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With winter in full force, I will be spending more time on the treadmill. It’s not just because of weather – as you might have read in my last post, I am learning to love running in the cold. But with shorter days, its hard to find time to run in daylight. It’s pitch black when I go to work and by the time I leave, it’s already dusk. Hence, the treadmill.
A lot of people hate the treadmill
It’s boring. The scenery is stagnant. And unlike an out-and-back run outdoors that takes you miles from your car, when on a treadmill, you can quit at any time. I have always liked the treadmill. Sure, it’s not nearly as fun as running with a friend in gorgeous weather on a country road, but I don’t dread it the way others do.
When I first started running, I loved it because I was only comparing my performance against myself. Running outside on a popular running trail, I was passed constantly by others. No matter how many miles or how much progress I knew I was making, I always felt like a slow blob, huffing and puffing while the swift gazelles sped past me. On the treadmill, it was just me. The sound of my pounding feet made me feel fast and strong.
How to love the treadmill
Now that I am a little faster and a more seasoned runner, I find that a few tricks can help keep the friendship between the ‘mill and runner, strong.
- Get your gear in check. Water bottle. A sweat towel. Phone handy. Remote control. The benefit of a treadmill is that you can have it all accessible without carrying it on your person.
- In addition to the towel, bring another one to cover up the monitor. It’s very easy to bore quickly if you stare at the clock. So cover it up!
- I read books when on the treadmill. Yes, this is a skill that takes a bit of practice. But I purchased a treadmill book rack online and never hit the ‘mill without it. The best part is that it keeps the book propped open so that all I have to do is turn the pages. Once you get to the point where you can run and read without suffering from motion sickness, you can go for hours with a good read. I also only look at the monitor every 15 pages I read. It’s a great way to lose yourself in the book and forget you are running!
- I mentioned earlier to bring your smartphone. I check Twitter, Facebook and email when I run. Its incredibly difficult to type and run, but reading updates is a treat.
- If you are lucky enough to have a treadmill at home, plop the treadmill in front of a TV. I save my favorite DVR programs for those runs. It’s a perfect distraction. And, you can use the commercial breaks to remind yourself to amp up the speed consistently.
- If you are a gym rat, take advantage of the magazine selection, the TV programming and the fact that someone else is going to be laundering that sweat towel.
- When listening to music, play mind games. I know that I can run between 2.5 and 3 miles for every six songs I hear. So I’ll count the songs and not let myself check the monitor until I have heard at least that many. The best surprise is when you think you have run 25 minutes and you have actually run longer!
- Try out a running-specific playlist on iTunes. I purchased an “endurance” one that consisted of fast, “pump you up” songs and mapped out a specific treadmill running program. A “trainer” told me when to speed up and how far to go.
- Switch up your run. Instead of just knocking out 4 miles at one speed, use the features available to you. I have found interval training to be great for the treadmill. Start off with a warm up mile, then run half a mile at a fast pace, followed by a quarter mile at an easy jog. Repeat. It’s great to get your heart rate up as well as to keep things interesting. Plus, if you have a hilly race coming up, you can do some great hill training on the treadmill.
- Treadmills are also great to try new things. Try “skipping” sideways on the treadmill. Instead of facing forward, stand to the side and drop the speed down. Shuffle your feet to keep up with the belt. This is great for helping coordination. You can also improve your feet turnover when on a treadmill. Crank the speed high and hold on the bar if necessary. You don’t need to run for long, but the fast pace will help train your stride and improve your running technique.
- And lastly, be safe. All of these things can help you enjoy your treadmill experience but ease into them. Falling off the treadmill is embarrasing and can be painful!
So next time you are stuck indoors, give the treadmill another chance. You may find it to be a convenient friend and the one thing you need to get you through the winter!