12 Fun Ways to Workout on a Treadmill

I am not a fan of the treadmill.  Many call it the dreadmill.  It has been defined by the Urban Dictionary as the “conveyor belt to nowhere“. But if you want to keep fit and continue training, sometimes you need to consider a treadmill workout. 

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Perhaps the weather is frightful? Or you are travelling and that hotel treadmill is calling out to you?  On Shelter-in-Place orders? Treadmill walking and running doesn’t have to be boring.  Here are a dozen ways to keep it interesting.

If you are new to treadmills, please also read my Beginner’s Guide to The Treadmill.

1. Listen to Music

I know, I know… this one is obvious, right?! But I had to include it because it does help cut through the boredom.

Studies have shown that we workout harder with less perceived effort when we listen to music.  This can lead to a 15% increase in performance without even knowing it.  

Music with a beat that matches the intensity of the workout seems to work the best at increasing performance, according to science.  But I say whatever gets you pumped is perfect.  So, whether that is classical music, country, pop or heavy metal, go for it.  Your playlist is personal, and it should inspire and motivate you. 

So, download a great playlist and hop onto a treadmill.

For some ideas to get your started, here are 17 songs from my eclectic running play list

  • Despacito by Luis Fonsi & Justin Bieber
  • Heathens by Twenty One Pilots
  • Land of Confusion by Disturbed
  • Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
  • Hand Clap by Fitz and The Tantrums
  • Thunderstruck by AC/DC
  • Immortals by Fall Out Boy
  • Bullet Proof by La Roux
  • Steal My Sunshine by Len
  • Saviour by Lights
  • Stuttering by Fefe Dobson
  • Don’t Stop the Party by Pitbull
  • Seek & Destroy by Metallica
  • In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins
  • Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift
  • Fight Song by Rachel Platten
  • Brave by Sara Bareilles

Those last two songs have special meaning in my heart, as a breast cancer survivor. But they pump up my runs like none of the other songs. 

What is on your playlist?

2. Listen to an Audio Book or Podcast

An alternative to listening to music is to listen to an audio book or podcast.  This isn’t my thing, but I know many who do this.  There are some great podcasts related to walking and running that you can download.  Check out this top 10 list on Strava’s Blog.   

Of course, the podcast or audio book doesn’t have to be running or walking related.  You could delve into a fantasy realm in a fiction audio book too. What a wonderful way to pass the time.

Bose Sport Wireless Earbuds
Perfect sound for treadmill running.

3. Watch Videos

One of my favorite things to do on the treadmill for a long run is watch movies on my iPad.  I will try to find a movie that is the exact length of the run I want to do.  That way, I don’t have to try to fumble to find something else to watch if it ends early. And if the movie is longer, I feel compelled to run to the end and risk over-training.  But that is just me. 

I find action movies are best as they are usually upbeat and fast paced.  Comedies are also good because they are usually light and airy.  I am not one for deep thinking while running.  Movies that require me to be invested in the plot require more of a walking pace or sitting, in my opinion.  If I am walking on the treadmill, dramas or documentaries are perfect.  I am not a fan of horror movies on the treadmill, especially those ones that startle you.  I would probably fall off the treadmill. 

But, you do you! Whatever keeps you motivated to workout is perfect.

4. Do the TV Commercial Challenge

My husband watches TV while running on the treadmill.  I find the commercials annoying, as they draw my attention back to how tired I feel, so I usually stick to Netflix. 

But one fun way to work around commercials is to do a TV Commercial Challenge workout.

The way it works is that when the commercials come on, you work harder by moving faster or increase the incline.  When your show comes back on, you go back to your regularly scheduled walk or run.  

Now, you could work harder during all the commercials during the break. Or you could alternate by working hard on one commercial and then easing your pace or incline for the next commercial.  It is really what you make it and depends on your current fitness level.  Always work to your current fitness level. 

5. Run Intervals

The TV Commercial Challenge is really a fun way to do an interval workout.  There are other ways to do treadmill intervals.  You can have fun with these too.  Varying your speed or your incline can be a great way to relieve boredom of the dreadmill.

