Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Running on the Dreadmill: Don't Think Twice, It's Alright

Most runners hate treadmills. They prefer to be outdoors, breathing in fresh air, enjoying the scenery and not enduring the monotony of staring at a tiny little screen (or themselves in a mirror) for the duration of a workout. 

I don’t like treadmills. I also don’t like running on an icy track, as taking a digger would mean hobbling home in in below-freezing temperatures. Nor do I like running in extreme heat, which often happens when I travel for business (see: Las Vegas in late August). 

The treadmill, then, is a necessary evil. Given the choice, of course, I’d pound the pavement or head to the track, but I’m not going to postpone a workout simply because I need to hit the gym. 

When I do need to run on the treadmill, here’s how I pass the time. 

Workouts with easy math. I usually do speed work on the treadmill -- it’s not really that much more monotonous than running on a track, it goes by quickly and I don’t have to feel guilty about not adjusting the incline. “Easy math” means intervals that require little to no rational thought. Repeat miles, 800s or 400s -- all easy fractions of a mile -- at the same pace? Yes. A 1200, 1000, 800, 600 and 400, all at a different pace? No thanks. (This does mean I have to juggle the training schedule sometimes, but, like I said, it’s better than skipping the workout altogether.) 

A slow warmup. On land, my warmups tends to fall around 9:00/mile or faster. I go a bit slower on the treadmill (10:00/mile), largely because of the aforementioned easy math (10 is easier to add to other numbers than 9) but also because it forces me to actually take it easy when I warm up. 

Music. I pick an album or playlist that’s at least as long as my workout. That way I’m not fumbling with my iPod (third generation, baby!) when I’m trying to cruise through an 800. I avoid TV; since I do track workouts, and I have to frequently bump the speed up and down, I find TV too distracting. 

Water. Most gyms are hot and dry, so I bring more water with me than I probably need. (After all, if I have to pee, the bathroom is right there -- and not behind a tree.) 

Towel. Unless you want to use rough paper towels to wipe your face, you should bring an old, ratty towel with you. In a pinch, an old, ratty T-shirt will do. 

Incline. On the rare occasion when I’m just running on the treadmill for the sake of running, I bump the incline up a couple percentage points. This adds some necessary resistance. 

Walk. After my cooldown, I walk for at least a minute. If I jump off the treadmill right away, I feel loopy, as though my body should still be moving. Walking (at 3 miles an hour or so) makes this weird feeling go away. 

The next time you find yourself faced with the horrible burden of running on a treadmill, don’t think twice. It’s alright. 

(I know the Dylan version better than Joan Baez. Sorry.)

If nothing else, you should be marveling at the ability to run several miles without actually moving. That’s pretty freaking cool.