The Mental Breakdown of a Routine Treadmill Run


So the phrase mental breakdown makes it sound as though I literally had a break down on the treadmill.

While I can see how easy it is for that to occur, it has not happen to me just yet.

I don’t always love treadmill running but for the most part, I have the positive thinking thing under control which I do believe is key for getting through a run, especially an indoor run.

We have reached the month of March which means Spring is on the horizon (even though there’s a ton of snow outside my window and school is delayed this morning yet again) and outdoor running freedom will be ours before we know it.

But mastering the treadmill is still important.

We still need to know it can work for us when we can’t get outside.

Recently we talked about the positive thinking process for getting through long runs on the treadmill but I think it’s also beneficial to talk about what goes on in my head during a routine treadmill run too.

My goal is to give you a bit more insight beyond Oh look, she ran 6 miles again. It’s like so nothing for her!

It’s never nothing. Running, especially on the treadmill, is a mental workout as much as it is physical which means the brain needs some strength training too, not just the muscles in our body.

Let’s start with the Display Screen

I don’t cover it up.


I paused the treadmill to take the picture, I didn’t run those five miles in 30 seconds!

I actually like to see the numbers in front of me rather than hide them from myself.

I want to know where I am at in terms of speed and distance especially because I am always playing around with the settings.

I do not acknowledge the time. My focus is on distance because that is something I have control over.

The time will move at its own pace; the distance is covered and controlled by me and I like being in charge!

I do not focus on the amount of miles I have run or how many more I have to go.

I focus on where I am in each mile.

And during each mile, regardless of speed, my thought process typically breaks down like this:

breaking down the treadmill mile

Of course, there is more to it than this.

Even when I break each mile up into the above thoughts, I think and feel other things throughout my run.

A mental glimpse at last week’s 6 mile treadmill run:

Mile 1 – > Keep it easy. Pace yourself. You will be warmed up and in your groove before you know it!

I started off at 6.5 in an attempt to keep things easy. Normally I start at 6.8 but decided to scale it back and warm up a bit more.

1.06 Miles – > Maybe I should switch to the elliptical for ten minutes. I don’t feel like running, I am not warming up and I don’t like the treadmill.

1.08 Miles – > Just stay put! You are already into this next mile. Stay here until the two-mile mark and reevaluate then. Keep it easy, no pressure just do your thing.

Mile 2 – >  See? You did it. Hang in until mile three and if you want to hop off, go ahead.

I begin some speed intervals at this point ranging between 6.8 and 7.5 (interval workout post coming soon!)

Mile 3 – > Boom. Three miles. Drop your pace for a little and relax. No need to switch to the elliptical. No pressure. Just run.

More speed intervals at the .30 mark in this mile.

Mile 4 – > One more mile and I am at five miles already? Look at that.

I raise the incline from 0.5 to 2.0 and then back to 0.5 throughout this mile. Sometimes changing the incline and then bringing it back down feels really nice.

More intervals going as high as 8.0 during this mile.

Mile 5 – > Totally in my groove! This is why I hang on during the first few miles! I am so proud of how strong I always feel once I am 45 minutes into a run!

Okay so that sounds crazy. 45 minutes to feel great? Shouldn’t I be tired at 45 minutes? My brain doesn’t understand this but my legs think it makes perfect sense so I will go with it.

5.70 Miles – > I cannot believe I am almost at 6 miles. When did that happen? I am going faster now than before and feel as though I could run forever but it’s enough for today and time to go home.

6 miles. Run and done.

It is not always easy to do but training your brain to turn to the positive over the negative and standing tough for what you want teaches the mental and physical side of us how to hang in there and develop our stamina for running.


Want more treadmill running posts?


Beat The Boredom Treadmill Running Series

Positive Thinking For Your Long Run On The Treadmill

Long Run On The Treadmill Workout Plan

Treadmill running is mental. Here's how to mentally break it down #treadmill #running #staypositive Click To Tweet


Will you be running on the treadmill today?

Do you cover the display screen or keep it in view?

Best thing you ate all weekend?



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  1. says

    I pretty much did have a mental breakdown on the treadmill…..but not in a good way like you are talking about hahaha. This is great, and yes, I agree, breaking it down into manageable chunks definitely helps a lot more. I think thats why those pre set intervals most treadmills have are actually quite helpful! I am hoping I do not have to use it again…..
    Tina Muir recently posted…Meatless Monday- Sweet Chili Stuffed PeppersMy Profile

    • says

      I totally find that breaking down each mile works for me. I am definitely looking forward though to running every day outside without question soon rather than having to build up my mental stamina to complete those treadmill runs.

  2. says

    I used to cover up the screen when i ran regularly on the treadmill. That was back when I felt comfortable enough running on it that I could also read at thee same time! I would watch tv, read a magazine, and listen to music. That usually distracted me enough! But now I feel like I need to have access to the buttons so I don’t cover up the screen.
    We had an ice storm last night and schools are closed today. I’ll still be going to work but not sure what my workout will be. (Obviously I won’t be running outside).
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Workouts and Weekend UpdateMy Profile

  3. says

    I am really impressed that you don’t cover the screen. I do about half and half because I play with the speed a lot too. I agree that getting over the mental barrier is almost harder than actual treadmill running. This weekend I did Yasso 800’s on the treadmill and it is amazing how fast speed workouts can go. All depends on the day too.

  4. says

    I still continue you to cover the screen! There’s an odd time that I don’t but for some reason I just like totally zoning out. And I too am itching to get outside to run. Its been a long treadmill season. I love how you break everything down and you have such awesome motivation!
    Taca @ A Side Of Dessert recently posted…MIMM [02-03-15]My Profile

  5. says

    I was totally thinking about my own mental breakdown on the treadmill, but this post is way more helpful than that! Especially since the weather looks terrible this week so I may have to go on it one last time. Really ready for some better weather!
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…Blogging the Good StuffMy Profile

  6. says

    I’ll be -attempting- to run on the treadmill today depending on whether my back can handle the jostling. If not, then power walking it is 😆 And I totally agree that it’s all a mental game and it’s way better to think positively about it. You can’t change the fact, so why make things worse than they have to be by going in with a stanky attitude?
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. currently – march 2015 .My Profile

    • says

      The treadmill takes lots of positive thinking, just like everything else in life I guess. Glad your back is getting better, just take it easy to make sure it stays better : )

  7. says

    Ha ha that’s hilarious! I totally relate to everything you wrote about getting through those 6 miles. I never have to “get through” a run when I’m outside but the treadmill is a different story. I just tell myself that it’s building my mental strength!
    Suzy recently posted…Mileage MondayMy Profile

  8. says

    I never cover the display on the treadmill – it is part of my entertainment. I play games all the time on the treadmill with speed and incline!
    Great job on that 6 miles!
    Kim recently posted…I’ll Love You ForeverMy Profile

  9. Frank says

    Been in the Keys since Tues, temps are 4x those in Saratoga right now, 7x overnight, my first outdoor running since the New Year’s Day Hangover Half in Albany, so no need for treadmill right now But it may soon be too HOT to run outdoors here 🙂

    Sombrero Beach 15k challenge Sat. A 10k followed by a 5k, seperate awards for each and special awards to those doing both.

    We’ll see how effective treadmill training is . . .

  10. says

    I’ve always wanted to read what goes on inside someone else’s head when they run – I literally have such a similar mental pattern when I run (albeit condensed into 1-2 miles max!) I’m definitely more distracted when I run outside, but the mental part is such a battle in itself with treadmill runs!
    Cat recently posted…4 Hotel Room Workouts That I Took On HolidayMy Profile