My Treadmill Lament

Readers, I am quickly learning why so many people call the treadmill the “dreadmill.”

On the one hand, having access to a treadmill makes me so happy because it means I can run on days when I don’t have access to an indoor track, without having to risk slipping on icy, uncleared sidewalks. Because no one in this god-forsaken city cares enough about their fellow citizens to shovel/salt a sidewalk and it drives me CRAZY. (I really wish we could borrow this idea from a nearby city and publicly shame – and fine – people who don’t clear their sidewalks!) But I’ve complained about that here before, so I’ll move on.

Where was I? Oh right. On the other hand, the treadmill kind of sucks. Feeling like a hamster on a wheel is something I don’t really mind in the grand scheme of things, even though I’d much prefer to have changing scenery. No, what drives me crazy about treadmills is that I can’t seem to run on them without being a total spaz. Let me set the scene for you. The last time I was at the gym I thought I’d give the ol’ ‘mill a go, and this is how it went down:

  • I hop on the ‘mill and spend way more time than necessary studying the intricate screen in front of me, trying to figure out how to use the thing. Someone hops on the machine next to me and starts up with no hesitation. I feel a little dumb.
  • I start the belt up slowly, building the speed to a point where I’m walking semi-fast, just to get a feel for it.
  • As I’m getting said feel, I play around with the TV controls and channel surf a bit until I realize there’s nothing on and opt to watch an NBA game involving two teams I couldn’t care less about.
  • I slowly build up speed until I’m running at a pace of 11:36. All my faffing about with the TV was in vain, because the screen is permanently tilted to an angle that suits tall people, i.e. not me, so the screen is covered in a huge glare from the lights.
  • 11:36 is making me run a little funny, because my legs want to go faster, so I up the speed to 11:19 (pre-set pace settings). This is a touch too fast, but running comically fast feels less embarrassing than running comically slow, so I go with it.
  • Even if I could see the TV without the glare, watching it would make me a bit seasick since the screen is bobbing up and down way too much as I run. This bobbing seems wrong, so I stare at my reflection in the window and try to fix my stride so that I’m not bouncing so much.
  • The window leads to the pool, so after a few seconds of watching my reflection, I start watching people swimming. After a few seconds of that, I realize I look like a total creeper, so I look back at the TV, only to get seasick and start the whole cycle again. This cycle lasts for the entire time I’m on the treadmill.
  • Because I’m looking at a bunch of different things, I keep veering off in random directions on the belt as I run, which is a problem because there’s not a lot of room for me to veer. I try to correct this by looking straight ahead, which offers me a vista of nothing. Commence the seasick/creeper cycle again.
  • I have a narrow stride to begin with (like I think I’m running on a very narrow track or even a tightrope, all the time), but being on a treadmill makes this worse. My knees are clattering into each other with each step, and my feet are flying around like crazy behind me. I feel very conscious of the fact that I must look ridiculous, so I focus on widening my stride and then feel like I’m running as if I poo’d myself. Alternate between the two until I finally give up and step off the machine with jelly legs.

So, basically… I don’t know how to run on a treadmill without being completely ridiculous. I’m looking every-which-way all at once, bobbing up and down like crazy, veering all over the belt, and either smashing my knees together or waddling… all while beet-red and dripping sweat despite having the treadmill fan set to high and aimed right at my face. I must look like a winner! That said, my being completely self-conscious doesn’t help, either. Neither does the fact that I forgot to bring my iPod so on top of everything else I got to hear my knees clattering, thighs rubbing, and breath wheezing. It was altogether unpleasant.

But, unpleasant or no, if I want to keep my fitness up during the winter, the treadmill seems like one of the best ways. I just need to remember to bring music and somehow learn how to stop being such a spaz. That’s doable, right?!

How do you fare on the treadmill? Are you all over the place like me, or are you able to find a groove? (If so, can you tell me how??)

How do you keep yourself occupied while running on the ‘mill? Music, TV, reading, people watching?

If you don’t use the treadmill, how do you keep your fitness up during the winter?
I’m jealous of you runners who live in snow-less climates!

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23 thoughts on “My Treadmill Lament

  1. My running partner in the winter is is my treadmill 100%- affectionately named New Guinea (because it was the new ‘mil bought after “Gerbil” died). When I run on said tread I keep three things in mind: foot strike is always directly below my hips, when I’m trying to find a good pace I never look at the screen – I go by heart rate and adjust based on how badly I’m sucking air, and lastly – my most important rule – I don’t watch anything. My iPod is my constant companion. I can’t run inside without music! Don’t worry so much about how you look. Concentrate on form so you don’t feel so all over the place. My first week on a treadmill I ran a 12min/mile just so I could concentrate on feeling comfortable. After I developed a solid relationship with the treadmill I was able to crank it up. My favorite run now is a 10.10min/mile pace with a 3.5 incline. 🙂

    • New Guinea – I like that! Those are all good tips… I feel like I need to make a cheat sheet to bring them all with me to the gym next time I go! 😉 Thanks!

