Group of runners at a gym on treadmills.

8 Tips to Master Long Runs on a Treadmill

If you’ve ever run for any length of time on a treadmill, you know it can get pretty boring quickly. Although running on a treadmill is an ideal alternative if you can’t get outside for a run, tackling a long run on a treadmill can be daunting. Fortunately, the art of mastering a long distance is not as miserable or as difficult as you might think. To help you establish and manage a long run on a treadmill, we’ve provided some insight, tips, and examples of treadmill workouts for long-distance runners.

What is a long run on a treadmill?

Group of people on a treadmill running at the same pace.

It depends on your running experience. For instance, if you’re new to running, knocking out 3 miles on a treadmill might feel like a very long run. But for a more experienced runner, 15 miles or more might be your definition of a long run on a treadmill. Wherever you find yourself, the challenge remains the longer your treadmill run is, the more difficult it tends to be to stay focused and engaged.

Can you train for a marathon on a treadmill?

Two women adjusting the treadmill settings together on their own treadmill.

Yes, plenty of people train for marathons on a treadmill. Long-distance running on a treadmill is just as effective as running outdoors. Although it might feel easier to run on a treadmill for some people, that’s simply due to the lack of wind resistance, extreme temperatures, and the way the belt propels you forward slightly, which makes it easier to take quicker strides. 

Regardless, treadmill running is often the most convenient way to train for a marathon, especially if you can’t get outside regularly to run. And with the right workouts and consistency, you can effectively prepare for any long-distance event.

Learn more about how to recover from long runs or your next marathon here.

8 Tips for long runs on treadmills

Close up of two set of feet running on a treadmill.

Although indoor running has lots of benefits, it has its challenges too. Whether you’re a beginner or have been running for years, these tips can help make your indoor long-running experience more pleasant, manageable, and effective for training purposes.

1. Have a plan.

Without a plan, you’re much more likely to skip out on your runs. (Especially if you dread running indoors!) To increase your motivation, create an indoor running schedule for yourself. It could be as simple as making notes on your calendar to pre-determine which indoor running workouts you’ll complete on certain days of the week.

Having a structured plan for indoor runs will help you stay motivated and eliminate the primary excuse of not knowing what to do. An established routine also makes it easier to track your progress over time and get an idea of how effective your training is.

2. Add some variety.

When you run outside, plenty of sights and sounds surround you and keep your brain busy and occupied. Long runs indoors on a treadmill are much different. The same sounds and scenery surround you for the entire duration of the run, which can get boring.

Adding variety to your routine is a crucial component to keep things interesting! Instead of running the same routes all the time, incorporate hill training workouts, HIIT, and cross-training into your typical routine. Even just breaking up your treadmill long runs can be helpful. For example, you might run for 1 hour on the treadmill, stop and do 30 minutes of bodyweight exercises, and then hop back on the treadmill for another hour. 

Alternatively, another great way to spice up your indoor running routine is to vary your incline. This will also provide a good challenge for your muscles and help you become a stronger runner! Or, you can switch up your pace for 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time before returning to your normal running pace.

3. Listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks.

If you’re looking for a way to make your long runs on your more exciting, listening to music can be very motivating. Music also has the power to lift your spirits, so if you’re feeling down, tired, or unenthusiastic about your run, music can set the right tone.

Similarly, a good audiobook or podcast is an excellent way to distract you from the miles you’re running. Much like running outdoors, where the scenery is constantly changing and keeping you occupied, a good book or podcast will keep your mind occupied while you run.

4. Adjust your treadmill settings.

One of the main complaints many runners have about long runs on treadmills is that it doesn’t accurately translate to outdoor road running. There’s no wind resistance, and the forward motion of the treadmill’s belt can make running feel easier. 

One way to combat these challenges is to adjust your treadmill’s settings. Some experts say setting the treadmill to a 1% grade will help simulate the wind resistance you’d experience while running outdoors. If you’re running faster, you can increase the grade to 2% to simulate natural wind resistance. Or, if you feel like your treadmill is doing most of the propelling work for you, you can increase your treadmill’s incline for more of a challenge.

If you’re primarily running indoors, your body will get used to the feel of running on a treadmill, but running outdoors feels very different! The main benefit of making these adjustments is that when you do run outside, it won’t feel as difficult.

5. Use virtual training apps.

If you just can’t stand running indoors without anything interesting to look at, try using a virtual training app like Vingo. Our app allows you to explore all kinds of running and cycling routes worldwide, transforming boring treadmill long runs into extraordinary adventures. So, instead of staring at the wall, you can be journeying through Iceland with an oceanside view!

To start using a virtual training app, all you have to do is download it and create your user account. Although every app has individual requirements, you can start using Vingo with your current setup. There’s no need to run out and buy any equipment!

