Top 10 Endurance Sports Documentaries to Watch on the Treadmill

lacing up for a treadmill run

Even the most motivated of runners can have a hard time getting started, especially if circumstances mean that a treadmill workout is the only option. One strategy to get things moving is to use what James Clear calls “temptation bundling” in his book Atomic Habits.

Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need do.

Atomic Habits

We’ve found this approach super-helpful for getting started on a workout.

  1. Find an inspiring documentary that you are psyched to watch.
  2. “Temptation bundle” it with your treadmill run so you will only watch it while running.

The only problem is finding something great to watch. We created Zone2Review.com to review endurance sports-related content and make it quick and easy to find the motivation you need whether that’s a podcast, a documentary, an audiobook or a guided bike workout.

Here are our top ten favorite documentaries for treadmill running:

The Barkley Marathons

Fantastic feature-length documentary about a unique trail running ultra race. Equal parts hilarity (part of the entry fee one year was a pair of socks) and serious feats of extreme endurance, it’s mesmerizing viewing. Watched from the comfort of a treadmill you’ll be grateful that you aren’t climbing up the “Rat Jaw” section of the race where runners legs are lacerated by saw briars. Only 15 runners have ever completed the 100 mile, 5 lap race. Sure to make your workout feel achievable.

REI Presents: How to Run 100 Miles

What happens when two friends sign up for a 100 mile race? Brendan Leonard and his buddy Jayson Sime had never run an ultra before but signed up for the 2017 Run Rabbit Run 100. Fascinating to see the training, effort, camaraderie and sheer determination that go into this effort.

The Redeemed and the Dominant | Crossfit Games 2017

Feature-length documentary that follows athletes preparing for and competing in the 2017 Crossfit Games. Entertaining, fast-paced and full of intensity from the get-go. The amazing physical feats of strength, skill, agility and endurance combined with pump-up music and flashy editing are super-energizing. 

The Source | Courtney Dauwalter

Courtney Dauwalter is an ultra runner who has won multiple 100 mile + races. She also holds many endurance records. This film documents her run in the 2018 Tahoe 200 race while exploring the source of her motivation.

Breaking2 | Eliud Kipchoge

Feature-length documentary by National Geographic covering Nike’s 2017 project to break 2 hours for the marathon. Amazing attention to detail, insight into training and fascinating profiles of the runners that took part.

CHASING POUNAMU | Running the Tarawera 100 mile ultramarathon from the back

Great running movies aren’t all about winning races and setting records. This inspiring documentary  by Find Your Feet Films follows a back-of-the-pack runner competing in the 2019 Tarawera 100 mile Ultramarathon in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Icarus

Winner of the 2018 Academy Award, this feature-length documentary starts with filmmaker and cyclist Brian Fogel investigating doping in his sport. As he digs deeper the story develops into something much bigger than anyone imagined.

Life in a Day | The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

This documentary by Billy Yang Films follows four athletes in the 2016 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race. Beautiful cinematography, epic terrain and an inspiring effort by the runners.

The Man With the Halo |Tim Don

Save this one for when you are feeling low. When your injury rehabilitation program seems endless and results are hard to see. Or just one of those days when you know a run will make you feel better but you don’t quite feel as though you can do it. This amazing story will likely put a kick in your step and a smile on your face.

The Dawn Wall

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgesen take on the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite. An astounding 10-year effort to climb an unclimbable route as well as an unexpectedly emotional story about dealing with all kinds of adversity. Not just for fans of climbing, the extraordinary feats of athletic and mental strength on display in this movie will inspire awe in any viewer and reset your idea of what is possible.

Enjoy your run and check out zone2review.com for more reviews: of podcasts, audiobooks, guided workouts and playlists. It’s free and if you register (also free) you can cue up a playlist of your selections, bookmark podcasts and more.

