Monday, November 14, 2011

Treadmills: Necessary Evil, or Divine Invention ?

From time to time I may go off on a tangent and cover something other than my marathon training. It should keep things more interesting than a steady stream of:  " Yesterday I ran again"  Besides, it's my blog so I get to....

Today's tangent is treadmills, or "dreadmills" as I've heard them referred to.  I've been serious about running for about a year now, but I've been a casual runner since High School.  Up until a year ago, I would never have chosen a treadmill over a "real" run.  I liked the solitude of running the back roads of my town, I liked seeing the changing leaves, the snow falling in front of the streetlights, and even the accomplishment of getting out there and running in weather that I know 90% of people wouldn't venture out in for any reason.

Then last year I got serious about running...well...that's not exactly true.  I got serious about losing weight, and for me, the best means to that end was running.  Losing weight was something I had tried many, many times and never had much luck at it.  I was determined and driven this time to make it happen.  One of the first benefits to the treadmill was it removed the dark/wet/cold/snow excuse.   My psyche was dead set against giving up those extra pounds it had spent years building up.  My head would tell me all sorts of reasons why skipping a run today was OK.  If I listened to it, I was doomed to fail yet again.   By knowing the treadmill was available, I couldn't ever bail on a run due to weather.  Many times I would actually run outside because of the treadmill.  If the weather was bad, I'd say "'s a treadmill day....but if I'm going to run anyway...I might as well go outside"  It's all rationalizations and psycho babble, but it got me moving and kept me moving.  Spring came, birds chirped, flowers bloomed and the mercury rose.  I started mixing more and more real running into my schedule, but found that I really liked both atmospheres.  "Real" running still offered the scenery, the solitude, and the accomplishment.   I'm going to take a moment here to reveal some personal information here.  I like getting compliments.  I don't think I'm vain or shallow, but I'll leave that judgement to others.  No one ever says "Wow" when I say I did an hour on the treadmill.  But you get a different reaction when you say you ran to some landmark and back.  People can envision that distance and say that's a long run.  I know it shouldn't matter to me what other people think, but my ego likes to be stroked as much as any other part of me  :)   People commented on my weight loss and I liked it.  People would comment on my running and I liked that too.   The treadmill doesn't give that.  However, it does offer a lot of other benefits that may be even more significant.

There's less planning involved and more freedom to improvise your distance on a treadmill.  I have established road routes for whatever distance I want to run.   If I don't know if I'm up for 8 miles, and don't want to walk home or get stranded 2 miles away, I'll play it safe and opt for the 6 mile route.   If I get back home with something left in the tank, I could go do another 2 miles but I don't.  On a treadmill I can just keep running without any fear of being stranded.  I don't have to predetermine my distance.  I've had some great runs where I just get on and decide to run until I'm tired.

Hmmm....maybe I'm more shallow than I thought...but I like having people around in the gym notice that I've been on the treadmill for a while.  I like seeing people come and go while I'm still putting in miles.  I like when the gym attendant comments that I've been there every night this week.  I even like chatting with a few of the regular people that you start to see night in and night out.  The treadmill has social benefits.

There's a feature on the treadmill that alters the elevation every few minutes.  I get a much better hill workout with this than I would on the roads.  Hills are an important training tool, and I don't like doing them.  By setting their severity and the speed I run them at beforehand, I get a better workout.  I'm less likely to run as fast or repeat the hills as much when I'm on the road.  Treadmills give good hill workouts.

I'm a certifiable numbers geek.  I like playing math games with how many calories I'll have burned at the next even mile, if I turn up the pace for a few minutes, can I hit a certain distance by a certain time,  will my pulse be over a certain limit by this distance, and so on.  This is a big, fun, beneficial distraction for me.  I guess I could get that with a running computer or GPS watch, but I don't have either.  Treadmills give my geeky side a work out too.

Finding time to run is always a challenge for everyone.  I'm also a sports fan.  I can't afford to take an hour for a workout and 2 hours to watch a basketball game.  With a treadmill I can do both at the same time. My gym has treadmills with individual tv screens on them.  I can get my workout schedule and my tv schedule done at the same time.  Treadmills allow multi tasking.

When I need to be available for something, I can keep my phone handy and run until I'm needed.   If I want to be home when my wife gets home but we don't know when that will be, I can run until she tells me she's on her way.  I get to maximize my running time and still be able to honor other commitments.  Treadmills allow me to maximize my workout time.

I can keep my phone or iPod handy to stay in touch during a treadmill run.  I can get texts and emails while I'm on the treadmill so for those times when I need to be available, a treadmill is a great option.  Treadmills allow me to stay connected.

If I'm nursing an injury and not sure how much I can run, a treadmill allows me to get in a little running and not feel bad if I have to stop.  I can just switch to an eliptical, do some weights, or find another way to complete my work out.  It's just soooo demoralizing to head out for a run and have to turn back early.  Treadmills allow me to vary my distance and have a "plan B" workout.

This was longer than I expected.  Thanks for bearing with me through it all.  The next time I do a "tangent blog" I'll pre write it and edit it so it's a little more concise and easier to read.

Just don't stop running.....

1 comment:

  1. Great reasons to run on the treadmill. By the way, I found the link to this blog on a post that you left on Runner's World.