  2. I have the same problems as you, so I usually just deal with the snow! My gym is terrible and they only have communal tvs which are set like 15 feet in front of the treadmills and are suspended in the air. They only play either the news, sports or bravo. It’s terrible. I only go when I absolutely have to. It’s pretty difficult to keep your mind off of just constantly pounding away and passing countless minutes on that thing. My boyfriend always runs on the dreadmill and he says he thinks about races while running. I usually just use my phone to listen to music. I don’t use it on outside runs, so it’s like a special treat.

    • I definitely need to remember to bring music next time. I don’t use my ipod when I run usually, so like you said, it will be a special treat! Hopefully one that keeps my mind off looking ridiculous 🙂

  3. I really don’t mind the treadmill. I watch Netflix on my phone, which helps a lot. I guess it’s because when I started running, about 98% of my runs were done on a treadmill, so maybe I’m used to it? I still veer a bit from time to time, and I often end up running into the front of the machine, but on the whole, it’s better than not running due to weather.

    • It’s probably just an issue of what I’m used to, since all but 3 of my runs ever have been outside or on an indoor track. Glad I’m not the only one who veers! I’ll just have to get used to it, because like you say, it’s better than not running, and better than running my way through snow piles or dodging cars!

  4. Sorry the treadmill gives you so much trouble. I actually started running on a treadmill and have used it pretty consistently over the years so it doesn’t faze me…much. I have to listen to music on the treadmill though to keep going. Definitely can’t read! I also can’t stay the same speed for very long cuz I get bored out of my mind. Maybe it would help you to play with the speed a bit more? For instance, I’ll usually only go 2 minutes at one speed and then bump it up a notch (0.1 mph) or down if I need a little recovery. I hope you get used to it soon! It is a good tool to use for fitness in the winter.

    • Thanks! It gives me hope that other people manage to deal with it ok 🙂 Music will be a must for next time, and I like your idea of playing with the speed as I go. I’ll definitely give that a try!

  5. I love having the option in the winter in New England. I’ve gotten used to it, but would still rather run outside. I always bring my phone and watch Netflix on it (my gym has free Wifi). If I get bored watching something, I can throw my music on instead. I have to have something to focus on though or it’s incredibly awful!

    • I’m definitely thankful for the option! Especially after snowstorms when the roads are a mess and the sidewalks may as well not exist 🙂 Having something to focus on will certainly help, I think!

  6. I may live in a snow free zone but I refuse to run in the dark so winter is treadmill time for me. I have fallen off, punched it, run into it and dropped my phone numerous times- so it’s not just you! I usually only start to feel comfortable about 3 miles into a run on a treadmill-so when I am just about done. :). Music is a huge help and I admit I people watch.

    • I’m also not a fan of running in the dark, which is why I was so excited to have treadmill access. I’m sorry to hear about your treadmill troubles, but it does make me feel better to know I’m not alone! 🙂 Next time I’m going to try music and maybe picking a machine with a different view so I don’t feel like a creeper!

  7. Hate the treadmill and I fail miserably at it. Last time I was on it was a tempo run and it was bad. I cannot stand easy runs on the thing, going at an uncomfortable pace while the screen is staring you down is horrendous. The ones at my gym have a track on them so get a nice visual representation of how far you have not run. I was suppose to do 8k that day, 5 at tempo. I did 5k, not much of it a tempo, I ended up doing interval situation/giving up. It was bad.

    Time before that was months ago, another 8k run actually, what helped was for about half the run there actually was something decent on the tv. And then there wasn’t and it sucked but I did manage to finish that one.

    I just layer layer layer and go outside, I have mizuno run socks that warm up when they get wet so that helps with snow/freezing puddles. Haven’t had much snow here this year so pathways have been decent. I also live in an area with a lot of trails. Trails are actually really good to do in the winter, just buy traction aids and you’re good to go, or do what I did last week and don’t buy traction aids and run on packed down snow that then froze and spend the time trying not to die.

    There’s also waterproof running shoes around, my store has a few, can’t remember them all, I know Nike has one, they also completely reflective so good for night runs too.

    • Ooh, these Mizuno socks intrigue me! I’ve been eyeing waterproof running shoes and YakTrax lately… they may appear in my future because I’m too much of a gearhead 🙂 I like the sound of the treadmill at your gym that has a track on the screen… I’d like that much more than just a regular TV!

