What To Do If You Really, Really Hate the Treadmill

Many trainers have yet to meet somebody who enjoys the treadmill.

However, tons of people want to use the treadmill to become better runners, lose weight, and more.

Unfortunately, it’s common to try out the treadmill and want to run away screaming.

As a result, you don’t know where to turn because you just can’t stick with it.

So what should you do if you really, really hate the treadmill?

If you really hate the treadmill, try some simple tricks like covering up the timer or display, or watching a TV show while you workout. It can make a huge difference!

However, if the treadmill isn’t a good fit for you, there are plenty of excellent alternatives you might enjoy more. Try the rowing machine or StairMaster, or better yet, a group fitness class.

Let’s take a closer look with the help of some personal trainers and other fitness experts.

Why Do People Hate the Treadmill?

The reasons behind treadmill aversion are practically unanimous—six different fitness experts cite most of these as common. One of these may be your issue, too.

1. It’s Boring

Treadmill workouts are monotonous.

Despite how effective the treadmill is, there’s no denying that it can bore you to tears and you’ll be checking your watch in less than three minutes.

Time slows down and you feel like you’ve been on the treadmill forever.

It’s particularly challenging for people who have the stamina to run for much longer than they can handle on the treadmill.

As NASM personal trainer Hope Penner says, “Many times, they actually have the stamina to follow through with this exercise, they simply get bored.”

This is a major setback for a runner with potential.

2. You Lack Stamina

Running is a high-energy activity.

Sometimes you just don’t have the physical fitness to keep up with it.

The general advice is for beginner runners to run for 20 or 30 minutes per run. That’s a big leap from 0 minutes—sometimes it’s too much for your body to handle.

Feeling like your heart is being ripped out of your chest and your throat is burning as you gasp for air is never fun.

It’s no shock that you’ll never want to touch the treadmill again if you lack stamina.

3. You’re Unmotivated In General

Everyone knows that feeling.

You just can’t find the motivation to start.

When you first get on the treadmill, it’s as awful as you imagined it would be.

It doesn’t help that you have to keep stopping to catch your breath and you get tired before you can reach your goal of running for 30 minutes straight or running a certain number of miles.

It’s easy to lose your motivation once you start running on the treadmill, and you might start associating the treadmill with feelings of dread, tiredness, and a lack of motivation.

4. The Timer Intimidates You

Most treadmills have a timer on them that tells you how long you’ve been running, and we all know that a watched pot never boils.

It can be intimidating if you feel like you’ve been running for 10 minutes but it’s only been three.

It feels like you’ll never hit the 20- or 30-minute mark.

Tips to Find More Treadmill Motivation

I consulted with some top fitness experts for tips on how to solve the common struggles that people face with the treadmill.

Their advice should help you find motivation to use the treadmill more often.

1. If The Treadmill Is Too Boring

Hope Penner says, “If boredom is the issue, then it’s important to add some variety to a treadmill routine.” Different experts weighed in on how to do this.


Hope recommends changing up your routine with intervals to keep things interesting.

She recommends that you “run at a fairly challenging pace for two minutes, then walk for one, and repeat that 10 times.”

This is an excellent way to make time go by faster. The built-in rest periods can help fight fatigue, too. 

Ethan Lahav, veteran runner and founder and CEO of penguindojo.com, says:

“You often end up feeling immense physical fatigue because of a lack of variation within your movements; this leads you to want to stop before you are done with your workout.”

The variation that comes with running intervals will prevent you from wanting to quit before your workout is over.

Entertain Yourself

You can entertain yourself by listening to music, watching TV, listening to a podcast or audiobook, or doing whatever you like!

The entertainment can distract you and help you power through your workout.

Lahav suggests you mix things up a little.

For example, you could transition from fast walking to running when your TV show comes to a commercial break.

If you want to throw some extra motivation into the mix, personal trainer Brett Durney of fitnesslab.fit suggests you find media that you like and only indulge while you’re on the treadmill.

Make sure it’s something that you’ll want to indulge in regularly—perhaps even find something you’re sure will become your new favorite.

2. If You Lack Stamina

Hope Penner suggests, “If stamina actually is the issue, try walking with incline.”

Walking may not feel as intense as running, but bumping up the incline will cause your heart rate to increase similar to how it would if you were running.

It offers many of the same benefits as running, but it’s less taxing on your body.

As Brett Durney points out, “When many people start out on their fitness journey, they feel like they have to incorporate running into their routine. But the truth is there’s no non-negotiable exercises.” 

So, walk! You can eventually build up to running.

4. You’re Unmotivated In General

If you find yourself losing your motivation, you need to figure out why.

Here are a few reasons you may feel unmotivated and some solutions to help you work through it.

You’re Not Seeing Results

If you’re not seeing any results from the treadmill, you may be expecting too much too soon.

Set smaller goals so you can smash through them faster and keep your morale up.

If you want to see results faster, try combining exercises.

Dr. Bruce Pinker of progressivefootcareny.com recommends pairing dumbbell exercises with walking on the treadmill.

He says, “Performing strength training exercises by curling dumbbells while walking on the treadmill is a great way to modify a workout and add muscle building.”

You can motivate yourself by increasing the weight of the dumbbells and increasing your speed on the treadmill as your strength and endurance improve.

