I love to be outside. The air, the sun, the terrain (hopefully), and all the little things that lower my stress and wake up my body are something that I am very grateful for. But sometimes I (and the rest of us) are forced to stay inside. Whether it is logistics with children, anxiety about going out alone in the dark, or inclement weather- many of us have found ourselves moving on a treadmill. Now I know that some people (perhaps even you as you are reading this now) actually love the treadmill. I am not one of those people. This is a story about how I learned that about myself.
One year I was training for a marathon. It was going fairly well. I had a training plan. I was mostly sticking to it (in a way that recognized the reality of my body and the need for recovery). I was months into the plan and was feeling more and more confident. It really was going pretty well.
One weekend I had a 20 mile run planned. I looked outside and realized that it was really really stormy. It looked bad enough that I was unsure of how wise it would be to go out if it was not absolutely necessary. So I thought about it for a bit (it was my day off so I had some time). After some consideration I decided that I would head to the gym and do my run on the treadmill. I geared up, got on my bicycle, and rode a short six miles to the gym to go do my run.
On the ride over I realized it was even windier than I had thought. The base level wind was about thirty miles an hour and the gusts threatened to knock me off my bicycle. I was quite relieved to make it to the safe harbor of the gym. I went and changed into running clothes and got myself onto the treadmill. I began running. It was ok, but not my favorite. I watched a little HG TV and settled into a rhythm.
At mile seven on the treadmill I began to experience a sort of mental exasperation. It was hard to focus. I wasn’t actually going anywhere. I just was putting my body through the motions. This became strangely disconcerting. Still, I was not injured and I had a training plan I was trying to stick to.
As I got to mile ten I began losing patience and I was only half way done. I sped up the treadmill and just ran faster wanting to finish sooner. This did not really seem to help as much as I had hoped. There was just something awful about feeling like a mouse on a wheel. It was kind of like the treadmill was stealing a piece of my soul. This probably says more about me than it does about treadmills or the act of running on them. None the less, this was my experience.
When I got to mile twelve and a half I gave up. I just couldn’t handle it. I felt like I was being broken in slow motion. So I headed to the locker room, put on some tights and warm clothes and headed back out into the gale to finish the rest of my run.
I stepped outside and the wind almost knocked me over. It had gotten much worse in the time I had taken to run just over twelve miles on that treadmill. I steadied myself and pushed forward. When I say pushed forward I mean pushed forward- into the wind. I actually couldn’t even run it was so windy. I just kept going though and before I knew it I had made it two or three miles from the gym. I think I ran zero steps of that. It seemed prudent to turn around given that the wind was starting to transport water into my face at a very uncomfortable velocity. It’s just not everyday that raindrops cause pain when they hit your skin.
I turned around and started running back to the gym. I was getting cold. When the wind was behind me I ran unexpectedly fast. When it switched to a side wind I struggled to stay on my feet and move forward at all. I made it back to the gym and huddled shivering inside. I took a strangely long hot shower to try and warm myself up. When that didn’t work I downed a liter of water from a bottle in my gym bag and hopped in the sauna and did not get out until I was warm.
This was when my feelings towards treadmills began to become apparent. I put my bike clothes back on, packed up, and went out to the desk. I purchased a protein shake and downed it with gritted teeth like it was medicine. I then looked the young man at the desk in the eye as I put on my bike helmet and said, “wish me luck.” He gave me a solid fist-bump and I headed out into the gale to ride myself back home. I rode a couple of miles back towards home and stopped at a doughnut shop where I ate three doughnuts and drank a very large hot coffee and warmed back up. I then stepped outside again and rode the rest of the way home.
I had to get off the bike and push several times the wind was so bad. But at no point in all of this did I ever think, “I should have stayed on the treadmill.” By the time I made it home I was cold, wet, and miserable… but strangely happy. And if you ask me the only part of that day I regret is the twelve miles or so I spent on the treadmill.