Conquering the Treadmill – Part 1 (Preparation)

Note #1: When I set out to write this, I was like, “This is going to be super easy. I just have to tell them how to do what I’ve been doing for years.” Guess what? Apparently I have A LOT OF THOUGHTS in my head about how to do this well. So this is just part 1 because it seriously has taken me a week to just get this down on paper.

Note #2: Preparation is hard. Execution is rather easy. Keep that in mind when you’re going through this because I too was like, “Okay, why is this so hard to write about? I go through this routine in 30 minutes and bada bing bada boom I’m done!” But I forgot to count all the time spent preparing for these seemingly small moments. And preparing for it really is the most important part. So the second part with the actual routine is coming next. So like in a week because life happens. Thanks for understanding!

It’s winter in Wisconsin which means I have become very familiar with the treadmill, once again. Most of the time I think of it with disdain (the treadmill). It certainly is no match for running outside. But in the dead of winter when roads are icy or snowy or even salty, it’s the safest option so I won’t sprain an ankle…which I’m prone to do on occasion.

Oh and our winters? They last for-fricken-ever so you better believe I’ve got some tricks up my sleeves for how to conquer the dreaded treadmill…aka…the dreadmill.

Do you have to be running consistent miles to conquer the treadmill? HECK NO. This is for ANYONE at ANY speed and at ANY endurance level. That’s the beauty of this! I give you the basics and you modify as you please.

So let’s get started!


My method = must be super easy to remember and must be super easy to execute

Have you ever trained for a 5k or 10k? Okay, not even that. Have you ever tried to find training plans for any running event? Well I have. I’ve seen many. And they all include some sort of “speed” training or “interval” training. And those sessions look like something that can only be executed with a stopwatch and a real track for you to measure yards and meters.

To this day, I still have never executed one of these. But you know what? I do a lot of speed training and interval training. And I do it all my own way. But trust me, seeing those on a training plan always made me anxious. Who are these people that know exact distances in yards outside of a high school track? And do these people have coaches timing them? Am I not a real runner if I don’t go to a high school track and make my husband time me? What am I, Usain Bolt? Nope, nope, nope to all of that.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. A lot of people DO do it, and it’s a tried and true way to train well if your plan calls for it. I’m just saying…it’s unrealistic for most. But speed work is important because that and hills are what make you faster and stronger. And bodypump. And yoga. And good nutrition. But I digress.

Why am I telling you all this? Because the key to my success with conquering the treadmill happens to be this super easy routine I do that is ALSO the answer to the question “how can I get my speed training or interval training in if I can’t measure exact yards or live by a high school track?”

But first, we need to get in the right mindset. Because there’s a big difference between conquering the treadmill and mildly putting up with the treadmill.


Conquering means eliminating distractions and focusing.

If you want to get on the treadmill and watch TV or socialize with others around you, I’m not going to stop you. But to conquer the treadmill, those distractions need to go away. Anything that makes you mindlessly forget what you’re doing on the treadmill is only going to help you “mildly put up with the treadmill.” And there’s a time and a place for that – if you’re just on the treadmill to warm up, it’s fine.  Or if instead of doing your long run outside you’re stuck with the treadmill – then by all means, do whatever you can to make the time pass by on those long stretches (long run = anything over 3 miles for this conversation).

But to conquer the treadmill and conquer it QUICKLY (keyword), you need to be a bit anti-social. The goal is to get in and get out and be as efficient as possible with your workout because no one really wants to spend that much time on the treadmill. And you shouldn’t have to!


Equipment you’ll need

If you’re going to run, in general, there is equipment you need which I won’t go too much into detail here because that’s a whole post in itself, but here’s an overview.

  • Good running shoes
  • Dri-fit (sweat-wicking) workout clothes…do not even THINK about wearing cotton… including underwear or sports bra
  • Well-fitting socks
  • Something to tie your hair back if it’s long
  • Water bottle
  • Towel for sweat

Pretty basic, right? Alright, now here’s an overview of the equipment you’ll also need to conquer the treadmill.