6. Get a friend to run with you.

One of the best ways to make running on a treadmill less boring is to run with a friend. Whether you run with a friend at the gym or use a virtual app like Vingo, having someone to run with will make the time go by much faster.

Running with a buddy is also a great motivator. Having someone to chat with will make the time go by faster, and you’ll push each other to keep going when things get tough.

Just make sure your friend is at a similar fitness level so you can both enjoy the experience.

7. Divide your long-distance run into two.

Here’s how it works: instead of doing one long run on the treadmill, break that run into two shorter runs. For example, if you’re training for a half marathon and your longest run is 12 miles, do a 6-mile run in the morning and a 6-mile run in the evening. This will help break up the monotony and make the miles go by much faster.

8. Maintain a positive mindset.

It’s easy to get discouraged with treadmill long runs. One of the best things you can do is to remain positive. Focus on all the benefits of your running routine and put forth daily effort to make it as comfortable and enjoyable as you can. If that means sprucing up your running space with a nice fan, a list of goals on the wall, or some new equipment, you may find that it’s worth investing time and money. 

Above all, remember your why and keep your goals top of your mind. Consistently remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing to keep things in perspective.

Examples of long-run treadmill workouts

Woman on a treadmill walking with a towel behind her back.

To help you become more confident with your indoor long-distance running routine, try these treadmill workouts:

5K Intervals:

  • Warm up for 0.62 miles (1K) at a leisurely pace.
  • Run for 1.86 miles (3K) at your 10K pace. After each kilometer, jog for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Cool down for 0.62 miles (1K) at an easy pace.
  • As this workout gets easier, ramp up to 3.73 miles (6K) or increase your pace.

Incline Tempo Workout

  • Warm up for 1 to 2 miles at an easy pace.
  • Gradually increase the treadmill speed until it’s just below your tempo pace (a pace you can maintain for 90 to 120 minutes).
  • Run at your tempo pace for a few minutes before increasing the incline to 4%.
  • Run 2 to 6 miles, or until you feel like you need to slow down.
  • Reduce your speed and the incline back to 0%.
  • Cool down by running 1 mile at an easy pace.

Fartlek Workout

  • Jog for 5 minutes.
  • Run at a moderate pace for 2 minutes.
  • Sprint for 1 minute.
  • Jog for 1 minute.
  • Spring for 1 minute.
  • Run for 2 minutes.
  • Jog for 5 minutes.
  • Cool down at an easy pace for a few minutes or repeat.

Benefits of long runs on a treadmill

A couple running on a treadmill together looking out gym window.

Wondering if all this is worth the time and effort? There are many benefits to running on a treadmill, especially if your goal is to improve your long-distance running. For instance:

Treadmill running can be safer. 

Instead of risking an injury by running in ice or snow in the winter, you can run on a treadmill. Additionally, running on the streets can sometimes be dangerous if you live in an urban area with a lot of vehicle traffic. With treadmill running, you don’t have to worry about cars and trucks while you run. And finally, during the winter months, it gets darker earlier, making it potentially unsafe to run after work. If your regular routine involves an evening run, you can still continue that trend indoors on a treadmill to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Running on a treadmill is easier on your joints.

Running outdoors on hard pavement and rocks can put a lot of pressure on your joints over time, especially if you prefer long-distance running over short runs. Conversely, a treadmill offers a relatively soft surface to run on, reducing the overall impact on your joints. If joint pain is an issue for you, a high-end treadmill with a powerful shock-absorption system might be best for running.

Treadmill running gives you more control.

Unlike outdoor running, treadmill running gives you control over most things, including the incline at which you’re running, the intensity of your workout, the views, the temperature, and more! For example, cold air is harder to breathe, making winter outdoor runs more difficult. Alternatively, extreme temperatures in the summer can also make it difficult to stay cool, comfortable, and hydrated during long-distance runs outdoors. Ultimately, if you’re a new runner or prefer to control your immediate environment while you run, running on a treadmill is likely the better option for you.

Running on a treadmill is convenient and private.

If you have a treadmill at home, long runs on a treadmill are hugely convenient. It doesn’t require any driving or travel time, and if you work from home, you can easily take a break to squeeze in your workout in the middle of the day. Not to mention, it’s completely private (except for maybe your pet, spouse, or kids). So if onlookers make you nervous, you can enjoy your run in the privacy of your home instead.

Treadmill running can be fun.

There’s a reason some people refer to it as a “dreadmill.” But contrary to popular belief, a long run on a treadmill doesn’t have to be boring. You can make it fun! By using a virtual trainer app like Vingo, you can explore incredible locations all around the globe, all without ever stepping off the treadmill. While you explore, you can also connect with other Vingo users and make new friends or catch up with a running buddy while you tackle your favorite Vingo route.

Key Takeaways:

Long-distance running on a treadmill doesn’t have to be boring. You can successfully run and train indoors with a structured plan, good entertainment, virtual training apps, and a positive mindset.

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