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The Treadmill-Dreadmill Dance Runners Play and Why the Machine is Worth it

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“I want to stop.”

The treadmill display stared back, unwavering — 0.8 miles down.

“At least I’m almost to mile 1.”

After what seemed like five minutes later: “I’m only at 0.88?!? WHY is this going so slowly?!?”

A half mile later, I knew it was time to check in.

I am not a treadmill fan per se, but I tolerate what runners often call the dreadmill fairly well. I regularly log some of my miles each month on the treadmill, including many speed workouts. I definitely play mind tricks to get through the sessions — sometimes focusing on the mile I’m in, other times thinking of a regular route on the pavement that’s of the same distance and where I’d be at any given point in that route, and occasionally switching up the pace even if it’s an easy workout.

In early 2016, I spent about a month with the bulk of my mileage on the machine because of the weather, including an 8-mile long run the day after up to three feet of snow hit the D.C. area. I don’t care how dedicated you are — there was zero way to do a long run outside that day. (Fun fact: After running those 8 miles, I spent 2.5 hours digging out my car. That’s how long it took to carve out that small, single space at my apartment complex.)

So. Much. Snow.

So less than a mile and a half into my 4-mile treadmill run after work I realized it was time to take a step back — not literally, for fear of falling off the machine — to examine what was happening in my mind.

“OK,” I said to myself. “What is so bad about this … and you can’t say everything.”

I thought about my legs — are they sore or tired? A tiny bit, I weighed in, but nothing significant. Did it take longer for them to warm up? I’ve spent several treadmill runs with tightness in my shins or calves for the first mile only for it to dissipate quickly after hitting that 1.0 mark. That wasn’t the case here, either.

I checked my breathing. It was definitely harder today than previous days, but I wasn’t out of breath at my easy pace.

I thought about my recent bout with a virus that left me sleeping for 15 hours a day and resulted in two days off work. Am I run down to the point I need a break? Maybe. Let’s be perfectly honest — my doctor probably would say yes. But I felt a lot more energetic by the afternoon that first day back at work.

What else?

“It’s hot as hell, like actual hell, there is zero air movement and I am actually going to die,” I said exasperatedly to myself.

That’s it. That was the issue. I realized I was wiping sweat away every two-tenths of a mile.

My work gym is nice, but there is one large fan for the entire cardio area that’s probably three times the size of my apartment. Basically, if you’re not right next to the fan, you don’t feel it. On top of that, most people apparently don’t like it. The gym staff turn it on each day, and someone usually turns it off.

Apparently I am the only person who relies on it. I usually come in and take the treadmill right next to the adjacent fan, shift it to point directly at my machine, turn it on to medium and enjoy a nice breeze that keeps me cooler, and clearly happier, for my entire workout.

That day, someone was on that treadmill, the fan was off anyway and I was stuck far, far away. Two miles in, I almost switched machines when the other one became available because I felt that hot. And then I almost tripped because it’s apparently hard to look 90 degrees to the right while running on a treadmill.

Then I took apart my earlier statement. Was it hot? Yes. Hot as hell? OK, probably maybe definitely an exaggeration. Was it so hot that I could overheat? No, and I had my water bottle with me if needed.

From that 8-mile treadmill run after the Blizzard of 2016.

I stuck with it. I didn’t die. I made it through those 4 miles and ended with a shirt far more soaked than if I’d been near the beloved (by me) fan.

I distracted myself with HGTV and reminded myself that a shower would immediately follow. I picked up the pace the last half mile. And, after I stopped, it was interesting to see the steady climb in my heart rate chart from the beginning to the end of the run — a clear indication of the effort when it feels warmer.

This is the treadmill dance a lot of us runners deal with, but beating that combination of boredom and downright loathing for the machine we come to depend on at times — even if it’s a love/hate relationship — makes us mentally stronger in the end, and it’s totally worth it.

Also, “Fixer Upper” helps, a lot.

 

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