Fitness / Running

8 Tips for Running Long Distance on a Treadmill

It can be done! Marathoners share how they make it work.

If your goals this year include finally checking that half-marathon or marathon off of your bucket list, here’s your friendly reminder from Aaptiv that—ahem—it’s time to get moving. Running long distances requires a heightened dedication to training.

Depending on your location and the season, you might be stuck collecting those KGs indoors on a treadmill. Anyone who’s done it knows that tackling long distance on a treadmill can get boring quick, but it’s an ideal alternative if you can’t make it outside. “The treadmill is a great way to get in your miles when you live in a city with harsh winters,” says multi-marathoner Stephanie Quach. “You don’t have to worry about frostbite or slipping on black ice. The treadmill is a lot safer.”

Aaptiv has trainers that can guide you along in your training every step of the way. Our marathon classes are in app now!

We asked runner experts and marathoners how they go the distance on a treadmill. Keep reading to find out how to keep up stamina and avoid boredom.

Go during off hours—and cover the ‘stop’ button.

The treadmill can get boring fast. Running outside comes with scenery changes, fresh air, and space. The treadmill comes with a television (maybe) and crowds. As Quach says, the downfall of a treadmill is how easy it is to tune out and not focus on the fitness task at hand. Plus, the dreaded stop button makes it all too tempting to hop off when boredom sets in or when people start to give side-eye because of how long you’re using the machine. Quach suggests going during less busy times. She also recommends bringing a towel to cover up the temptation to ‘pause’ because you’re a little tired (or bored).

Show up with a plan.

While running outside for a few hours on a Saturday can be enough of a preparation in the early stages of long-distance training, when you’re taking those miles indoors, marathoner and Founder of GreenBlender Jenna Tanenbaum says that it’s smarter to have a game plan from the moment you check-in to your gym.

“I always like to have a plan, either written down or an Aaptiv running class pre-selected and ready to go. That way, you have already mentally committed to your treadmill workout before you even lace up your sneakers,” she says. “If you already have your workout outlined, it will be much harder to call it quits before you hit start.”

Try four minutes on, one minute off.

You’ll need to have many steady-pace training days to prepare for a half or a full marathon. But former ultramarathoner and personal trainer Tanner Spees says it’s also important to educate your body to pace itself. He explains that many new runners get into a rhythm where they feel like they can ‘go forever.’ Then, they end up walking for a mile on race day. One way to prevent this disappointment is using the tempo method, featuring four-minutes on, one-minute off strategy. During those four minutes, you run as fast as you can. Then for one, you walk or jog comfortably. “This teaches you to take breaks, even when you don’t think you need them. [It] reminds you that rest is a necessary part of training,” he adds. How long do you do this? For as long as you can, but at least thirty minutes to prove effective.

Get comfortable.

Because running on a tread doesn’t mimic the experience of different terrains, which helps you to perfect your form, eight-time marathon runner and high school cross-country coach Sarah Pisano suggests paying extra attention to where you are on the belt and your posture. Especially when it comes to your placement near the screen. “Don’t run too close to the console. Make sure you give yourself some space from the front of the treadmill. I find [that] I run with my wrists up way too high when I run on the treadmill to prevent myself from hitting the front console. This causes a lot of tension in my upper body and isn’t something that translates well to an outdoor race,” she shares. After all, the more comfortable you are, the longer you will run.

Increase and decrease your speed and incline.

When you’re outside, your lungs naturally adapt to conditions, including incline and air quality. Indoors, it’s up to you to create that resistance. That’s why marathoner and personal trainer Alli Felsenthal suggests varying your pace and your grade during long runs. “This will help to work your endurance and VO2 levels/oxygen intake available to use while running. This will also help to increase a runner’s ability to maintain throughout the run without feeling the need to stop,” she shares.

Break it up with other workouts.

Long-distance running isn’t just about running and running and running… and running. Rather, it’s about preparing your body for that hour—or hours—of trotting on race day. It’s important to build your other muscle groups to reduce the chance of injury, and frankly, as Quach says, to break up training days. “Keep it interesting by incorporating a few high-intensity-interval sessions during the run, as well as a few hills,” she suggests. You could also run for an hour, take a class or complete an Aaptiv program. Then run for another hour, to prevent stagnation.

Use music to motivate you.

Whether you need to focus on meeting a deadline at work, building your energy for a night out, or nursing your emotions during a breakup, music has a way of shifting your spirits. Quach says an upbeat playlist inspires her motivation and keeps her moving on a treadmill. She also uses it as a way to prevent herself from taking breaks when she feels like tossing in the towel. “Perhaps you wanted to listen to your favorite singer’s new album. Do not allow yourself to stop running until you have listened to all the songs,” she suggests.

Try audiobooks.

If you’ve never trained for a distance past six miles, you might not know how you’ll feel once you teeter over 60 minutes of running. Music could work for a while. But, you might also start to hate the sound of it as you pound the pavement —or the belt. For longer training days, Tanenbaum turns to audiobooks. “If you’re planning on doing a long, slow run on the treadmill, don’t be afraid to distract yourself with a good book,” she shares. Her go-to’s are inspirational fitness autobiographies. These include A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey by Chrissie Wellington and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

If you have to run a long distance on a treadmill, don’t fret.

Come prepared and focus on your form, changing up your workout, or the music in your ears to keep you pushing forward. Luckily, Aaptiv can help you with all of that. Sign up here!

Fitness Running


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