Slogging along on the device of torture and misery that is the treadmill is hard to make fun unless you’re a masochist. But if you’re training for an upcoming race, snow, sleet, rain, and hail make outdoor running difficult; don’t lose hope. Thanks to developments in technology, treadmill apps are working to make your next run passable, if not fun. Plus, a handful of them provide coaching, meaning interval and tempo workouts are definitely possible. The more of those you do, the more your fast-twitch muscle fibers flex, meaning you can work on improving your speed. So, if the weather dictates an indoor run, download one of these apps and see how quickly those miles fly by.
Aaptiv is the easiest way to workout with just your phone. While the app offers workouts for all gym machines, the treadmill options are particularly of note — especially when you need to get in some speed training. Aaptiv works hard to find top trainers who select upbeat tunes to keep you going through intervals. It’s $15 a month, but you get your first 30-days free.
Buy Now: $15/month or $100/year
Nike+ Run Club
Nike outfits top runners like Shalane Flanagan and Eliud Kipchoge, and they also make it easy to access a run with both of them, plus other Nike athletes and superstars (think Simone Biles, Kevin Hart, Mo Farah and more). You’ll first have to download each workout, which takes roughly 5 to 10 seconds depending on your connection, and then hit start. Link up your Spotify or Apple Music to listen, and easily change the music throughout. In the app, scroll through the options to preview the type of run (speed, recovery or long) and a duration. Then get ready for a lot of conversation. Coach Blue Bennett, a Nike Run Coach, provides you with suggestions on how hard or how fast you should go, so it’s a good idea to know what your 5k, 10k, marathon and recovery paces are.
Buy Now: Free in the app store
Group treadmill classes are all the rage these days — but if you don’t live in New York, they’re pretty hard to find. The Studio app wants to change that. Open it up to scroll through a variety of classes, or add a custom search like a 30-minute, intermediate interval run with 90s music. You can also narrow your search by instructor once you find one you jive with. Using Apple Health, Studio can track your heart rate and provide you with feedback on a leaderboard. It currently only works with an Apple Watch, but you can run untracked and still get the same workout — just without the competition. In these workouts, the instructor provides you with exact treadmill speeds and inclines, so you don’t have to know what your race day pace is.
Buy Now: $15/month or $100/year
Zwift, the indoor cycling fitness platform that made stationary training exciting, expanded into running earlier this year. The interface and graphics are similar — it’s an extremely interactive course that lets you run with people from all over the world. Pick a run type and route, tweak the pace guidelines and then Zwift will plop a virtual you onto a ‘volcano climb’ and tell you what to touch on the treadmill. While it’ll feel more immersive on a larger screen, testing on an iPhone worked just swimmingly.
One note: To get started, the app requires a connection to a heart rate monitor, cadence tracker and a speed tracker (like an Apple Watch or STRYD). There are a number of smart treadmills and footpods that work with Zwift, as well as Bluetooth enabled sneakers.
Each 30-minute video takes you on a virtual reality tour of trails around the world, like the Appalachian, Big Sur, Camino De Santiago and even Central Park. While there’s not much coaching involved here, if you’re looking for a way to purely distract yourself, this is it. The download of each video takes anywhere from five to 15 minutes, which can be a pain, but you’ll never have to download it again. Stream your own music in the background, or listen to the narrator’s reminders to drink water, speed up and slow down.