How to Survive Long Runs on the Treadmill

What’s the longest you’ve run on a treadmill?

Me: 20 miles while staring at a brick wall.

What?! After 20 minutes I want to poke my eyes out, how do you do it?

Me: There are a ton of mental tricks, but I’ve just fallen in love with how running makes me feel.

Ahh, I only run so I can eat and not weigh 400 lbs.

This is a true conversation and one that I tend to have with some variation on a pretty regular basis once people find out about RunToTheFinish. On another level, there are those who have taken to the concept, but wonder why they run slower on treadmill.

Do I mind the questions? Nope! I’ll talk running with anyone, anytime!

7 Tips for Treadmill Long Runs

I’ve spent plenty of Saturday mornings happily hammering out 13+ miles with only my thoughts (oh and iPod!)…so you could say I feel like a pro at providing tips on how to get through some extended time on the treadmill.

All right sure that quote technically comes from people in prison, but treadmill running really isn’t all that bad!

In fact, there are actually some serious benefits to doing some treadmill running, including giving your knees a break and switching things up!

I’ve detailed them all here with some other insane mill runners: Benefits of treadmill running.

What’s more important getting in your training run or a little mental discomfort? Mental discomfort that could serve you come race day! treadmill long run

Some of these are obvious solutions, but none the less great ideas and reminders that you CAN do this if you need to!

Half marathon training on the treadmill is totally doable and doesn’t mean you won’t be prepared for the race, let those silly thoughts go.


I’ve made many a deal with myself like “I can only watch Real Housewives” while I’m on the treadmill. These are mindless shows that I don’t have to be too involved in and would never let myself sit around and watch.

Many other runners I know save Netflix shows or record movies to watch during their run. It can take your mind off of the treadmill and remind you to enjoy yourself!

If you’re watching LIVE TV it’s an easy opportunity to build in some change by increasing the pace during commercials. Mute the TV for those few minutes and focus just on your form, then relax again once the show returns.


This won’t work for everyone, but the truth is that with a good sturdy treadmill you can indeed READ!! Grab the large print books from the library, your newest copy of Runner’s World or your Kindle with the font all the way up.

Reading on the treadmill used to be one of my favorite ways to pass the time on longer runs!

Even if you choose not to read during the run, a few pages of Runner’s World could help ensure you spend at least 1/2 mile walking for both your warm up and cool down. I never seem to make it through all the magazines I love, so this is a chance to get some extra motivation out of those articles!

Checkout these Top 50 Running Books for ideas >>Great running shirts


Science has proven that music can indeed help us to runner farther or workout harder, so why not take full advantage of that?!

Long time readers know that inside or out, my favorite thing to do is spend part of the run in quiet then part of the run listening to an audiobook or podcast.

On the treadmill, I’ll switch to music for the last few  miles which helps to keep the pace on track and push me through any final mental wall.

Checkout these Top Podcasts for Runners and Top Audiobooks for ideas>>


Stop trying to run the entire thing at an even pace, this is play time!! Outside it’s called running fartleks, on the treadmill I think it’s called sanity savers.

Here are some of the ways I keep it interesting:

  • Every 5 minutes change the incline or pace
  • Use each commercial break as a reminder to up the pace
  • Do ladder runs which take advantage of your changing energy (increase pace .1 every mile until half way and then work your way back down)
  • Do an interval every time they say a certain word during your show (healthier than the original version which is a drinking game)
  • Checkout my treadmill training guide for 3 treadmill workouts
  • Or checkout these 7 Boredom Busting Treadmill Workouts

treadmill workout

Some people will tell you that running on the treadmill is easier and that’s why it doesn’t prepare you for races, but that’s only true if you aren’t taking full advantage of it with inclines, speed plays and consistency.


Ahhh just because you might not be wearing your fuel belt, doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan for fuel! Get that water bottled filled up and ready to sip, bring your chomps or gels or electrolytes!

You may need them even more if the run feels like a mental struggle.

In fact, the treadmill is actually an excellent time to really test out your half marathon fuel!

With everything close at hand, including a bathroom, you can test out whole food options or a new gel to see how your stomach is going to react. It’s also a chance to see what water consumption keeps you hydrated without the need to hit the potty every couple of miles!

Checkout these whole food running fuel options>>


While I can indeed run my 20 miles on a solo treadmill in my basement, for many it’s way easier at the gym.

First, you could ask a friend to meet you and run along side you for some chatting, second you can simply spend hours watching others workout which makes you feel kind of bad ass as they come and go, but you remain!

Finally…let’s be honest there is something about a runner hoping on a treadmill next to you. A little inner talk starts “Oh look at your speed, yeah well I’m going to out last you“.

There is NOTHING wrong with having little competitions like this to keep your spirits up and your feet moving.Staying warm on the way to the gym


My dear friend Jodi has an amazing support crew around her and I LOVED to see kids making signs for her which she could post around her treadmill.

Others I know have family members stop in throughout the run to give them a high five, tell them how strong they look and remind them of their race goal!!


Break the mileage into segments and reward yourself at the end of the segment.

Slow the speed and walk for 30 seconds or so and get a good long drink. Stop the treadmill and hit the restroom.

Hop off and stretch if you need to.

Short little breaks will not hurt your training in the long run and will help you keep mentally strong to finish your mileage on the treadmill.

Winter pushing you to more treadmill runs? Tips from a treadmill running pro to survive #runchat #marathontraining Click To Tweet


If you are lucky enough to have a treadmill like mine with the built in Google Maps then you can actually pretend like you’re outside running!

If you know your race course you can plug it in or use one on the treadmill giving you either a street view or map view, definitely a fun way to mix things up!visual maps on the nordictrack treadmill


Not only is it nice to have a towel to wipe down the buckets of sweat you’re likely to work up as the gym is going to be warmer than the miles you’ve been putting in outside, but it also works for focus.

I love to toss the towel over the screen so I can’t spend every mile looking at my distance and time. You gotta block those out just like you do outside!


Sometimes you just don’t have the combined mental and physical energy for hours on the treadmill. In those instances, it’s time for splitting your run…the weather might still mean 2 treadmill runs, but potentially it could mean part on the treadmill and part outside.

If it’s 2 treadmill runs, choose to make one shorter and faster, the other longer at your easy pace.

Looking for More Treadmill Running Tips:

What’s your longest treadmill run?

What keeps you going on longer treadmill days?

Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish

Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinishRunning_motivation_thumb

Sign Up to Receive a Weekly Newsletter with Top Running Tips

How to Survive Long Runs on the Treadmill is written by amanda for

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like