Treadmill tricks: five tips for motivation and focus

Tricks to overcome the mind’s snivelling, drifting and cowardice apply to other ‘mammoth’ tasks too. Like novel-writing, for example. Or tax returns.

“Ow, this is tough. Whoa, the goal is big, it’ll take hours! Stop, stop, c’mon, a break won’t hurt! That cross-trainer looks much easier! What, only 1.8K?!!- My progress is pathetic. My shoelaces are too tight and my armpits are itchy”.

Sound familiar? Motivating yourself to run on a treadmill in winter months is harder than in the bright outdoor air. Your mind, not your body, has the greater challenge – to stay on track. Actually, I can be just as daunted about creative projects, admin, even planning holidays, for crying out loud.

But back to running. I had a real block in running training when I reached around 8K. I think the lessons are transferable.

Runner celebrates

A runner celebrates because he actually went running © Laura Eades 2013

Here’s how I overcame my 8K block:

    1. I texted my husbandand told him I was about to do it and to wish me well. I texted my friend in England, my long-distance running partner. I told her I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I was about to do it. That sealed my commitment and made me feel impressive already.
    2. I’d put it off for a whole week, so when I did it, I did it first thing in the morning. After a large coffee. This meant going late to my German course that morning, but it was more important that day to get this run out of my system.
    3. I tried to lose myself to the music. I made a rule that I wasn’t allowed to watch the distance counter until the end of each song, because I noticed I looked at it a lot. When I saw I’d hardly gone any distance, I was discouraged. Being with the music was more enjoyable since I was focused on the music.
    4. I went slow and steady. I get quite impatient on the treadmill. If my target is distance, I keep hitting the speed button and going faster to try to get it over with. I quite like responding to my own urge to do a little more like this, and so I prefer not to use a profile programme – you know, the ones that make you go fast for two minutes, then walk, or whatever.
    5. I celebrated progress (ie. doing it at all). The fact of doing it is the accomplishment. After I’d done the 8K (couldn’t believe it) I texted my friend: “Red as a strawberry and have a crotch sweat patch down to my knees, but feel amazing”.

Or, try the complete opposite!

This also works, perversely: watching the counter closely. Pull yourself along with a thousand tiny carrots in front of your nose: “I’m on 48 calories. I’ll just get to 50”, and then, “Only 200 metres to go until I hit 2K! I’ll just make it to that round number…”.

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What mind games do you use to persuade yourself to keep going? This is an important question for us students of habits – how do we keep ourselves doing something when there’s an obstacle. And do you like the treadmill? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below (click on the grey plus sign underneath to open the comments section)