Some sort of music player – I use my iphone – others can use ipod or android phones, etc.

  • An app that allows you to stream some good base-thumping beats – I prefer Pandora, but a lot of people use Spotify.
  • Headphones that cover your ears but do not go IN your ears…no ear buds…because anything you have to putz with during your run is just another roadblock between you and complete focus. Don’t mess with ear buds. They WILL fall out. Because you WILL sweat. Or if you have weird shaped ear canals like me they just won’t stay in no matter how hard you try. Also, pumping that much sound directly into your ear canal can’t be healthy. And we’re going to be cranking up the tunes so having a padded, over the ear sound option, is your best bet.
    • Super expensive option: Beats by Dre (wired or wireless)
    • Super cheap option (my preference): MusicJogger Headphones – Now with bluetooth (mine don’t have bluetooth)…these workout headphones will transport you back to the early nineties but are super comfortable and super durable.
  • LIfefitness treadmill WITHOUT a tv screen attached because you don’t need that distraction…also one with a 6 foot belt, preferably. If you see one with a ton of bells and whistles, move on! Those are for people do weird things on treadmills – like inclines. That is not what you need.

Got all that? Locked and loaded? Alright let’s do this!

Figuring out Your music

At this point, you’re not even near a treadmill yet. Maybe you’re at home. Maybe you’re in the gym locker room, but as of right now, you have some prep work to do so get comfortable.

The music you choose is extremely important. You need music that will push you forward because your mind is the biggest obstacle you’ll have to overcome when you’re running. I don’t know what that is for you, but I’m almost certain it’s not Enya or “Wind down” music or something soothing.

For me it’s a mixture of pop, rap and early 2000s punk rock (but like, not really punk rock…more like emo punk rock…like My Chemical Romance and Jimmy Eats World), with just a slight hint of Queen thrown in there. If I were to make a workout playlist for my dad I think it would be some fast-paced classic rock with some Evanescence and likely some Imagine Dragons. Just a hunch.

So think about your music. You’re not looking for a steady beat. You’re looking for something that’s fast or has highs and lows that can amp you up. Also – the words may be important. Themes about underdogs overcoming challenges or living your best life, or getting over the fact that the “haters gonna hate, hate, hate…” those are all good lyrical songs that will help with visualization, which we’ll get into in a bit. If the words make up for a less than a fast beat, but you’re really motivated by the lyrics, then that will probably work too.

Why your music is so important

First of all, we know that treadmills suck. We’ve established that. So you need to do whatever you can to momentarily transport yourself away from the suckiness of treadmills. Now, that would be super easy to do if your goal was to walk on the treadmill and watch a cooking challenge on one of the tvs. Done and done. But that’s not conquering the treadmill. And that’s not even a great workout. So to do both – get a good workout in and momentarily transport yourself, you need really good music. It needs to be music where when each new song comes on, you’re pumped to listen to it! And you think “I can do this treadmill thing for one more song.” And then you just keeping thinking that with each new song.


Put your playlist together

Okay. You’ve thought about what music will put you in the right mindset. Now you need to craft your playlist. This is part of the preparation step because if you think you’re going to be stopping on the treadmill to spend two minutes finding the right music or switching apps, every couple songs, you are wrong. Do the work now so you can have your full focus on the hard parts of your workout.

Here are a couple ways to put together your playlist.

Pre-set stations (free)

The first, and easiest option, is to find a pre-set station through an app like Pandora or Spotify. When you select one of these, you may not always know what the next song is going to be, but it’s guaranteed to be upbeat and fast – something that will keep you moving. I would experiment with a couple different stations to see if you like the songs on them first, though.


