Surviving the Treadmill
Many avid runners will avoid the treadmill (or the “dreadmill” as it is sometimes nicknamed) at all costs. Generally, I agree that outdoor running provides a sense of stimulation and fun that can’t be matched by a machine. However, there are certain situations in which indoor running can be the smarter choice. Now that we’re approaching November, a treadmill can be a lifesaver for anyone trying to do serious winter training in a cold climate.
As a member of high school and college cross-country/track teams, running on a treadmill was never an option (it just wasn’t practical for a team of 20 girls), but when I started running on my own I remember being so thrilled about being able to run inside. 20 degrees with sleet and snow? Bring it on! No matter what the weather, I could still do a run in relative comfort. Unfortunately, that novelty wore off and even a few miles on the belt began to seem intolerably long. However, unless you live in Northern California and never have to work late, there will be times when running on a treadmill is the safer (or only) option. Read on for some of my tips on making it bearable!
1) Run your workout with focus. Some people like to cover the display screen with a towel to hide the time/mileage, but for me it actually helps to stay super focused on the numbers. Before you start running, think about what you want to get out of the workout. You can run intervals of hills – perhaps 3 x 1/2 mile at 5% incline with 1/2 mile recovery. You can set a time goal such as running 3 miles in under XX minutes. Or if you’re trying to lose weight you can see how fast you can burn 300 calories (keep in mind the calorie counters on the machines sometimes overestimate). Having something to focus and switching up the pace/incline can make your run go by much quicker. If you’re looking for workout ideas, Runner’s World offers some good options that are treadmill specific. Note: set the incline to 1% to make up for the lack of wind resistance you would encounter outside.
2) Mix things up. When I was training for the New York City marathon last year I had a 15-miler planned on a day that featured torrential rain and wind. Because of prior commitments, I couldn’t re-schedule the run or put it off until the next day. So, the treadmill it was! To keep myself sane, I broke my run up into parts. I ran 5 miles on 3 different treadmills at the gym. At the end of each 5-miler, I took a short break to drink some water and stretch. The people nearby probably thought I was a weirdo (what IS that girl doing?), but running 5 miles at a time seems a lot more manageable than running 15.
Similarly, if the weather is extremely hot or cold, you can run part of your run on the treadmill and the other part of your run outside. Example: If you want to run 6 miles, but it’s the dead of winter, start your run outside. After you’ve run a few miles (or your fingers start to go numb…), head back home. Shed the extra layers (hat, gloves, jacket, etc.) and finish up on the treadmill. It’s probably better to begin your run outside since the cold and wind are more noticable after you’ve been sweating up a storm indoors.
3) If all else fails, distract yourself. I know I said that having focus is a good thing, but sometimes you just want to run easily and you need to do it indoors. In cases like this, queue up your best itunes playlist, turn on the TV (any ridiculous reality show i.e. Jon & Kate Plus 8, Keeping up with the Kardashians), or call your best friend on speaker phone and have a nice long chat.
4) Use the treadmill sparingly. If at all possible, try to get out on the roads. Being in nature is a great way to de-stress and you’ll get a more varied workout by running on outdoor terrain with wind resistance. And unless you hail from the land of Oz – a little light rain won’t make you melt!However, if you encounter any of the following situations, it might be best to stay indoors:
- It’s dark outside and you have to run solo.
- The weather is above 85 degrees, below 25 degrees, thunderstorming, or snowing/raining heavily.
- You’re traveling to an unfamiliar place and aren’t sure if the neighborhood is runner-friendly (When I went for a jog in Mexico City, my friend’s roommates feared for my life).
So there you have it – with a good attitude, a workout plan, and a decent pair of headphones you can survive indoor running!
Where do you do most of your runs? On a track? Treadmill? Trails? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?
By Megan Kretz