It’s our mission to connect people with great endurance sports content and give credit to the athletes, creators and sponsors that make it happen.

zone2review.com

Curate your own Video Playlist for a Better Treadmill or Bike Trainer Session

Runner on Treadmill

Ever been frustrated navigating to another video mid-workout? You’re running on the treadmill, or maintaining a wattage on the bike or erg and now you have to extend a sweaty hand and navigate through a bunch of touchscreen menus to search for something decent to watch while you finish your session. A sub-optimal situation!

At zone2review it’s our mission to reduce the friction between you and your next workout. We want to make it quicker and easier for you to get stoked and get started.

The zone2review website features recommended content (newest first) and a powerful filter that makes it quick and easy to find quality documentaries and race coverage videos. You can watch a video immediately or click on the clock icon to add it to your personal playlist. Then the “play all videos” button on your MyList page cues up your choices to roll through without any further user input. It’s free to use, you just need to log in with a username/password.

I love the short videos (<60mins) that sponsors like Salomon, Buff, Outdoor Research, REI, and GU Energy are putting out. Producers like Billy Yang, Ginger Runner, GTN, GCN and others are making great content and I’m psyched to watch it while I run or bike indoors.

I started zone2review to make it easier for people to find this kind of content, quickly and easily so they can reframe the “dreadmill” workout and make it something to get stoked about.

One issue I ran into with some of the best videos out there is that many of the ones I want to watch are shorter than my planned workout. If I am running for an hour I can’t be stopping every 6, 8 or 19 minutes to search for and cue up another video.

My sweaty fingers hit the wrong part of the touchscreen, I get frustrated with the menus and with trying to remember what I want to watch next. Invariably I knock something over in the process, water bottle, towel, phone. I’ve even accidentally yanked my headphones and treadmill emergency stop key cord out, stopping the treadmill and smashing my phone on the floor. I feel I’ve been lucky to avoid hurting myself. It’s like texting and driving. Don’t risk it!

YouTube’s algorithm does auto-play another video, but in my experience it’s not usually the one I would have picked. I have a wide-range of interests and my kids watch YouTube so it’s possible the next up is a slime-making tutorial, the Baby Shark song, or a ski review. It might not be too wide of the mark but when you are mid-workout you want the content you watch to be absolutely on-point to hold your attention and inspire you. Almost right isn’t good enough. (Baby Shark has its moments though.)

I’ve tried sticking with feature-length documentaries but it’s super time-consuming and expensive to create quality video and not all stories need more than an hour to be told. There are so many great shorts that I want to watch.

Admittedly I could create my own YouTube channel and cue videos up that way but I find that not all the content I want to watch is on YouTube. There’s great stuff on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Vimeo and more. (Disclaimer, as of July 2019 our playlist feature only works for YouTube videos but we have a multi platform playlist feature in the works. Read on for the stop gap solution that works well for other content types too.)

If I circumstances dictate that I have to run/ride or row indoors my routine is to grab a coffee and transition into a workout mindset by building a playlist on zone2review. I can narrow my focus and drill down to the kind of content I want to watch for the workout I have planned. For a longish run I pick a feature-length documentary or add short videos to my playlist until I have enough minutes lined up. Here are some of the <30 minute videos that I’ve recently worked out with:

It’s totally free to build a playlist at zone2review. Ultimately we hope to generate revenue through relevant promoted content (think Instagram ads) so there are no plans to charge a subscription to users. The only hoop you have to jump through to use the MyList feature is registration/log in and that’s just so you can save the playlist in your account and return to edit it as needed.

For registration we just ask for name, username and a password so hopefully that’s not too burdensome. If we can make it even easier, we will.

Step by Step: How-to Build Your MyList Playlist

Once you are signed up and logged in you can add videos to your playlist. Start by finding the content you want by scrolling the home page for new recommendations and-or using the filter tool to narrow your search. An example might be to check the boxes for “video” “free” and “ultra-running” or “cycling”.

When you see a video you like hover/roll/press your cursor or finger on the image and look for the “watch later” icon. It looks like a clock. If you see it that means you can add the video to your personal playlist. Just click/press on that icon and it will be added to your MyList page. You should see an animation when you click and the icon will change color indicating that it was added.