Fartlek Workout

Fartlek is just a fancy name for speed work.  It is a randomized interval of running faster for a period of time.  If you are on a gym treadmill, you could do fartleks by running faster when someone with a blue top walks by, then slow down when someone with a red top shows up.  You could run faster when a certain song comes on, then slower for the next song.  There are endless ways to do this. 

Interval Workout

You could set your intervals. Some treadmills will even allow you to program them yourself.  You could run faster for a set time period, say 2 minutes, then run slower for 2 minutes.  Beginners can do run: walk intervals by running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute, for example. 

Treadmill Programs:

Most treadmills have pre-programmed workouts that can be fun.  There are various hill and cross-country programs that can mimic various terrain.  Some will allow you to run by heart rate and adjusts the speed and incline to keep you in different heart rate zones.  These pre-set programs may be patterned or randomized.  I like the randomized ones, as they keep me guessing what is next.  And they can help pass the time on an otherwise boring workout. 

6. Do a Ladder Workout

One form of interval workout is called a Ladder Workout.  It increases in intensity gradually to peak, then gradually takes you down the ladder of intensity.  For example, one workout may be starting with an easy run to warm up, then doing increasing intervals at a faster pace. 

For example, you could run 1 minute fast, then 1 minute slow.  Next you run 2 minutes fast and 1 minute slow.  Then 3 minutes fast and 1 minute slow.  You can keep going until you get to a set time, such as 5 minutes fast. Then you go back down, next running 4 minutes fast, 1 minute slow, 3 minutes fast, 1 minute slow and so on.  You get the picture, right? 

Paying attention to what comes next can take your mind off the fact that you have now ran a total of 34 minutes in intervals. 

7. Work Out with a Friend

Buddies are a great distraction.  I love my running buddies.  Chatting about life’s struggles and successes can be a great distraction to a boring workout.  So, grab a buddy and head to the gym. You will need to workout on side-by-side treadmills.  But you will find the time passes very quickly with great company.  

8. Challenge Another Runner

While you are at the gym with your buddy, challenge them to work a little harder.  Or, if you are solo at the gym, do a secret challenge with your treadmill neighbor.  See if you can outlast them.  Who gets off the treadmill first? 

You could also make new friends and simply chat with your treadmill neighbor.  Although many people working out solo in the gym don’t really want to be chatting. Most just want to get their workout done.  Use your best judgement on this.  If you want to test the waters, keep it short and see how they respond to you.  Don’t push it if they seem cold to the idea and aren’t chatty. 

9. Run a Virtual Trail

I have run on many commercial treadmills at hotels and gyms.  My favorite ones are those that have virtual terrains on bigger screens.  I have run virtually all over the world.  From tropical rain forests in Brazil to desert trails in Nevada.  I have even ran parts of the Great Wall of China virtually.  Some treadmill videos will speed up and slow down to match your pace.

You can also stream virtual runs on YouTube, watching them on a smart TV or tablet.  Here are 5 that I enjoy. Although you may want to watch the Niagara Falls one on mute, for reasons that are obvious after a few minutes of watching it.

There are two mildly annoying things about YouTube virtual runs.  One is the pop-up ads that can ruin the experience.  The second is the pace doesn’t match what I am running.  But they can be fun and help pass the time, none-the-less. 

10. Run with a Virtual Trainer

NordicTrack makes an interactive treadmill with a built-in personal trainer.  Their signature iFit Coach experience provides world class workouts for all levels.  It’s pretty cool, as the trainers take control of your incline and pace in real-time. 

NordicTrack makes a great interactive treadmill

According to Consumer Advocates, the NordicTrack 6.5 Si Treadmill was the Overall Best Treadmill for Home Users. It’s been in this spot for several years now. Nordic Track really does make a great treadmill.

You can also download treadmill training apps on your phone.  I haven’t tried any of these yet, but they look interesting. I know others who use them. If you try them, let me know your thoughts.  Did you enjoy the workouts? 

11. Play a Video Game

My husband plays online Yahtzee with someone who plays while on the treadmill.  At first I thought that it would be awkward.  But I tried it and it wasn’t too bad.  It would take some practice to make it a bit easier. 

I had to slow my pace considerably to tap on the keys of my iPad. But, I think the more I do this, the better it would get.  I did accidentally put a large straight into the Yahtzee slot, losing out on some big points. 

