If you have a mirror like many gyms, you’re looking at the same view. Yet you have to concentrate so you don’t fall off and that’s where a lot of the boredom comes in.
The time – Because it’s boring the time passes very slowly. This is made worse by the fact you have the timer telling you how long you’ve been running for. That timer seems to go incredibly slowly! The distance and calorie counter also take a long time to rise. Outside time passes quickly, before you know it you’ve run 5k and you have a sense of achievement.
Lonely – This is especially the case if you run at home. There’s no one around to spur you on. Even in a gym, unless you go with a friend, the treadmill is a lonely machine. The noise makes it difficult to talk to people. On the weights sections you can strike up conversations, on the treadmill less so.
No community – There are running clubs and meetings for people who want to run outside. You will make friends with people who have a lot in common with. You wouldn’t really meet someone to run on a treadmill. Like the lonely part above, you’re really on your own and boredom occurs quickly.
Cost and maintenance – Treadmills cost a lot of money. Beside your home and car, a treadmill could become the next most expensive thing you buy. Plus you need to look after it. It needs lubrication every few months. If it goes wrong you might have to pay someone to come and fix it. The warranty can be very limited.
No running apps – The amount of running apps have greatly increased for those who run outside. They can give you all kinds of statistics about your run. They tell you the route and how many calories you’ve burned and plot graphs of your progress. A treadmill is just pounding out the miles with all the other boring aspects I’ve mentioned above.
Intervals – You can do these on a track but they’re made for the treadmill. You alternate between running very fast for a distance and then recover. You then repeat this sequence. This is great for improving your overall running speed. In the gym where I run I see runners coming in just to do this form of training.
TV and music – What better way to prevent any boredom by watching your favorite TV show while running on a treadmill. Listen to music to get you running the miles. I personally like the thumping dance music of the 90’s to get me going. You could even listen to podcasts or audio books. There are many things you can do to keep you occupied on a treadmill.
New technology – Treadmills are now becoming bluetooth devices and companies are springing up to take advantage of this new technology. Zwift is leading the way. You buy a Zwift runpod which you attach to your running shoe and this connects to a smart television which displays your run on the TV like a computer game.
With Zwift you run with other people or load a workout and you can get encouragement from other runners. Zwift organizes competitions for everyone using the system and you can unlock rewards for certain achievements. You can run in various locations around the world. People have been running on a treadmill instead of outside because they enjoy it so much!
Peloton tread is a treadmill that is similar to Zwift. There is a large screen attached to the treadmill and you can take part in classes where the instructor goes through your run with you. There are all kinds of routines you can download ranging from 5 minutes to an hour. This means anyone can get encouragement as they run. It’s quite expensive but worthy of investigation.
Inclines and declines – With a treadmill you can choose to go up or down a hill at leisure. Outside you have to follow the terrain. Inside I can choose to go up a steep incline at the very gradient I want. It’s not advisable to run on an incline for long periods but you can get some nice variety on a treadmill. Plus you can replicate a race route.
A treadmill has traditionally been boring and the case against it was strong. However, with the new technology, running on a treadmill can be made very fulfilling and fun. Runners are increasingly running inside. The popularity of these new smart treadmills are increasing quickly. This is as their cost is decreasing.
If you take your running seriously then you may already be using one for interval training. It’s perfect to help you improve your personal best times. Whatever you prefer the treadmill is now not getting to be so boring. Fun can be had, and treadmills still sell well so people are clearly enjoying their experience.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*