If you see a bookmark icon you can still add the video (or podcast, audiobook etc.) to your MyList page, it will just go in the bookmarked section instead of the playlist. This is because the content is restricted in some way. It might be that you have to go to Netflix or Amazon to watch it, buy or rent it on iTunes, or purchase on Audible. Typically that stuff is longer format anyway so if you are going to watch/listen with a workout you might not need to roll into the next one so quickly.

When you have added some videos to your playlist head to the MyList page (in the top navigation menu) and you are ready to go. Hop on the bike or get the treadmill rolling and hit the button to “play all videos”. Click to go fullscreen button for the best experience. When the first video ends your next choice will start automatically.

If you run out of playlist videos before your workout is over just scroll down to your bookmarks. If you bookmarked a Netflix or Amazon Prime documentary and you already have their app loaded on your device then one click is all you need from the bookmarks page on zone2review to play your video. No additional searching and menu navigation. It just works.

We hope this feature helps people get stoked for indoor workouts. Whether you have kids, weather challenges, scheduling issues, or a TrainerRoad workout on the calendar, we hope that this helps you get stoked and get it done.

We’d love to hear from users, so if there’s a video or feature you’d like to see on zone2review or something we can improve please reach out via the comments below or via our contact form.

On our roadmap we hope to add the following features:

  • Drag and drop the order of the videos in the MyList playlist. Right now they line up in the order that you add them.
  • A viewing history page and ability to hide already-watched videos via the filter
  • Lots more great content – send us your suggestions!
  • A community/social networking feature so you can share your playlists or individual videos with friends and follow athletes and-or sponsors and their playlists.
  • A mobile app that makes the filter even easier to use.

zone2review is a new platform. We launched in June 2019 so if you find it useful and want to help us improve the site the best help you can give us is to spread the word to like-minded friends and share your feedback. If we can get to a critical mass of users then we can invest in more features and make the site even better.

Get zone2review, get stoked and get your session started!

Find Workout Inspiration Before you Finish Your Coffee. Avoid the Internet Rabbit Hole.

ipad and coffee cup

Need a just-right documentary, podcast, or guided workout to go with your endurance workout? Find it fast with zone2review.

I built zone2review to solve the problem of quickly finding inspirational podcasts, documentaries or guided workout videos to motivate me to get started on a workout.

I love training but getting started can be hard, especially if you need to work out indoors on a treadmill or trainer due to weather, terrain or family constraints. (Getting psyched up to run beautiful trails on a sunny day is not a problem!)

Finding the right documentary – something I’m excited to watch and that will keep my mind occupied, or an inspiring podcast for a long run outside, has been the perfect solution to get me going. That and excellent coffee.

The problem is finding that perfect documentary or podcast. And finding it before 40 minutes of productive morning time is lost forever.

While sipping the last of my morning cup I would start a “quick” search on my phone for something inspiring to watch. Check the Netflix app? Amazon Prime? (I subscribe to both but don’t have cable.) Anything new on SalomonTV? YouTube? GCN Channel? Podcast apps? Where’s my list of shows? Notes app? Or did I write it down somewhere…? What about Reddit? I’m sure I saw a great list there one time…

Suddenly I realize that 45 minutes have flown by. My coffee cup is cold and empty. I have to be somewhere in an hour. Do I still have time to workout and shower and get there in time? ARGH! It’s only 8 in the morning and I have already failed at having a successful day.

All I had to do was get in 5 miles easy and now I can’t. I’m so mad at myself. It’s early morning and I’ve already ruined the day by wasting all that time. I hit play on the first half-decent show I see, and head down to the treadmill for 3 miles with a dark attitude.

Fortunately I am able to get some perspective and get on with the day but I still wish there was a better way. I’m no pro athlete but still it hurts to feel like you are losing fitness, especially when you want to workout but just ran out of time.

After repeating the above scenario too many times I wondered if I could find a bookmarking or productivity app that would help me streamline the process. I found and tested a few options but nothing that worked really well for me.

