How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like the Treadmill

treadmillRunning on the machine offers up some benefits when it gets too cold or icy to be out on the roads or trails.

By Henry Howard

OK, so I couldn’t actually justify using the word “love” in the headline as was used in the Dr. Strangeglove movie title that gave me the inspiration for this story.

But I did find that running on the treadmill was actually palatable during bitter winter days or when sidewalks and roads still had icy spots.

Not as enjoyable mind you as an outdoor run in spring or fall when the temperature feels just right. And certainly not as enjoyable as an invigorating trail run.

Speedwork, long runs and hills on the treadmill

But at some point this winter I transitioned from dreading dreadmill runs to embracing a run on the ProForm treadmill I’ve owned for about a year. Now I didn’t enjoy the treadmill as much as Susie Chan of the United Kingdom, who set a world record for a 12-hour treadmill run on Saturday. Or Adrian May, who ran 50K on a treadmill for charity.

A week prior to Chan’s amazing run, I did set a personal best for a long run on the treadmill: 18 miles in 2 hours, 33 minutes. A year ago that would have boggled my mind. Thankfully, Netflix and two-and-a-half episodes of Making a Murderer helped pass the time.

That long run was actually part of a string of consecutive treadmill runs. Six in a row to be exact. I’m not going to lie; it was absolutely refreshing to get outside for a 4-mile run on Friday to break up the streak followed by a 12-mile trail run the following day.

And maybe in a psychological way that’s exactly what I needed: a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that by putting up with some treadmill runs, the weather would break soon enough and I would be back outside where I belong.

I also knew full well that I needed to keep training to stay on track of my marathon training, with a 26.2 in mid-March staring back at me from the calendar. Besides, the long run, my recent treadmill runs have included easy runs, speed work and hills — all easily accomplished.

Missing any of those treadmill would have jeopardized my training and my goals for the races, and subsequent ones, too. The treadmill not only kept me on track, it provided a good challenge as I completed workout after workout. (If you run on treadmills, be sure to change the setting to 1 or 2 percent elevation to make it similar to a run outdoors.)

There may be more treadmill runs in my future. Depending on where you live, winter is roughly half over. We have an extra day in February this year (thanks, Leap Year) and March to contend with before better temperatures accompany spring on its return.

If your running has suffered because of winter, or you lack motivation on getting on the treadmill, here are some tips to help you get started.

Top reasons to run on a treadmill

  • The surface is more forgiving than roads. If you don’t have access to trails, intermittent treadmill runs will help your body recover from the pounding it takes from roads.
  • Running on a treadmill allows you to check your form. Watch your form in the mirror or record your movements on your phone so you can check and be sure that your strides, hip rotation, arm swings, etc. are all benefitting you.
  • There is very little chance that you will have to dodge cars, scurry around ice patches and avoid sidewalk imperfections while on a treadmill.
  • It’s a good way to catch up on the latest audio book, listen to a podcast (especially those about marathon training) or catch some favorite tunes.
  • Some treadmills offer inviting running scenarios. Mine offers the chance to virtually run places like the Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill.
  • If you live in an area where air pollution is an issue, running indoors will keep that nasty stuff out of your lungs and away from your heart.
  • When running on the treadmill during cold winter months, you will have less workout gear to launder.
  • If you are traveling and unsure whether it is safe to run outside, the hotel treadmill can be a nice reprieve.
  • It’s something to do while binge-watching the latest Netflix series.
  • Running on a treadmill sharpens your mental fortitude. If you can run X miles on a treadmill, then you can certainly power through your next race or long run outdoors.

No longer the “dreadmill”

I’ll admit that I did think the treadmill was pure evil. But it is not a Doomsday Machine. Far from it.

During inclement weather it is the device that propels me through my workouts and keeps me on pace for the races I have on my calendar this year.

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One Response to How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like the Treadmill

  1. Howard Elakman February 15, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    If you live in frigid areas then the dreadmill is OK for infrequent use. I believe that the treadmill is driven by a motor that keeps the surface at a precise pace. Unless you are a world class runner, you cannot maintain that PRECISE pace for more than a few seconds. You get a very slight twist , mostly at the knees, and when you need knee surgery in years down the line you should not blame it on running.
    I live in Florida and I do not allow my students to use a treadmill. I have them use a rubberized track at least once a week and run outdoors.

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