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5 Mind Tricks to Make Treadmill Running Interesting

I was reading Ugly Toes today and saw MG wrote

“Another 3 mile boring treadmill run this morning. Yawn.”

I too have been feeling the dullness of the treadmill lately. This is even despite the factbrain workout treadmill that I’m joggling on the treadmill.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Treadmill running doesn’t have to be drudgery. It has advantages like controlled temperature, controlled speed, and easy access to water. The major downside to treadmills is the lack of scenery change. Here are 5 ways that a joggler can keep treadmill workouts interesting.

1. Visualize an outdoor run

There are some paths you’ve run or joggled so many times you know every tree, bush, and building. If you’ve run it enough, you’ll even know the cracks in the sidewalk. So when you start the treadmill run imagine yourself running the path. See yourself moving along at a regular speed. It helps to find a point in front of you at which to stare. When you get good you’ll find that the distance traveled in your mind is the same as traveled on the treadmill. For example, I can mentally joggle 7 miles from my house to the lake and back. Invariably, the distance on the treadmill will be just over 6.8 miles. It’s uncanny.

2. Count words instead of numbers

There’s a memory technique laid out in Harry Loraine’s excellent book The Memory Book called the Peg System. In it you exchange objects for numbers because objects are easier to remember. But to use the system you have to memorize which object goes with which number. Treadmill running provides a great opportunity to count up to 100 using the peg system. In my brain you’ll hear “tie, Noah, ma, rye, law, shoe, cow…etc”. And if you’re into learning a new language consider counting using foreign words. It’s great fun.

3. Control your mind speed

This trick was inspired by the great physicist Richard Feynman in his book Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman. He describes how the speed of counting in your head is consistent. For example, if you count to 60 it will usually take you the same amount of time. I count to 60 in 48 seconds. It’s weird but it’s always within 2 seconds of that time. Anyway, on a treadmill you can do a counting game like this.

  • Figure out how fast you count by counting to 60 and checking your time.
  • Then try to count to a number that should take exactly 1 minute and see how close you can get.
  • Keep practicing until you have an internal “clock” for exactly 1 minute.
  • Now try and count to a certain distance, say half a mile.

If you get good at this game, you can start running without a watch and still know how far you’ve gone.

4. Practice Pacing

The fastest runners in the world do about 180 steps per minute. When you’re on the treadmill aim for taking the same number of steps. It’s easily done by counting how often one foot hits the moving belt in a minute. Then double it to get your stride count. This exercise will even improve your outdoor running.

5. Focus on focus

This is one of the most difficult mind exercises but one that will improve your running & joggling. Pick a point in front of you and stare. See how long you can focus on the single point without averting your gaze. It’s ok to blink but don’t look anywhere else but the single point. It’s challenging. This is the kind of focus that elite athletes develop and is why they can run without headphones. I’ve been able to joggle on a treadmill and stare at a single point for as long as 25 minutes. The time just flew by.

Treadmill workouts can be boring but they provide an opportunity to train your mind in a way that’s not possible on outdoor runs. Embrace the treadmill. You’ll be a better runner or juggler for it.

Joggle on.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Hi, Average Joggler,
    Thank you for your suggestions about treadmill running. I have been trying to come back from a knee injury and have been struggling on the treadmill. It hasn’t been the physical part of running as much as the mental part of running. If I could just shut my brain down, I wouldn’t have a problem!
    Anyway, I am in the navy reserves, and have to run my 1 1/2 mile Physical Readiness Test run tomorrow, on the treadmill. I will use some of your suggestions to get me through it.
    Thanks again.

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