For months and years I have been finding and making a note of inspiring workout content and telling my friends “you’ve got to watch this documentary about the Barkley Marathons – it’ll make your run feel so easy!” Or, “There are these awesome bike workouts on YouTube that are free and have a coach telling you what to do – you don’t need Peloton.”

There’s so much good stuff out there but it’s spread all over: Netflix and Amazon, YouTube and Vimeo, Audible and iTunes, plus a myriad of sponsor websites like SalomonTV or REI. It’s hard for the target audience to find and that must be equally frustrating for the athletes and sponsors that invest in production.

I’m a web designer/developer by day and I love all endurance sports and training. It occurred to me that I could build a website/app to make it easier for people to find the best endurance workout inspiration videos and audio. And find them quickly too, ideally in less time than it takes finish a cup of morning coffee.

The idea stuck with me so I set to work and created zone2review.

Coming up with a name was harder than I expected due to domain name availability. I love the name zone2review as it implies efficiency and speed. And of course, if you tuck in behind someone (metaphorically here the athlete/coach/trainer/inspiring person you are watching or listening to), then it’s significantly less hard to make the same gains.

Unfortunately zone2review.com, while not in use, wasn’t for sale at an affordable price so I picked zone2review.com – no “i” instead. (If you would do differently I would be interested to hear your domain name vote – at the bottom of this post there’s a quick poll.)

The zone2review website I created has 3 main features:

  1. Super high-quality videos, audio, and books from all over the Internet. Human-curated and tested for workout suitability and stoke level. In the future I plan to allow users to submit their own finds for inclusion. FYI I don’t create content, just find and review it. I’m not trying to compete with content producers, just trying to make it easier to find. Free embeds play directly in the site, protected or premium content has a direct link to play instantly on the provider’s site or app.
  2. The filter. This tool lets you narrow down the options by:
    • type (video/audio/text)
    • subtype (documentaries, podcasts, audiobooks, guided workouts etc.
    • access type (free, subscription, paid)
    • recommended use (aerobic base-training, intervals, rehab…)
    • duration
    • featured sport (e.g. trail-running, road cycling, ski-mountaineering, MTB…)
    • featured athlete
    • sponsor – kudos to the sponsors who are supporting production of great content instead of just investing in display ads.
  3. MyList playlist. If you register (just a username and password sign up) you can bookmark any of the content on zone2review to your own MyList page. This is helpful if you find a bunch of things you want to check out but you want to watch one now and save the rest for later without having to search again. Also, any YouTube videos you add to MyList will play one after the other automatically so you don’t have to search for and start the next video mid treadmill run.

What’s on zone2review?

runner woman listening to podcast for morning run

Podcasts: I LOVE podcasts. Listening to an interview with an amazing athlete, coach, trainer or scientist while I run feels like a real privilege – like I’m a kid listening in on the grown ups talking, or I got free entry to an expensive conference where experts share their knowledge. A podcast plus a long run outdoors is a great combo. I even get a Pavlovian response to some of the intro music now. My heart rate increases and I feel psyched to get going.

I love all kinds of podcasts but have focused here on anything that helps motivate or improve athletic performance as opposed to other interests. One example for insight on mindset and the demands of top-level competition is Bode Miller (Olympic Gold Medal Downhill Skier) being interviewed by Lance Armstrong.

Runner on treadmill

Documentaries: Perfect for the treadmill or indoor bike trainer, elliptical, stair-stepper. Watching ultra-runner Courtney Dauwalter head out of an aid station on mile 74 of a 100 mile trail race changes my perception of the 5 miles I want to run.

Recently, watching Losing Sight of Shore I was so grateful that I could get off the bike at the end of the session as opposed to being in a rowing boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with only a tiny cabin and dried food for comfort.

Sometimes I’m a very reluctant starter when it comes to indoor workouts but when I get started with a documentary I get sucked in and I end up not wanting to stop.