Another pro tip is to find a station you like and start narrowing in on songs you really like by liking (thumbs up on pandora) or disliking (thumbs down) songs so that the station becomes more tuned in to what motivates you. Just do it for a bit so the app can get a sense of your tastes. But don’t go crazy or you’ll be hearing all Rihanna songs when you’re like, “Why won’t they play ANYTHING else?” Also, this is a free feature of most streaming apps. Which means that every once in a while you may hear commercials. But I have a plan for that too, so no worries.

The free pandora stations I like are “Dance Cardio” and simply “Running Radio” but here are some other ones I found on a simple search for “running” within the Pandora app…

  • Pop fitness radio
  • Trap workout radio
  • Classic Rock Power Workout
  • Hard Rock Strength Training (not sure how this works for running, but maybe)
  • Latin Workout Radio
  • Electronic Cardio Radio
  • 80s Cardio Radio

…the list goes on. And the same goes for Spotify. I don’t use that app but a google search reveals these are the most popular workout stations…

  1. Dance Workout
  2. Power Workout
  3. Cardio
  4. Para Entrenar
  5. Workout Twerkout
  6. Workout Remix
  7. Latin Dance Cardio
  8. Electro Workout
  9. Workout
  10. The Rock Workout

Curated playlists

If you’re cheap, like I am, there’s nothing wrong with free music. I used pandora stations for many moons. Then, this last summer right before a half marathon, I decided to pony up the $9.95 a month for Pandora Premium so I could eliminate all commercials and play whatever music I wanted, whenever I wanted, as long as I wanted. I told my husband it was a free trial, and it was…for a month, but now it brings me so much more joy on my runs that I just can’t seem to quit it. This is all to say that whether you do Pandora Premium or pay for Spotify or you still actually buy music on iTunes, there’s nothing better than a really good curated list. You’re guaranteed to like every song because you hand selected them. So if you can go this route, then definitely go this route. If you can’t, that’s okay! Those stations will totally get you through this.

figuring out your mindset

While you’re figuring out the dopest beats to jam out to on the treadmill, another key factor when considering your selection is what will help you with visualization. I don’t know what shape you’re in when you get on the treadmill, and it doesn’t even matter! You could be in ANY shape when you get on the treadmill. Whenever I’ve started back into running, I’m never in good shape. Last year I was easily 20 lbs overweight. But even after I had a kid , I was coming at this being 70 lbs heavier than I am right now (I gained 55 lbs during pregnancy). You may be heavier. You may be smaller. It doesn’t matter. Because you’re not going to be thinking about who you are in this moment. You are going to think about the version of you that you want to become. And music helps you visualize.

Here’s an example…

Whenever I hear early 2000s punk rock, I am immediately transported back to my college days at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. And to be clear, on the outside I was…and still am… a pop princess. I love Britney and Christina and was shaking my hips to Shakira at all the Water Street bars. Those were/are my jams. But college is when I really started to take running seriously. So in between the Christina and the Britney jams, I’d started listening to Jimmy Eats World and My Chemical Romance and AFI on my runs. To me, those were hardcore jams (to me, at least). But they were so motivating! When I was running outside or on the treadmill and listening to those songs, it just made me feel like I was this strong, fierce runner – not just some college girl dancing on a bar and screaming to my friends, “OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS SONG!!!” while sipping some blue concoction. When I ran and listened to music like that in college, it made me feel like I had this alter ego, like I was someone that would punch a girl like me in the throat if she got in my way. I know, harsh right? But it’s true. I was transported. And I mostly kept that punk rock side of me under wraps because it didn’t really fit in with my outward appearance in college….so usually just when I was running or belting out lyrics in my rusty old car.

So now when I hear those songs, I remember that feeling of empowerment that I had all those years ago AND I remember fondly those brief moments of being alone in my thoughts and doing what I really loved…and of course being young and fun and vibrant and able to run just like I am now. 

Now when I’m listening to those songs on the treadmill I’m thinking about a version of me that existed a while ago…and think about how there are still parts of that girl that I can bring back to life if I work hard enough. No – I won’t be super tan or wrinkle free. I won’t have a flat stomach free of excess skin because I’ve birthed a child. I won’t even be able to stay up late or get hammered like I used to. And I’m totally okay with that. But I can have lots of energy. And I can be fit. And I can be very fierce…even if just mentally.

