“Yeah! That treadmill is my bitch!” I said this aloud a few days back as I strode up the Crunch cardio-farm floor. It was Tuesday, just after 7 pm–a prime workout day and hour. Yet, there she was, shimmering in front of me. The second treadmill from the left. She had a working television. She had never faltered and skidded to a halt mid-run. She didn’t make the sad sounds of a slowly dying treadmill. All this made her a truly rare being at Crunch—and she was, empty, waiting for me.
I took it as a sign. I was meant to be here, working out on the human hamster wheel. Sure, it was a day originally intended for a running class outside in Central Park, but a late departure from work coupled with the potential for rain coupled with my inability to get a cab to class (because of said late departure) had put the kibosh on those original intentions. Being that I had just spoken, aloud, to a cardio machine, I also took it as a sign that I was losing my mind. Perhaps all of those inspirational quote emails from Runner’s World had gotten me too jazzed up. But I digress…
There’s an odd shame, or at the very least, a sense of defeat–unless the weather is gross, and then it’s okay–that I feel sometimes in regards to the treadmill. Maybe it’s the common shame associated with doing anything indoors that could be done outdoors with a tree nearby. It’s a shame that’s particularly strong in New York it seems, probably because our indoor spaces are tiny and our potential for being outside is typically pretty limited by long work hours, a shortish seasonal window wherein it’s actually pleasant to be outside, and an over-abundance of indoor activities, like waiting in line five hours to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit. So, if you’re running and the weather isn’t totally miserable, you should be doing it outside, preferably in a park–right?
Wrong. Yes, being in the fresh air on a cool summer night is lovely. There’s a slight breeze. Maybe some fireflies. The smell of BBQ in the air. Children (nice ones that get out of your way and have adorably disheveled hair) scampering about with water guns. That can all be quite relaxing and zen and whatnot, but so is a ride on the treadmill.
To quote the great Ron Popeil, there is a wonderful “set it, and forget it” quality about the treadmill that I find equally, if not more soothing (at times) than running al fresco. There’s no struggle to keep pace, no need to constantly keep glancing at your GPS watch or set your RunKeeper app to have that annoying lady’s voice remind you to slow-down or speed-up. You simply press the buttons until you reach your desired pace, and then you keep it, knowing that if you don’t you will fly off the machine in an embarrassing manner.
Then, there are the entertainment options. If I’m treadmill-ing during the week, I favor Jeopardy. If I’m having a rare efficient day, I can be cruising along by 7 pm, in time to catch both the single and double rounds. It moves quickly and somewhat rhythmically except for the part where Alex asks the people about themselves and someone does an awkward impression. I’ll watch CNN and play catch-up on the news of the day until I’ve reached a point where I’ve read every scrollbar. Treadmill running is also ideal for trashy television viewing. There’s nothing wrong with watching 16 and Pregnant or The View if you ran four miles while doing so. Thanks to those miles, you can even bring such shows up in conversation without embarrassment. “While I was at the gym, I just happened to catch… “
Of course, running on a treadmill while looking slightly up or down at a television or iPhone screen isn’t exactly ideal training. It doesn’t tend to foster the best form, or, at least, much attention to it. Plus, it’s best to do at least some training on the actual race terrain, and I won’t be running the marathon on a flat, moving rubber surface, last time I checked. But, once, or twice a week, I cut myself a break and allow some easy miles with the treadmill and some old Friday Night Lights episode on my iPhone.
Learning to cut myself said breaks is proving to be one of the more challenging aspects of training. I have a tendency to view my training plan as some sort of grade-school role-call sheet, and I’ve become the elementary school student I never was: A girl desperate for perfect attendance. Last week, my attendance record was quite poor (see below). I was breaking in new orthotics and new shoes and dealing with a bit of a stomach bug. When long run time rolled around, it was all I could do to head to the treadmill late Sunday morning. I’d hoped to do 12 miles, but after eight, my feet and ankles were complaining about their new homes, still adjusting to the orthotics and my switch from a neutral to a support shoe. It wasn’t so much pain that I couldn’t have pounded out a few more miles, but was the potential for injury worth it for the sake of crossing off a number on my training plan? Of course, it wasn’t, but my inner idiot/asshole, always a fairly vocal being, considered running the extra miles until my ankles were screaming and I was left hobbling around for days after. I silenced her and hopped off the treadmill. There was always next week to redeem my attendance record.
Training Week 5:
Miles logged: 14, eek!
Longest run: 8 miles, eek!
Long run fuel: A couple sport jelly beans, but not much needed
Post-run recovery food: Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs, zucchini flash-sautéed in habanero olive oil
New equipment purchased: None. Mizuno Wave Rider neutral shoes exchanged for Mizuno Wave Inspire support shoes.