Documentaries are great for recovery spins or for rehabbing injuries. If you are doing bike work to rehab your ACL after surgery then a really gripping documentary like Senna is a great way to avoid boredom, get the time logged, and be inspired by an amazing human.

Guided workouts: You don’t have to pay $40/month for a Peloton subscription (and $2K for a bike) to get a great indoor bike workout. I have definitely improved my fitness with free videos on YouTube, particularly interval sessions like this one featuring footage of a climb up the Passo from GCN.

There’s something about watching another human doing the same workout and speaking directly to you that activates the brain in an extraordinary way. I’ve learned that if I can just get to the stationary bike in my basement with water and a towel and commit to starting one of these videos then my brain locks on to it and somehow, as if by magic, a great workout happens.

GCN – the Global Cycling Network offers something like 20 different trainer sessions, all interval sets designed by former pros. I used one or two of these sessions each week (on my $199 stationary bike – you could use a smart trainer, rollers, or a Peloton) to get fit for the uphill bike leg of the Tuckerman Inferno in 2018.

The Inferno is a pentathlon held on and around Mount Washington in New Hampshire in early April so a tough one to train for during the winter. The bike leg in that race is tough – 18.2miles and 2K of elevation in a gusty wind, light snow and temps around 30 degrees. The free GCN videos helped me so much I sent a thank you letter. Now I want to go climb some of the mountain roads featured in their videos. The Maratona in the Alta Badia region of Italy is on my wish list.

I’ve heard there are some great treadmill guided run workouts too so I look forward to testing those out soon. If you have a recommendation please let me know in the comments below.

For rowers, CrossFitters and anyone who wants to try cardio work on an ergometer there are some great guided interval workouts by World Champion rower Josh Crosby featuring POV footage, and instruction on proper form.

Audiobooks/books: Sometimes I like to read an actual book with my feet up, other times I want the audiobook version to listen to on a long run outdoors. Reading during recovery can be super inspiring and I plan to include some race/FKT/adventure reports too as they can really help with motivation and exposure to races and information that you might not otherwise see. Trail-runner and ski-mountaineer Andrew Drummond’s Tuckerman Inferno race reports were crucial to me in getting psyched up and adequately prepared to tackle that race.

Point Of View Videos (POV): I know quite a few people who love TrainerRoad for bike sessions. I am very tempted to sign up but am trying to resist adding more subscriptions to the budget. If you are a TrainerRoad user, you could cue up one of the POV videos recommended on zone2review on a separate screen to watch GoPro footage of classic climbs such as Mont Ventoux in Provence or a UCI Elite CX race. Something to occupy the conscious mind while your subconscious works on pushing the pedals.

I’ve tried POV video with a written interval session and it definitely made the workout more enjoyable and the time flew by. Also with POV you don’t have to concentrate on a narrative so you can zone in and out as needed while you visit the pain cave.

What’s planned for zone2review?

I’d love to hear from anyone who has a suggestion of what would make the website better. Here’s my top-level todo list.

  1. Add a user submission feature so zone2review users can submit video/audio/text that they recommend for addition to the site. I (and any future editors) would moderate and publish the entry with credit to the user who submitted the piece (or anonymity as desired).
  2. Gain enough users to justify investing in building out an app for mobile. The current site works well on mobile but an app experience could be so much better. I would have to contract additional developers so I need evidence of user growth to justify an app build. Sharing and word of mouth is much appreciated.
  3. Add athlete/sponsor pages so that users can follow an athlete or sponsor and see all their content and recommended gear in one location. I would like to support the athletes and companies that are making all this good content so they continue to make more.

Finally, how to make money and justify keeping this going? I have some affiliate links with Amazon (and hopefully others soon) so that if a visitor purchases something from a link they found on zone2review we get a tiny % affiliate sales commission. Promoted posts are also available for ad sales as well as sponsor landing pages for content, branding and gear promotion.

If you would like to share your opinion please answer these quick questions, write a comment, or send feedback via the contact form. Thank you for your input.

Visit zone2review or and sign up here. Here’s to finding great workout inspiration super fast and getting it done!