November 15, 2014

How I Came to Love the Treadmill – for Eleven Miles

When I got home on Wednesday to the snow, I immediately started thinking ahead to my Saturday morning long run. With the very basic “go 10% further each week” training plan I’ve put together for myself, I was slated to run 11.1 miles this week, and the forecast said it was going to be a very cold 11.1 miles if I did them outside. (We’re talking single digit temps with “feels like” going down below zero!) Between how wussy I can be about the cold, and the fact that I didn’t have YakTrax or anything else to keep me from slipping on the snow, I decided that I would do this week’s long run on the treadmill at my apartment gym. Ugh.

I don’t think I have ever in my life run more than 3 miles on the “dreadmill.” As that nickname implies, I get bored way too quickly, and am constantly just watching the time/distance and calculating how much is left. (And bargaining with myself that perhaps I should do less than I originally planned.) Yes, yes, I know there is the old trick about putting your towel over the display so you can’t see how far you’ve gone, but that would only work for me if there was a way for the towel to be padlocked on and the key given to someone else… I just move the towel out of the way and still check the display constantly šŸ™‚ This week, though, my alternatives were to either run in the snow (nope, nope, not doing that!) or skip my run. So, treadmill it was.

With all this in mind, I started psyching myself up on Thursday morning. I had a 7am conference call, so I decided to do 30 minutes on the elliptical beforehand, and then go back for another 30 minutes after. When I went back at 7:30am (much later than my normal 5:30 or 6am, depending on which office I needed to travel to that day), I found that there were two people on the only ellipticals… so I was banished to the treadmill. Okay, I could do this! I did just 15 minutes on there before an elliptical freed up, and I went back to my usual routine. But I was thrilled that the time on the treadmill hadn’t been that bad at all. I had been able to continue watching TV on my tablet just fine, thanks in part to the awesome LG Tone Bluetooth Headphones I got a few months ago. While the wire doesn’t make a huge difference on the elliptical, I absolutely love the wireless LG Tones for weight lifting, and it actually make me a lot more comfortable running on the treadmill too – there’s more room to swing my arms. (Plus, there may have been an incident a few years ago where my headphones caused me to actually fall off the treadmill. Oops.)

All day yesterday, I kept thinking ahead to my run on the treadmill today. What shows should I watch? What sort of provisions should I bring? Okay, probably none except a single bottle of water, since I don’t usually carry anything when I run outside… but I was trying to get myself pumped up. And it actually worked! While in the past any treadmill runs I’ve planned have usually been canceled by my “but I don’t wannnnnnnnna go run on the treadmill” whining just before I go, this morning I woke up actually kind of excited. Hey, advance positive psychology does work!

I felt a twinge of sadness at missing out seeing my awesome running group, like I usually do on Saturdays – especially since I had been out of town last Saturday and missed them then. But then I took a look outside, and knew I was doing the right thing:


Although I wore shorts and a tee shirt to hit the gym, with temps in the single digits, I definitely threw some sweatpants and a fleece on top in order to get there! Once at the gym, I glanced briefly at the friendly ellipticals, but set up my stuff up on the dreaded treadmill, and put the latest Grey’s Anatomy app on my Kindle. (Thanks, Hulu Plus!) I set the incline to 1% so that it would approximate running outside on flat ground, and set the pace to 6.3mph – 9:31/mile. That was faster than the 10:00ish pace at which I did my last long run, but I knew it would be a little easier on the treadmill since I wouldn’t have hills and wind to contend with. Besides, I wanted to finish this as soon as possible!

I spent the first 40 minutes cruising along at that pace, and just enjoying my TV show. I had strategically positioned myself on the one treadmill that also faces the largest TV in the gym, which was set to the news. So if I was even a little bit bored of the slow plotline on Grey’s (seriously, after 11 seasons, they’ve pretty much had every character hook up with every other character – and they even made a meta joke about that in the final scene), I could glance at the captions on the news rather than focusing on the treadmill screen’s stats. I feel like it probably says something terrible about my attention span that I was running, watching a TV show, and watching the news, all at the same time, but hey – it kept me from getting bored and jumping off the treadmill!

As the episode started drawing to a close, I started considering my next move. I would have about an hour left, so I decided to put on the latest ep of Biggest Loser. If the going got tough, I could remind myself that the contestants were working out far longer and harder than I was, which would hopefully motivate me to get my butt in gear! For the last few minutes of Grey’s, I also decided I would bump the pace up by 0.1 each minute, and then take a walk break while I was playing with my Kindle to change to the new show. By the time the five minutes were up, I was running at an 8:49 pace (way faster than I ever run when I’m at altitude in Colorado) and feeling sweaty but generally pretty good about it. Walk break time!

