Treadmill Tip of the Week: Treadmill Run Checklist

Yes, we’re hardcore, but sometimes even the most hardcore outdoors obsessed runner finds herself with no reasonable alternative but to run on the treadmill. This season, for me it’s a combination of the weather and a lack of childcare for my three-year-old that make me very thankful for the treadmill in my garage and I am running on it more than I ever have.

Not too long ago I would have never used the words “thankful” and “treadmill” in the same sentence. Although it’s a lifesaver now, it will always be the dreadmill to me (although if our goal is to get through treadmill season with our sanity intact, we’re not to call it that). I’ve avoided it at all costs, and managed to only torture myself on it for around 6 miles at a time. After the past month or so, however, the ‘mill is growing on me.

As I see no major change in the weather or my childcare situation through the long winter ahead and I know I’m not the only one, I am resurrecting the Treadmill Tip of the Week. Past topics included the 1% incline rule, translating your speedwork for the ‘mill, and tips for getting over your utter contempt for the thing so you can use the treadmill to its full advantage.

This week: my pre-treadmill run checklist to get you through your miles uninterrupted. 

As I mentioned, I have my treadmill in the garage and my three-year-old home with me all day. Initially, I thought there would be very little pre-run prep required for a ‘mill workout. Not so true. After some trial-and-error and disasters ranging from the annoying to the super-crappy, I have developed a pre-run checklist that makes it more likely I’ll have a successful workout. Most of these things will help you whether you’re hitting your home treadmill or the gym.

1. Tinkle: First things first: go pee. Maybe it’s the repetitive pounding or my poor pelvic floor having PTSD, but if I don’t go right before my run, without a doubt I’ll have to pee within the first two miles. I hate having to pause my workout to use the bathroom, only to come back and find the thing reset itself and I lost my time, distance, or data. If you’re running on a home treadmill with kids (or dogs) give them a potty opportunity before you hit start too.

2. Technology: Have your music, show, audio book, or other anti-boredom crack loaded up and ready to go. Additionally, if you’re using some, put those earbuds securely in your ears before pressing start. Fumbling with them at any pace is a recipe for a fall or dropping them and launching them and your phone across the room.

3. Hydration: Make sure your water bottle is filled and secured in the cup holder. Even if I end up not needing it, which is most of the time, there’s something reassuring that it’s there if I do.

TGFST Thank goodness for sweat towels!)
TGFST (thank goodness for sweat towels!)

4. Sweat-towel: Have a clean hand towel in easy grabbing range; maybe it’s because there’s no wind, maybe it’s because I do my speed work on the ‘mill, but I sweat like crazy on the thing even in the dead of winter in a bra and shorts. I found that when I used my tech material shirt to wipe away sweat, I broke out in weird sandpapery hives all over my face. Ew. Using a clean, cotton towel solved that issue.

5. Kid-Proof: Have your house equipped for your kids to be semi-self-sufficient for a period of time: run at nap times if you have a napper (lucky), lock all exterior doors, have their favorite show on, snacks & a drink out, and books, crayons, or an easy art activity available. I pull the car out of the garage so Alora can ride her scooter, run in circles, or paint while I run. If you are planning on joining a gym, choose one with a child watch and when you go to use it, get there a few minutes early to ease the transition from your care to theirs so the child watch workers don’t have to hunt you down and drag you back to your hysterical kid.

6. Workout ready: If you plan on running a specific workout, have it easily visible on a post-it you stick on the monitor or, for those techy folks among us, programmed into your machine. I use the post-it method and check each rep off with a marker as I go to keep myself motivated and constantly aware of where I am in the workout.

7. Tinkle, take two: Really, give it another go just in case.

Any other pre-run tips for ensuring an interruption-free treadmill run? 

I'm an elementary P.E. teacher with a long-term, ongoing marathon addiction.The next big goal? Keeping up my BQ streak while aiming for a 3:10! I write about the not-so-glamorous side of running and fitting in serious training with a family while staying sane(ish).

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  1. Between the weather and the fact that I have a 6 month old and a 3 year old at home, I’ve been doing most of my running on the treadmill for months. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome, but I’m almost starting to like it. The tricks for me are media (audio books or Zombies Run, don’t judge) and making sure that I manually change the settings about every 5 minutes. Steady miles are simply not possible, but intervals work really well.

