Keeping Boredom at Bay While on the Treadmill

Last week I branched out with my running and tried the treadmill for the first time. While it was certainly a better alternative to slipping on ice and cracking my head open on the sidewalk, I couldn’t help thinking of hamsters the whole time I was running, and my brain got a little restless. As someone who usually runs outside, and who gets bored quite quickly when running around an indoor track (or even an outdoor track, for that matter), I can only assume that staying in one spot as I run and not having the scenery change at all will get old fast if I continue to go the treadmill route.

It seems I’m not the only one who feels this way; my friend Sparkle J recently started an awesome project meant to combat treadmill ennui. Inspired by runners who knit while tackling marathons, and being rather craftily inclined herself, she’s started knitting leg warmers while warming up and cooling down, and is working toward keeping the knitting going as she runs. (Read her blog post about this project here.)

I think Sparkle J’s idea is a great one, and if I knew how to knit I might even try it myself… I’d love to have something to occupy my eyes and brain while I do my time on the treadmill. However, I don’t have the patience at this point in my life to try to learn knitting while also trying to discipline myself to try cross-training and core exercises or, you know, even to get myself out the door to run with Colin* every now and then. The only crafty thing I do is cross-stitch, but there’s no way I could do that while walking, let alone running.

So what does that leave me with? The gym I ran at last week is tiny and the treadmills face the weight benches. I’m not very entertained by watching bros lift things up and put them down, and I also try hard to block out the giant window next to the weight benches that tourists tend to cluster at and take pictures through. I noticed last week that a few of the treadmills have screens attached, and I’m incredibly curious about them. What do they show? Are they some of those “interactive fitness” machines that are like video games? (If so, hells yes!!) Do they even work?

If the screened treadmills turn out to be duds, or if I can never manage to snag one for myself, then what? I’m not sure I could read while running. I listened to my iPod while running last week and though the music helped, my eyes were still restless. Do I start watching episodes of tv shows on the Pod? Do I make a game out of the various flashing lights on the display screen? I suppose I’ll have to figure this out as I go along, and just pray that spring comes quickly with its warmer weather and its lack of ice and unshoveled sidewalks.

Do you struggle with boredom while running on the treadmill? Got any secrets for keeping yourself entertained?


*I did manage to haul my lazy butt out last night to get a quick run in, only because Colin is a very good motivator. It was cold, frikkin’ windy, and the sidewalks were a little treacherous, but it felt good to run. Except for my nose faucet… that didn’t feel too good. Anyway, here’s a terrible picture that shows me ready to face the elements last night… brightest socks and shorts that I own, thermal tights, jacket with reflective bits, snood, and hat. Not pictured: my handy-dandy running light and my thermal running gloves that are starting to fall apart. (More on those infernal things at a later date.)

Kitted out for a night run

(On the topic of this picture… I know I’m breaking one of Runner’s World’s ten “fashion faux pas” here. What’s the obnoxious thing the kids say these days? Sorry not sorry? Yeah, that. I like rocking shorts over tights, and wearing tights on their own leaves me feeling a little… under-dressed, I suppose. (I’m in the Leggings Aren’t Pants camp, at least for myself.) Where do you stand on this fashion issue/non-issue? Shorts over tights – yay or nay?)


4 thoughts on “Keeping Boredom at Bay While on the Treadmill

  1. I hate the dreadmill…I’ve complained about it so many times on my blog! I have nothing to look at, but I feel like I’m going to fall or bounce off it if I don’t keep my eyes on a focal point, so I can’t watch TV…and forget about reading! Also, something about it makes my pace seem harder to maintain than it does outside. I can run a 9:00 mile outside no problem, but on a treadmill it feels like a sprint.

    Still, sometimes it’s necessary because of weather. I find it easier to try and do mixed runs if I have to be on it, like tempo/fartlek/interval runs. They break up the monotony for me. Also, this sounds ridiculous, but if there’s someone else on another treadmill, I actually will focus on them for motivation and kind of secretly compete…I will run faster, longer, add incline, etc. Whatever keeps me going, right?

    • Dreadmill – I love that! I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one who finds it hard to keep up a steady pace on the treadmill… I was going at about 11:00/mile, which is a tad slower than my usual pace – and it was exhausting for some reason.

      I like your idea about doing mixed runs to keep it interesting – I’ll have to try that! And a little competition never hurts if it provides motivation 😉

  2. Thanks for the shoutout, pal! I love the “Dreadmill” comment above. I’m making pretty good progress on the Runs with Sticks project. I can knit and keep a brisk walking pace of 3.2-3.5 mph, but I still haven’t tried running and knitting yet. I’m working my way up slowly. Part of it is that I tend to have terrible arm form while running and I’m afraid my t-rex flailing will get tangled in the yarn. I think I’ll try knit-running outside before I try it on the treadmill. I run on suburban roads where there are fewer prying eyes than at the gym. If I fail miserably, my embarrassment won’t be the talk of the town.

    I’ve also not been running as much as I’d hoped I’d be by this point. I need to get new shoes as the ones I have are terribly old, and I’m about 50lbs heavier than when I ran in college (though my shoes are not of that vintage). I need proper shoes to make running as pain-free as possible. Plus, I’m pushing 40 so I need all the support I can get.

    Re the running tights picture. I’ve got my eye on several pairs from this vendor: The proprietor is a pal of mine from roller derby, and her product is very good quality. I’m in the leggings can be pants sometimes camp. As long as they’re completely opaque and not flesh colored, I’m fine with it for exercise. In non-workout situations, I’m firmly in the leggings are not pants camp. I really want a pair of space print shorts to wear for summer. Yes.

    • No problem, Cubie! 🙂 I also have awful arm form when I run… and the mental image of t-rex flailing made me giggle.

      Thanks for the Thriller Party tip! She has some awesome leggings available. I realized that I’m a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to leggings and working out… when I wear capri-length leggings I’m totally fine wearing them as is, but full-length ones I feel the need to wear shorts over. Maybe because my capris are made of thicker material? My brain is weird.

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