Treadmill Tip of the Week: Coping with the Crowds of Resolutioners at the Gym

When it's crazy cold and there are mountains of snow on the road, the treadmill looks extra nice!
When it’s crazy cold and there are mountains of snow on the road, the treadmill looks extra nice – even when the gym is packed to the gills with bewildered newbies!

Happy New Year, Salty family! We’re kicking off our third (THIRD!) year with a very important treadmill tip of the week. Stay tuned because later today we will be revealing the grand prize winner of our 2013 Race Report Challenge! In the meantime, baby it’s cold outside! Hit the treadmill!


I don’t know about you, but I kind of love going to the gym in January. In that sea of newbies, I feel like the queen bee of the gym, all experienced and comfortably pounding out my 10 mile progression runs (or 7 mile plods, who am I kidding?). In the hour-plus it takes me to pound out the miles, I see wave after wave of nervous newbies hit the cardio machines in fits and starts. I can witness all the new trends in action: 10 minute hard intervals on each of 4 machines; the surfing on iPads on the elliptical; the resurgence of rowing.  I can also witness all the trends of 1994 when the people who haven’t been in the gym that long resolve to get back: cut-off sweat pants; coping with the bulk and total impracticality of a discman; stairmastering. That’s all fun!

But those novices bring baggage that can really get in the way of enjoying your treadmill time. Here’s how to cope.

Screw It. Run Outside.

I’ve definitely been here, before! When I could get outside (read: before kids) I’d bundle up and hit the streets during my lunch hour rather than brave the company gym in January. This wasn’t always a great idea – training plans generally don’t expect you to do those crazy workouts on ice and snow. It could also be crazy cold, like -40+ windchills, like it is is in much of the country right now. But, when I could, I avoided the hassles of the crowded gym. If patience and tolerance aren’t your thing, definitely consider this option!

If You’re Intent on the Gym, Expect a Crowd and Plan Accordingly. 

It’s going to be harder to find a parking space, a locker and a nook in the locker room. It might annoy you that someone’s PT Cruiser is in your usual parking space or snow boots sitting on the floor of your favorite locker. You might have to wait a little longer for your pre-run pee and then stand there with dripping hands waiting for someone to move away from the paper towels. This will all be made slightly extra-annoying because most of these people won’t know exactly what they’re doing or where they’re going and will be moving a little slowly and haphazardly. Deep breaths! Smile! And go with the flow.

The Horror! All the Treadmills are Taken! 

English: KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea— Airmen ...
Ooo! Ooo! I see a couple of open ones in the middle there (this picture must have been taken in February.)(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the worst part. You might get to the cardio room and open the door only to find a wall of people walking really slowly on the treadmills. It can be the biggest buzzkill ever, worse than seeing those naked people on the Discovery Channel on the gym TVs! So what do you do? You do not turn around and leave. The good news here is that newbies most likely won’t be on the machines for a long time, so there will be a lot of turnover. Even if there are several people waiting in front of you, it won’t be more than a few minutes before a treadmill opens up. If you do not need to wait in line, hit the mats for some core work or warm-up on an elliptical or bike. Catch up on some text messages. Accept it. It’s just a few weeks out of the year.

Treadmill Time Limits, Activate!

What could be more annoying than having to wait for a treadmill is if your gym has a time limit for treadmills when someone else is waiting. This is the time of year when that time limit can be a workout killer. Never fear! We have a post for that!

Be Nice!

Most of us were once newbies ourselves. Be kind to those who seek to add the gift of fitness to their lives. If you see someone struggling with the treadmill controls, offer an assist. If you see someone sweat up a machine and forget to clean it off, give them a little reminder. If someone seems self-conscious and uncomfortable, offer a smile or an encouraging word. For us seasoned athletes, this is our chance to pay the running love forward. Who knows, maybe one of those ladies on the treadmill for the first time will be the best training partner you ever have.

What do you find most annoying about the gym in January? How do you cope?


Looking for more great treadmill tips? You can find all our Treadmill Tip of the Week posts here.

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. Great advice! I always feel bad getting annoyed at newbies and hate when people talk badly about the resolutioners. I mean, at least they are trying to get fit, even if most don’t stick with it.

    Also I really love this series! Thanks for all the tips geared towards treadmill runners, really appreciate it since I’m not hard core enough to run in super crummy weather conditions 🙂

  2. Question: Is treadmill running just as productive as outdoor? I try outdoor with great enthusiasm until twice operated knee starts to ache. But on the treadmill I can train longer with a significant less amount of ache. My goal is to run 10ks but wonder if the tread work is transferable to a weekly outdoor 10K.