I chugged water as I changed over to Biggest Loser, and then kicked the pace back up from my quick walk break – this time, setting it at 6.5mph (9:15/mile pace). Just slightly faster than before, but not so much that I was exhausted and wanted to quit. I decided that every time Hulu cut to a commercial, I would kick the pace up a full point to a solid run (7.5mph, or 8:00/mile), and that whenever the show resumed, I’d go back down to my original pace. That allowed me to zone out and focus on the show when it was on, but then focus on the workout and really give it my best when it was just boring commercials.

Well, it worked – that final hour flew by! However, when I got down to just 3 miles left (which seemed like nothing), I changed my intervals once again. This time, it was based on the distance on the treadmill rather than the time (and I ignored the show’s commercial breaks). When I would hit 0.75 miles in the decimals of the distance, I would go for an even faster run of 1.5mph above whatever I was running; after a quarter mile, I’d then take a walk break from 0.0-0.1, and then from 0.1-0.75 I’d go back down to my original pace of 6.5mph – except bump it up by 0.1mph, kind of like I had done at the end of Grey’s. I hoped that this little progression run would keep me from getting bored, and would also give me some extra workout benefits that a steady state run just doesn’t do.

Those last three miles were tough – the sprints were intense! – but the walks really helped me to recover and feel like I could do it again. In my last mile, I kicked the base pace up even higher to 7.0mph (8:34/mile), and finally sprinted with everything I had at 9.0mph (6:40/mile). It wasn’t the numbers I had hit in Tread last week, but it was tough! Thank you, altitude. I was completely out of breath and dripping with sweat when I finished, and I was just so, so, so proud of myself. That was by far the longest I had ever been on a treadmill, and I actually had fun doing it! I wasn’t too crazy tired, and part of me even wanted to keep going. What was wrong with me? That was just so much fun, and I felt so accomplished having actually done my entire long run on the treadmill. Dreadmill, no more!

I never thought I would want to run indoors when Colorado has such beautiful outdoor scenery for my runs, but now I’m actually psyched to get back on the treadmill this week for some more variety-filled interval sessions. I think this will also help me become a much stronger runner. You kind of can’t help yourself but keep up when you press the buttons to push the pace on the treadmill, whereas outside, I don’t really look at my watch much unless I’m pacing, except to check the distance. I am also really happy to have a solid alternative to running outside, since I am guessing this is just the first of many snowstorms we’ll be having in Colorado this winter. (Though I am currently in the market for some YakTrax or something similar so that I can run on snowy/icy trails without slipping.)

What’s the longest you’ve ever run on a treadmill? Any tips for learning to love it?


15 thoughts on “How I Came to Love the Treadmill – for Eleven Miles”

  1. Last year I had to do SO MANY runs on the treadmill because our winter was horrible. I’d watch TV and change the pace as I went along. I don’t much mind the treadmill for speed work but long runs are a struggle. I know I’ll need to find my treadmill mojo as the weather has turned here too.

    1. Do you typically do intervals or steady pace for your long runs? I found that doing intervals made a HUGE difference in helping me find my “treadmill mojo”!

  2. I’m a big fan of the treadmill for speed workouts and tempo runs. I did 8 miles today on the treadmill just so I could let the treadmill set the pace and just hold on. Long runs though… outside or bust!

  3. I used to do long runs on my treadmill by watching a movie. After watching half of the movie or the entire movie- depending upon how many miles- I stopped realizing that I was on a treadmill! Romantic comedies are my quilty pleasure. Good luck!

  4. Minnesota winters chase me indoors for treadmill workouts. I’ve found with a little creativity, I can keep the workouts interesting and get better training than I could outside.

    1. I like to listen to music and change the incline or speed each time the song changes. Most of my workouts are 10 miles, but you can do the same thing with short intense workouts.

    2. I am still pretty lazy about messing with the incline – I usually just leave it at 1%. Definitely need to change that up if I’m going to start logging lots of treadmill miles!

  5. I run every weekday run on the treadmill this time of year because I won’t run in the dark. I usually do long runs outside, but once I ran a 20-miler on it. Yeah. I was training for Boston, and it was a literal blizzard (as in, whiteout conditions) outside. The night before my run, I was still debating running outside, and then I read a Runner’s World article about a woman who was training for her first Boston when she slipped on ice and broke her leg. I took that as a sign that I was not supposed to run in a blizzard. I watched a couple of movies and constantly fooled with my pace, and it was okay. I wouldn’t do it again unless it was completely unsafe to run outside, though!

    1. Yikes! That is a scary story. Have you tried any YakTrax/etc to make it more safe to run outside? I want to go check out the trail where I normally run and see if it’s snowy or cleared – my big issue was that I didn’t know if Parks Dept/etc would clear it after a snowfall.

  6. I love love love the treadmill. And often feel like I shouldn’t admit that since so many people hate it. I have done up to a 16 mile run on it! Sometimes I just really like how I can zone out but playing around with speed during commercials or the chorus to the song helps break it up. Same with incline. That way you get some variation and beat boredom if it is coming.
    Regardless – congrats on the long run!

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