When I think about running and all the things I love about it, I think about moving along quiet streets or tree-lined trails, with the wind in my hair, beautiful scenery all around me, and the sensation of flying in my legs and arms (because every run feels that amazing, right?) What I do not picture is my tired self slogging away in a hot smelly gym on a machine that doesn’t move anywhere.
Although it doesn’t quite compare to running outside, the treadmill can be great in its own way. I’ve written before about using the treadmill as a tool ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) and Jen recently wrote a post about making peace with the treadmill a. But despite all this, I realize that some of you are still skeptical about the value of this machine. So for those of you who still aren’t convinced that the ‘mill is anything more than a modern torture device, here are 10 reasons why I think the treadmill can really rock.
Now that it’s winter, not only do runners have to contend with the normal hazards of traffic and distracted drivers, but we’ve also got to fight darkness, snow, and ice. Here in New England, we’ve got piles of dirty frozen snow lining the shoulder and the sidewalks, leaving us without any good places to run. So sometimes, no matter howhardcore you are, it just isn’t safe to run outside.
I am a very competitive person. So much so that even though I’m not always running a race, it doesn’t mean I don’t always race. As Susan explained in an earlier post, I love to race…on all my runs . When I see someone up ahead of me, I just can’t help it — I set my sights on my target and try to reel them in. But cold dark evenings mean less runners on the road. Which sadly means less competition. Fortunately, competition is never in short supply at the gym. The fact is — whether you’re a man, woman, or small child, if you get on a treadmill next to me, you are committing yourself to a race (and I like to win). It doesn’t matter that you don’t know we’re racing, or don’t even want to be racing. As long as you’re running, the race will go on. And don’t worry about the fact that I might be stealing side-long glances at your screen from the corner of my eye. It’s all in the name of staying motivated.
Despite number 2, I do realize that I need to be better about pacing myself. The problem is, I’m not only racing others on my runs — I’m also racing myself. And if I did a loop at one pace one day, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to run it at the same pace the next. I realize this is a ridiculous way of thinking, and it certainly doesn’t help my recovery. So that’s where the treadmill comes in. When I’m on the ‘mill, I can set it to a certain pace, and don’t have to worry about my body just switching to autopilot and running faster than I should. It can also help me start off slow and relaxed, and focus on running negative splits (when the second half of your run is faster than the first).
On the flip side, the treadmill can also be an awesome place to do speedwork. Especially now that snow and ice has made running on many tracks near impossible. Unless you have a flat, open stretch of road to run on, it can be really tough to simulate a track workout. A treadmill fixes all that. The best part about it is that all you have to do is set the machine to the pace you want to run, and focus on keeping it there.
I think people’s number one complaint about the treadmill is that it’s boring. But really, if you look around you, entertainment shouldn’t be in any short supply. For starters, just look around. People watching at the gym is probably one of my favorite past-times (oh admit it! You all do it too!) There are definitely some interesting folks in there.
If people watching isn’t really your thing, maybe TV is? I’m lucky in that my gym has individual TVs for every machine. Where else would I be able to catch up on the latest music videos, watch crappy reality shows like Real Housewives of NJ, or play along with game shows like Cash Cab all while running?!
When you’re running outside, you need to be at least remotely aware of your surroundings — so you don’t trip, run into people, or worse, get hit by a car. But the treadmill removes all those issues, and allows you to fully zone out. I love being able to completely block out my surroundings. I stare off into space, blast my music and lip synch along (what can I say, T. Swift really tugs on my heart strings). Sometimes I even close my eyes for a minute. It’s a very zen way to run.
Let’s be honest here. I’m a runner. And runners (typically) drink a lot of water. Which also mean lots of trips to the restroom. As much as I’ve tried to avoid it, there have definitely been runs where I’ve had to take a quick break. This is much easier to do inside at the gym than when you’re running around in a million layers, desperately looking for a gas station or some nice store owner who will recognize your plight and take pity on you.
I workout in the evening, and sometimes going straight from work to the gym is just easier. I pack my stuff with me, get there, change, and before I have time to even think about what I’m doing, I’m starting my workout. Not only does this mean that I reduce my chances of going home and coming up with some excuse to not work out (I’m tired/hungry/cold/grumpy/would rather walk my dog/etc), but it can actually be quicker and less complicated. You see, I have a small pup who happens to spend a lot of his day in his crate. And although he’s gotten used to it, I can’t say that he really LOVES spending all that time alone.
So everyday I go home for lunch and take him for a walk. And then as soon as I get home from work, he goes out for another walk. Which means by the time I’m ready to run, it can be close to 6pm. Not only that, but it also means that I have to put him in his crate three separate times during the day. The first two times are no big deal. He has a routine, and I may use just a bit of bribery to convince him that he really wants to go in there. But by the third time — he is pretty displeased, and isn’t afraid to show it. The way I figure it is, he doesn’t have a great sense of how long he is in there, but he does have a general sense of when he’s supposed to go in. So if I go home for a late lunch, get my stuff together, and then head straight to the gym before coming home again, I really don’t think he’s all the wiser. He’s not in the crate for a longer interval than normal, and we save going through all the rigamarole of letting him out and getting him re-settled before I head out again.
I am notoriously bad at stretching. You’d think that with all the injuries my tight muscles have caused me over the years I’d be better about it. But I just hate doing it. When I come home from a run, the first thought on my mind is to get out of my cold, wet clothes and into a warm shower (after I walk the needy puppy of course). The second thought — to eat. I put off stretching until it’s time to go to bed, and then tell myself I’ll just do it next time. I’m sure you can guess how that works out.
When I’m at the gym, however, I step off the treadmill to find the stretching mats staring me in the face. I’m usually hot and gross, and making my way over to the mat for a few minutes can be a great cooldown before I hop into my car and head home. There’s just something about already being at the gym that makes me more likely to continue my workout by stretching than when I’m already at home.
If you’ve gone through all the above reasons and still aren’t convinced then I can’t help you there’s one last reason why the treadmill can be pretty amazing: dogs love it! According to Cesar Milan , any dog can be trained to walk on the treadmill . He actually recommends it for peole who have very active dogs or who can’t get out to walk their dogs enough. It sounds like a pretty good deal to me — you put the pup on the ‘mill and go about your merry way, coming back after a half hour to find a tired, happy dog. If that isn’t a good reason to invest in a treadmill, I don’t know what is.
Just look how happy these little guys are (I want the little one that keeps falling off):
So there you have it, 10 reasons why the treadmill is (sometimes) pretty awesome. I wouldn’t recommend trading in all your outside runs for the safety of the ‘mill, but it’s really not so bad if you just give it a shot.
What are your thoughts — hate the ‘mill? Can’t live without it? Got another reason why you think it’s awesome? Please share below!