      • They’re fab! Thin but still warm (I have cold feet and even before the run I don’t feel cold with them – nor hot later) and they’re low socks but still come up high enough so there’s no gap between my leggings and socks. And I’ve run through a few ice cold puddles, and you have than instant OMG THIS IS COLD thought but it’s gone in a flash and you don’t feel like you have wet feet. Its Mizuno Breath Thermal, they make a ton of stuff out of that fabric, I have a headband with it too, and there’s hats and gloves, clothing and apparently even compression arm sleeves.

        ahaha I hate it. It’s just loop of lights it blinks at where you are on the ‘track’ and doesn’t move as fast as I’d like it too ahaha. It has a tv too.

  8. At first, I was pretty dedicated to toughing it up and running outside. But then I remembered that snow is slippery and -20 degree temps kind of hate my feet. Pain pain pain. So I had to just.. law low.
    Also, I hate the treadmill. I find it awkward, which isn’t enough to not run on it, but it absolutely wrecks my body! My ankles always kill after a mile or so on the ‘mill.
    BUT, during my free trial of John’s gym, I found the WOODWAY. I’ve never seen one at any other gym I’ve belonged to. It’s this magical, plank-like treadmill that I ran 2.5 miles on with no pain. Granted, it was still super awkward and I couldn’t decide how to entertain myself… but I kind of loved it enough to actually join the gym which is SAYING something!

    • Ohhh this Woodway machine sounds awesome! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that my gym gets one someday… til then it’s just grin and bear it I guess! The treadmill makes the outside of my foot hurt, and I’ve never managed to run on one long enough to see if it does my ankles in as well. I suppose I’ll find out 🙂

  9. I have nothing against the treadmill. When I first started running, the first 4 years or so I very rarely ran outside. I hated having to figure out where to go, I worried about tripping on things and getting lost or attacked, and I didn’t want to arrive back home only to find I was at some ridiculous mileage like 3.77. I have now gotten used to running outside and have grown to love it, but there are still things I hate about it and reasons I prefer the treadmill.

    With that said, I do still do awkward stuff. (Like punch the treadmill accidentally hitting the emergency stop button and bringing the whole thing to a halt.) SOooo, I don’t really have any tips on how to be less awkward, but getting distracted should help that. I like to make the time pass by pushing a button every two minutes or so…go faster, go slower, increase the hill, lower the hill…whatever. Also, listening to music helps…reading the tv on closed captioning…and my personal favorite: reading my kindle (with the text turned up to the largest font size). Yes, you have to “turn” the page ALL THE TIME, but so what? Reading’s fun!

    Good LUCK!!!

    • The treadmill definitely has some advantages to running outside! To add to your list, I like that there’s a bathroom handy all the time too 🙂 I am glad I’m not the only one who feels awkward on the thing, but it sounds like I’ll just have to embrace the awkward and find some way to distract myself!

  10. I’m late to the game here, but we just bought a nice treadmill, which reminded me of your post!

    So first of all, I’m a very weak runner AND I really don’t even like running. I only do it because it is the most efficient way for me to exercise while the bub naps and exercising makes me feel good. Fitting into my old clothes makes me feel good too. 😉 I used to use the elliptical but I couldn’t always get into the groove. One of the treadmill options I really love is that even when I’m not feeling the whole running thing, I can still get myself to do a power walk with the treadmill on a mega incline to get some exercise that feels a little more “easy” in my mind.

    I like the treadmill because I don’t have to worry about uneven ground, crossing streets, other people, weather, blah blah blah. I can put all my focus into finding a good pace and making sure I do things like relax my shoulders. When I run out in the world, I tend to get frustrated by how slow I am and then my pace gets out of control and I’m fried after a quarter mile like a maniac. Feeling slow distracts me too much from finding a rhythm. Running on the treadmill helps me regulate so that I can find a speed that will let me pound out a little more distance. I can creep up slowly without getting out of control, and if I find myself running up on the front I can bump it up some more because my body wants to go a little faster. When I first started I used to be all over the place too but not anymore, not sure what happened! I like to look out the window, so maybe that helps me focus straight ahead. I also listen to music…and the baby monitor, ha. When I went to the gym I would watch the tvs while I listened to the music, anything to distract me from the digital numbers. I also find that I’m able to push myself more on the treadmill, like “okay I’ll go another .25 miles at this speed and then slow down” whereas on the street I’m just like “ugh it’s so far awaaaaaayyyy I’ll just stop for ice cream!” Mmmm…..ice cream.

    • Gah! I only just saw this comment! I’m totally jealous that you got a treadmill, that is awesome. I tried making sad puppydog eyes at Drew but he doesn’t think our house could handle one! I like the idea of walking on a steep incline… that seems like it would still be a great workout! ❤ ❤

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