    1. Totally agree- intervals are golden for treadmill work! I also play with the incline just to give myself another distraction. Next week I’ll post some fun workouts that include both!

  2. I’ve never been anti-treadmill to be honest. Maybe it’s because Upstate NY winters have made me realize, sometimes it isn’t badass to get outside it’s just stupid. I’ve done intervals, tempos, and long runs up to 23 miles on a treadmill before- basically you do what you gotta do in order to get the training in. I basically move into the gym when I do a treadmill run- I pack extra clothes, a clean cotton towel (you are so right about that being important!), sometimes an extra towel, usually 2 water bottles, chapstick, tissues, ipad, ipod, kindle…everything goes right on the damn treadmill with me in all the little space holders. That way I have no excuse to get off the thing until I’m done (unless injured, sick or REALLLLYYYY have to go the bathroom).

    I also change the pace/incline pretty often. I like to start super slow and do progressions which helps and then throw in random inclines. I usually change pace at distance intervals and elevation at time intervals- this keeps me really distracted and makes the time go by faster.

        1. GOD. I pee at LEAST once, if not twice during an hour on the treadmill. I RARELY stop to pee when I’m running outdoors. Only on a very long run do I ever stop to pee.

        2. Seriously: I can run a marathon or long run and not stop to pee, but even a three-mile run on ‘mill triggers the bladder… Our bodies rebelling against the boredom.

        3. Peeing isn’t too much of an issue for me. But farting. Ugh it is so hard to hold it in when at the gym! Sometimes I have to stop to hold it in.

  3. As somebody who lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, it’s basically treadmill season from December/ January till March/ April. I have a treadmill in my basement, but sometimes will opt to go run on the gym treadmills simply because it removes the distraction of children. I have a love/ hate relationship with the mill. I love it because if I’m doing a longish run at home, I don’t have to worry about carrying my gu/ water/ etc with me. It’s a controlled environment and I don’t have to plan a route or pit stops. I tend to save binge shows for treadmill season, so it gives me an incentive or something to look forward to. I hate the treadmill for all the obvious reasons (monotony, staring at my time/ distance for the entire run, every run seems twice as long).

  4. One trick I do is take a long sleeve shirt or extra towel and cover the screen if it is an easy run, long run, or a long repeat in a workout. I don’t need to see the countdown. That is just torture.

    1. Yes! That works well if you just need to do x miles at y pace and have a tv show or something to distract you. I used to do that at my work gym and … I kid you not … used to get through decent longish runs by watching Leave it to Beaver with no sound! HAHA. I don’t know if I could still do that. Last night on the mill I got through intervals watching Wild Kratts with closed captioning, but I had music in my ears, so that might be why I managed that 🙂

  5. I’m with Barley on this one. I’m pretty hardcore and I don’t hesitate to run outside in the most extreme conditions (I’m from MN), but I actually look forward to using the ‘mill at the local Y on occasion. My longest treadmill run is 17 miles! I LOVE listening to loud music and on the treadmill is the only time I crank my iPod. I often update my playlists so that I have some new tunes to look forward to. Also, I find that when I go to the Y I am better at doing strength work and stretching and that gives me extra incentive to go there to use the ‘mill. Finally, the treadmills at our Y line up along a huge bank of windows that overlook the Mississippi river. I get to watch bald eagles soaring over the icy river while running in my shorts and singlet when it’s -5 degrees outside. Love it.

    1. I only listen to music on the treadmill too and when it all clicks, I feel like a rockstar and love pounding out the miles! It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does I actually kinda love the mill.

  6. I thought of these tips as I ran 7.5 miles on the gym treadmill this morning. I find the gym treadmill good for helping me get in high quality strength and plyometric work and enjoy it more if I vary the paces and inclines throughout the run.

  7. If you can, set up a fan. My apartment complex has a tiny workout room that’s always really warm. Thankfully, it has a box fan I point at myself to keep cool. I regret when I don’t.
    Also, I try to zone out during treadmill runs. I have to for my sanity. It’s not something I recommend during normal runs and workouts; I like to be engaged. But getting through a treadmill run requires a different mental process.