You’re Bored In Advance

Sometimes the boredom sets in before you get on the treadmill.

To help with this, personal trainer Jack McNamara of train.fitness offers the following advice:

“Try to plan your treadmill sessions at the same time you want to watch your favorite show.

“One of the benefits of a modern mechanical treadmill is that you don’t need to propel it, you just need to keep up.

“You’ll therefore be able to lose yourself in your favourite drama or football highlights show without the downsides associated with melting into your couch.”

You could also consider rewarding yourself with something you can only have after a treadmill workout.

You Have No Support System

Who’s holding you accountable for completing your treadmill workouts? You?

That won’t do unless you’re incredibly self-motivated.

Andrew Fox, personal trainer, aimworkout.com, recommends talking to an instructor or friend about your issues with treadmill motivation.

Speaking to someone else is a good way to get advice and hold yourself accountable.

A personal trainer, accountability buddy, or a peer group of like-minded people at the gym are all great for holding you accountable.

(Learn more tips for staying motivated to workout here.)

5. If The Timer Intimidates You

If a watched pot never boils, stop watching the pot.

Don’t think, “I have to run for X minutes.”

If you want to measure things by time, don’t set an exact number of minutes. Set an activity instead.

Decide that you want to watch one episode of a show while you’re on the treadmill.

You’re not watching the clock to count those minutes because your eyes are focused on the TV screen.

When the credits roll, your workout is done.

If you’d rather avoid timing things altogether, Jack McNamara recommends setting a distance target instead.

He says, “It gives a sense of control over the workout; if we want to get it all over and done with, we have the option to push ourselves and run faster.”

Top Alternatives to the Treadmill

If the treadmill isn’t for you, that’s fine!

Here are a few expert-recommended alternatives to consider.

1. Run Outdoors

If you want to run, running outdoors can eliminate a lot of the pain points of treadmill workouts because:

  • You can view your surroundings to eliminate boredom
  • It’s easier to transition from running to walking without the treadmill when your stamina fails
  • You can run to a destination you enjoy as motivation
  • You can run without a timer
  • You can run with people who hold you accountable

Best of all, there’s plenty of fresh air when you run outdoors.

Ethan Lahav points out that fresh air boosts stamina and endurance: “The greatest advantage of running outdoors is fresh air (oxygen).

Studies have shown that oxygen in fresh air helps enhance stamina and endurance far better than breathing recycled, indoor air.”

2. Elliptical Workouts

Elliptical workouts are great for working your upper body, raising your heart rate, burning calories, and emulating walking. 

Your legs move as if you’re walking or running, but there’s less stress on your joints.

The machine is there to help with your motions, so you don’t feel quite as strained.

(You can get pretty amazing results from the elliptical, too!)

3. Cycling

If the idea of using your legs is appealing but you dislike the stress that running puts on your body, cycling is a wonderful alternative.

It helps build strong legs, raise your heart rate, burn calories, and get you fitter.

The outdoors and social aspect of cycling is appealing to some, but you can also take a spin class or get an exercise bike of your own.

4. Step Aerobics and Step Machine

Although different from running, step aerobics and the step machine have a similar purpose.

They’re both fantastic calorie-burning cardio workouts that aren’t as intense as running.

Step aerobics varies depending on the classes you take, but you’re usually in a social environment with a high-energy instructor.

The activity raises your heart rate, but it doesn’t impact your respiratory system as severely as high-intensity running does.

A step machine works similarly.

You usually won’t find classes based on the step machine, but you can use one at home or at the gym.

It’s an easy exercise to do, works as cardio, and you can change your pace whenever you like.

(Check out what results you can expect from using the StairMaster.)

5. Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is perfect if running is too stressful on your joints.

You feel more or less weightless while doing it—you’re underwater, after all, and everything feels effortless under there.

Running in water is more effective than running on land, as water has a higher density than air.

It’s easier to move your limbs, but you’re burning more calories and getting fitter.

6. Rowing Machine

Of all the experts who recommend rowing, Jack McNamara has several positives to share on the topic.

He points out that rowing “requires coordination, focus and good technique that all help keep you engaged throughout your workout.”

Rowing is a full-body workout so it’s highly beneficial, and it’s wonderful for:

  • building strong muscles
  • getting toned
  • and shedding excess fat.

It’s difficult at first, but once you get your technique down, you’re off to an excellent start. 

Here’s what Jack recommends:

“Think about varying your workout with interval sprints to really take your workout to the next level. To free yourself from seemingly endless steady state, aim to row 250m as quickly as possible, rest for one minute, then repeat.”

(Learn more about rowing machine results right here.)

7. Fitness Classes

Fitness classes are your best bet if motivation is your issue.

The classes hold you accountable, and the supportive environment keeps you motivated.

There are tons of cardio and HIIT classes out there that are highly beneficial for weight loss, building muscle, and increasing fitness.

The tricky part is finding out which class is best for you.

Wrapping Up

Some people may finally find the motivation to hit the treadmill after reading this.

To others, the treadmill will forever be a punishment too cruel for continued use.

Fortunately, those in the latter group have plenty of other options!

You shouldn’t disregard the treadmill before you’ve given the advice above a shot. If you find none of these tips work for you, you can move onto the list of alternatives.

Eventually, you’ll find something that sticks.

For more, check out:

Hope this helps!