We have all been there. Either it’s freezing cold, or super hot, or you have a twenty miler on the schedule. Maybe you are in a new city and find yourself stuck on the treadmill, which can feel a bit like you are stuck on a hamster wheel. Whether you are too cold or too hot or the workout just seems super long, on these days brain engagement is an important thing to keeping your mind busy. After all, a busy brain will help you finish to completion.
There are many tricks to keeping your brain engaged but sometimes you need just to get started. Let’s tackle that task first.
You’ve probably heard the cliche, “The first step is the hardest.” This is also true for running. If you sometimes struggle just to get started try the 10-minute trick. Hear me out here! Get yourself dressed and force yourself out the door. Promise yourself you will run for at least 10 minutes. Here is where I often make a deal with myself: when the 10-minute alarm goes off if I’m not “into it” I can turn around and head home.
What typically happens is I find that I can keep moving. If not, nothing lost, at least I have gotten some mileage in.
Boredom Busters for the Treadmill
If you’re looking for ways not to get bored during a run, you are in the right place. Specifically speaking of the treadmill, there are some great tips to keep you moving.
My favorite boredom buster for the treadmill is to do some type of interval. Think: Push all the buttons! When you say intervals most people think speed work. However, it does not have to be.
If you struggle to keep yourself on the treadmill, consider running intervals. And I also find it helpful to jump on with a plan. For example, I might take a post-it note and write this plan:
Four Mile Interval Run
- 800-meter warm-up
- 400 meters 5K pace
- 400 meters 10K pace
- 400 meters walk
- (repeat 3 more times)
- 800 cool down
Another option for brain engagement is working the incline on the treadmill. These are also called Tread-Hills. For this type of workout, you simply break the workout up as mentioned above, but adding incline. There are two schools of thought on this.
Some people challenge themselves by holding a steady pace while increasing incline, and others give themselves a pace break when doing a big incline. It’s up to you!
Pinterest is a wealth of information when looking for incline workouts.
- 5 minute warm-up 0% incline
- 3 minutes at 1% incline, easy pace
- 2 minutes 3% incline, 5K pace
- 2 minutes walk 0% incline
- 3 minutes walk 5% incline
- Repeat the 10-minute set 2 more times
3. Bring a Training Buddy
You wouldn’t think it, but having an accountability partner will have a multifaceted benefit. First, it gets you to the gym or on the treadmill. Second, having someone to share the misery. I mean share the joy of the workout with is helpful.
Whether you are doing the same workout or each doing your own thing, a workout buddy will help with your engagement.
4. TV or Movie!
One great benefit of the treadmill is you can look at your screen. Some runners have a “guilty pleasure” program that they only watch on the treadmill. One particularly brutal cold snap I decided to watch a comedy that friends had been recommended. That 90-minute comedy got me through two solid runs on my treadmill!
I just covered up my monitor, pushed play on the DVD player, set my timer for 45 minutes, and ran a steady pace. The time was over before I knew it!
Warning: Particularly funny movies can be dangerous on the treadmill! Be careful if you start laughing too hard!
Engagement Tactics for Road, Trail or Treadmill!
These tactics will work whether you are running indoors, outside on the road, or on your favorite trail.
1. Speed Work
Speed work is a good way to keep your brain busy on the treadmill or on the track. Be sure you head out with a plan. It’s especially nice if you can run to your workout place. That gives you additional miles plus some time to mentally prepare for the workout.
2. Favorite Track Workout
There’s something about looping the oval to exhaustion that will keep your brain busy and engaged! 400 Repeats is my personal favorite. To get your target time, figure out your 5K PR pace per mile. Your first 400 should be at around that pace; then each should get slightly faster in sets of 3.
- 800 warm-up
- 3 x 400 (getting faster each one) (Rest 2:00 between)
- Repeat twice more
- 800 cool down
3. Mix It Up
Another way to fight boredom is to head out with a plan. For example, you could decide you will run 4 miles breaking it into 800s. Alternating easy/hard by 800s is a good engagement for your body and brain.
Another option if you are running long is to break it into two-mile segments. You might run 2 miles easy by 2 miles at half marathon race pace, by 2 more miles easy. You get the idea.
Listening to podcasts is another way to keep your brain busy. There are podcasts available on everything from Dungeons and Dragons to running. Only you can know what is engaging to you! Podcasts are a great way to let your brain loose.
5. Books on Tape
Some runners love to listen to books on tape when they run. Others feel that they can’t focus enough to comprehend the plot. This is another tactic you might wish to try to fight boredom.
Music is probably the most popular way to fight boredom while running. Many people do report that they don’t think they actually “hear” or register the music for much of the run.
7. Tuning In To the Environment
If you are an early morning runner, simply tuning in to the world around you could help fight boredom. Notice the sunrise. Listen to the birds as the world wakes up. Take note of squirrels scampering about. The earth itself is naturally engaging if you focus in on it.
When you do that, you may find yourself tuning in to your own breathing and footfalls in a way you had not done prior.
8. Join a Running Group!
Perhaps my favorite piece of advice for runners looking for boredom busters is to join a running group. This will help you find in-person accountability partners. Your area may have group run opportunities where you can find like-minded people with which to share running!
Even online groups offer engagement, interesting challenges and may help rejuvenate your running.
If you are finding yourself bored by your workout, there are many things you can do to get yourself back into the swing of things. It just takes a little creativity and ingenuity!