Walking on a treadmill playing video games would be much easier than running. This is likely the better way to go. It isn’t easy to type on a keypad when running, in my opinion.  But, hey, if you have the skills, go for it! Just be careful not to fall off.

Slower paced games would be best, I think.  Yahtzee, solitaire, and word games would be best suited for a treadmill workout.  Games that you can control via voice command would also be ideal.  It takes skill to type while on the treadmill, as I have said, and likely only good for a walking workout.

Play Zombies, Run!

Need more motivation to run?  Try the app Zombies, Run!  It is a virtual running game where you become the hero and escape zombies.  Collect supplies, medicine and ammunition along the way to build your base and survive the zombie hordes.  It works both for outdoor runs and on a treadmill.   You can even share your experiences with others who play the game. 

But don’t get too addicted to the game or you may find yourself over-training.

Disclaimer: If you play video games while on a treadmill, do so at your own risk. Slow down, preferably at a walking pace, and be careful. Don’t fall off and get hurt. That is a valid risk when you are distracted on a treadmill.

12. Practice Mindful Meditation

I have meditated while on the treadmill.  It is a relaxing way to get in tune with your body and de-stress.  I wrote about meditation while running here.  While mindful meditation during running is best done outside in the fresh air and sunshine, it can also be done on the treadmill. 

The idea is to focus on your breathing while paying attention to how your body feels.  You notice your surroundings, but don’t focus on any one thing in particular.  You notice your thoughts, but let them roll right on past you.  The main focus is your breathing.  Feel your chest rise and fall.  Listen to the sound as you inhale and exhale.  Match your breathing with your foot falls.  Let it come naturally and don’t force it. 

Time moves quickly for me when I meditate.  I do find my mind wanders from time to time.  This is completely normal.  But, then I gently bring myself back to focusing on my breathing and foot strike.  It can really make you feel good having a clear mind at the end of a run. 

Headspace is an app I used to help me get started with meditation.  I liked their free 10-day app trial.  It was just enough to get me on the path to mindfulness. Headspace also has some guided meditations through the Nike Run Club app specifically for running.  I haven’t tried these yet.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Be sure to check out my other articles in the Being Active Archives. You never know what fun things you will find to try next.


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  1. I choose most prominent treadmill in gym for early morning workout.
    Creates opportunity to scan entire operation, watch people, & briefly communicate w variety of people.
    I have very intense workout on treadmill…generally burn 1000 calories per hour.
    I use this one hour period to ‘think’, plan the day, etc. I also do a lot of mental gymnastics, repetitive mathmatical calculations, step counting, calorie counting, etc…
    I’m also positioned in front of TV so I can follow weather, sports, & news.
    And, I have friends who walk next to me…so we have conversations (their walks are shorter & less intense).
    I maintain sense of awareness: no ear pods, no music, and I leave my cell phone at home….

    1. You have shared some great tips. My husband plays math games in his head; calculating out pace and distance, etc. My brain doesn’t like to do math when I run. LOL. I tend to think more about what to write in a blog article. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. IFit is pretty amazing! I have virtually visited many interesting and beautiful places. This week, it was Egypt and Rapa Nui.

    1. Video games on the treadmill are definitely not for everyone. I struggled with it when I tried. I am not very coordinated though. But some are proficient at it, so it can be a fun way to pass the time with a little practice. It would be better while walking on the treadmill, for sure. The zombie game is fun for runners, however.

  3. Wonderful ideas! I plan my time on the treadmill for when the game show Jeopardy is playing on TV. That half hour passes very quickly while I’m exercising my body and brain!

  4. I love putting on a tv show that I usually consider to be ‘junk tv’ and running while watching it. It’s my guilty pleasure lol I love that it can make workout time a ‘treat’ while also encouraging me to stay active.

    1. This is a great idea to keep moving. Thanks for sharing. I m a lazy person sometime. It can give me a good motivation to do more sport. I have just received for gift a new shoes that need to be use more!

  5. When I used to walk on my parents’ treadmill I would read while I walked. It was a bit of a balancing act and took longer than running, but I like to multitask.

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