For me – a part of my visualization happens by looking back at versions of myself. But I also look ahead. I think if you’ve got a goal set and you’re striving to be back at a place you were, it’s okay…to a point. Time marches on, so keep that in mind because sometimes no matter how hard you try – if you’re looking to achieve aspects from the past that just aren’t possible, you’re going to be frustrated. Energy and fitness is possible. Being wrinkle free or thinking you want to “look like you’re 25” may not be possible. Well…without botox or surgery maybe (not really a topic I can weigh in on). So as much as I like to reflect on the “good old days” I also craft a version of myself that I want to be in the future. Since I don’t have memories to draw on, I think about potential situations I could be in and how I’ll look or think or feel. And it’s never as vibrant a scene as my memories, but I think about small things. Here are some examples.

Future me wants…

  • My grey jeans that are always notoriously hard to get on, to be just a smidge looser
  • To be able to see my bicep muscles when I’m lifting weights in Bodypump
  • To be more confident when there are networking opportunities with people I don’t know
  • To have more patience when I’m frustrated – both with myself and with others
  • To do one pull up unassisted
  • To have super colorful hair sometime in the next year

Get the idea? All of my examples, minus the last one, are things that I can directly or indirectly impact with my workouts and visualization. So these are the things I think about when I’m on the treadmill and I’m thinking “Why am I still on this stupid thing? WHY?”


Visualization is NOT about anyone else

I recently wrote a post about goal setting and how your goals need to be for you or you’re not going to follow through. The same applies to visualization. When you’re sweating like crazy, the lactic acid is building up in your quads, your lungs are burning and you just don’t think you can go one more minute…that is not the time to think “I need to do this so I can be a good role model for my kids!” Because that reason won’t be enough. It’s vague and not concrete. And also, there are a million ways to be a good role model for your kids- so it’s easy enough to give up on this way and go seek another way.

I fell into this trap way way back when I first started running. I ran my first half marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I won’t go into the whole back story, but let’s just say I was SUPER unprepared for this half marathon. I was basically on the struggle train from miles 2 through 13.1. Seriously, I could do a solid 2 miles and that’s where my training stopped. And I kept thinking of the inspirational stories I’d heard throughout my training with this organization. The ones who survived, like my sister, and the ones who didn’t. And I kept thinking to myself, “You need to push harder because you have the opportunity to do something that many others don’t. You’ve never had cancer and you need to fight for those who have cancer or have fought to beat it!”

p.s. I don’t know if it’s irony or just awful luck, but yes, this was about 14 years before I also got a lymphoma cancer – but that’s not the point of this!

So did I push harder and do okay with that half marathon? NOPE. To date it’s my worst half marathon. But what I did feel was awful that I couldn’t do better on behalf of those who couldn’t even try. I thought the fact that I was doing it for some noble cause would help me really push through. That’s what happens in the movies, right? But that didn’t happen. Those reasons did not work for me. I’m not saying they can’t work for you. If you’re motivated by a higher purpose in life, then go you! I’m just trying to be realistic, and I want you to know that it’s okay to focus on yourself every once in a while. There are plenty of other opportunities throughout each day and week and month where you can be selfless and noble. And plenty of other ways to do that vs. sweating it out on a treadmill.

So to wrap up part 1 – you need good music and a good mindset.  Got it? Alright. Go do your homework and I’ll continue to work on “Conquering the Treadmill Part 2 (Execution).” 

p.s. Obviously you’ve caught on to the visual theme of this post. Yes – ALL THINGS MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE! My emo heart still loves them. But they only claim one half of my heart.. Stay tuned for the next post where I reveal who holds the other half of my heart. And also enjoy maybe their best song ever, “The Black Parade.” Just listen and try NOT to go for a run.

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