Avoid the “Dreadmill” Effect


by John Stanton

 For some, the idea of treadmill running conjures up expectations of monotony and boredom—but that doesn’t have to be the case. As with any run, a positive experience starts with a bit of planning, some knowledge of the logistics and a sense ofcommitment. Here are some tips to help you avoid the “dreadmill” effect and get the most out of your treadmill workout.

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  • Gear up with a pair of technical shorts and a moisture-wicking top. You’re likely going to sweat more indoors, so set up a cooling fan or go old-school and wear a sweatband.
  • Keep your water bottle handy so you can stay well hydrated; most treadmills even have a convenient water bottle holder. A hand towel is useful to keep yourself and your treadmill dry. Grab one for the equipment and one for yourself.
  • Many runners find music or TV a great motivator and a helpful diversion while on the treadmill. If your gym has wall-mounted TVs, bring your headphones so you can catch up on the news or a favourite show.
  • Do a proper warm up and cool down, just as you would in an outdoor run. To adapt to the assistance of the moving treadmill and the lack of wind resistance, set the grade of the treadmill at about 2%. Increase your intensity and volume gradually.
  • Let your body naturally settle in to your optimal pace. The moving action of the treadmill actually provides some assistance to your running effort, so don’t be surprised if you can run a 5-minutes- per-kilometre pace with the same perceived effort as you run a 6-minutes-per-kilometre pace outdoors.
  • Focus on your form and your position on the treadmill. If you are too far forward, your stride will be too short; if you’re too far back, you risk falling off.
  • In terms of speed work, the treadmill is the perfect place to practice increasing your stride rate, also called cadence. Listen to your foot strike and soon you will be able to find the sweet spot for your foot placement. The less noise your foot strike makes, the more likely you’ve got it right. Start working towards a goal of about 180 foot strikes per minute.
  • Run for time rather than distance. For example, if your summer 10K takes you 60 minutes, run for that amount of time rather than relying on the treadmill’s displayed distance.
  • If your motivation is fading, mix it up. Do some timed sessions of high intensity followed by a recovery set. Try running some sets at a 4% incline for two minutes with two minutes of recovery. Include some fartlek runs in time with your music: run for one song at 80% effort, take it easy for the next song, then do another at 75% effort, and so on. Rather than trying to simply run faster on the treadmill, work at moving up from a 2% to a 4% grade.

With some planning and proper attention, you can emerge from the winter with improved form and a higher level of fitness, having enjoyed your treadmill workouts on those blustery days.


John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.

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