Is a treadmill ever a good idea?
When something is hard, but still desirable, it is time to problem solve! This was the case for me with running on the treadmill this year.
Why run on a treadmill? Here are a few reasons I sometimes do:
- weather extremes
- scheduling issues
- lack of outdoor venues
- access to bathroom
- not wanting to deal with outside factors, such as dogs or cars
Sometimes it is the only reasonable choice. Sometimes I know I will feel better if I get in a run and going outside is not an option. So I decided I needed to really problem solve how to make it work better for me.
Starting with the positives can help
It is motivating to be specific about why the seemingly harder choice is sometimes the good choice.
Hard rain or lots of snow are obvious reasons. Deep cold is another. I have run in extremes, but there are limits. Also, some days I’m not ready to face extremes in the weather.
A possibly less obvious weather issue is heat. If I can’t get outside early enough to beat the heat, a run in the air conditioned house is a decent option.
Here are some other positive aspects of choosing the treadmill, even if they aren’t the primary reasons:
- I don’t have to carry my water (it sits on the holder)
- I can view my sewing room and brainstorm about projects
- I can video chat with someone
- I don’t have to be concerned about exactly when to turn around and go back
- I can keep an eye on people working at the house for us
These are just examples to show that you can find benefits to running on the treadmill.
What are your reasons for not liking the treadmill?
To problem solve effectively, you also need to pin point what it is that you don’t like. These were the things that made it hard for me:
- Pace never varied
- Felt too fast
- Was actually going slower
- Lack of air flow
- Belt got hot
- Lack of scenery
Changing up the pace
I discovered that I could reasonably moderate most of these negatives. For starters, I experimented with changing the pace. The most obvious idea is to speed up or slow down, but I also found that on some days it helped to stop for a few moments.
Sometimes when I stopped, all I did was get a quick drink or start a new podcast. I would be re-starting the treadmill at the same time at it’s pre-set slow walk to get ready to increase to a run when I was ready.
Sometimes I would run to the laundry room and put clothes in the dryer or run up the stairs to check on the dog. Whichever thing I did, I didn’t usually stop moving all the way. But it did give my legs some variation and relieve some of the mental pressure of staying on the treadmill.
What I found was that as I gave myself leeway to change the pace or take a short break, I was still building treadmill skills and overall running stamina. I don’t tend to completely stop as often any more, but I don’t feel guilty if I do. I try to judge on the day what I need.
Now, I typically start the running pace at whatever feels comfortable for both my stamina AND my sense of safety on the turning belt. After I have warmed up, I will moderately increase the speed in approximately mile increments, then gradually slow down.
This doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach either. If it feels helpful to let the pace go up and down, I will do that. Consider that when you run on the ground, your pace naturally varies according to several factors. Changes in terrain and how long you’ve been running that day are just a couple of examples.
Why does the treadmill feel faster to me?
Maybe someday they will design a treadmill that responds to the pace you are trying to run. That day has not arrived. Until then, the treadmill can seem like a task master that never gives you a break. Run, run, slave!
As mentioned above, I partially deal with this by allowing myself to choose a comfortable pace, no matter what the machine stats say. After I have warmed up, I tend to find a rhythm that works and I am once again the master of the machine.
I have also given in to using the little clip that will signal the treadmill to turn off if I fall. My treadmill is in a corner and if I go off of the end, I will actually hit a wall and probably fall on the moving belt. It would be better if the belt turned of in this case, so, the clip.
I accidentally tested the clip once when I got off the treadmill without completely stopping it and the clip snapped off of me. It was reassuring to see the machine shut down.
In summary, I don’t worry about how my treadmill pace compares to outdoor pace. It doesn’t help me and it causes me stress.
Why does the treadmill go so slow?
There is something limiting about having a predetermined stride limit, plus there is the bar in front of you. Those things along with the oddity of the ground moving under our feet as we lift them versus our feet moving over the ground as we propel ourselves seem to just make it harder to run fast and free on the treadmill.
Not that I’m regularly zipping around at astonishing speeds outside, but I know for certain that it is easier for me to go faster much more comfortably on real ground. I have also seen this confirmed by other runner’s on running forums and by my experienced husband. The question is how much does it matter and should you try to do anything about it?
I say no, which you probably would guess from what I’ve written so far. If you take the attitude of running comfortably under your current circumstances, you will be less likely to hurt yourself and more likely to use your treadmill enjoyably. That’s what really matters.
Give me air!
My first experiences running on the treadmill were at the gym. Airflow was an issue in a building full of people exercising. The temperatures were kept cool, but there was no practical way to have fans for everyone.
At home, I placed my treadmill right next to a good sized window. When I run, unless it is in the dead of winter, I open that window and another across the way that puts me right in the middle of what others might call a strong draft. I call it refreshing.
I also don’t overdress. At home, I don’t have to worry about offending anyone or following gym rules for attire. I run barefoot and dressed for a run on the beach. Let the perspiration do its thing!
Barefoot on a turning rubber belt
Even though I have been used to running outdoors on asphalt, the treadmill belt got hot in a way I wasn’t used to. I also had to work on correct form to keep from rubbing my feet wrong.
At first, my feet signaled me to take a break after just a couple of miles. Recently, I have run 9 miles barefoot on the treadmill with absolutely no discomfort. It is another lesson in gradually conditioning your body parts to the activity you want to do.
How much do you look at scenery when you run?
While I DO like to be outdoors when I run, I’m not typically gazing all around looking at the horizon and far off mountains. I spend most of my time looking where I am going. Where should I turn next? Which way will that cow run?
Being indoors while running does not mean you can’t have nice things to see. When I set up my treadmill, I had to decide where I wanted it to face. My choices were the large window looking out at the river via my garden or in toward my sewing room and its many projects.
I chose to look in at my sewing room because I knew seeing all of my supplies would be a good time to brainstorm no matter what time of year. I have come up with many creative ideas while running because I can’t start anything. I can only look and think. I find this to be a safe amount of distraction.
I also have a shelf in front of the treadmill where I can set my phone if I’m having a video chat with someone. Chatting is also a good way to remind you to keep your pace at a comfortable level to build stamina.
The beauty of a treadmill
I am very grateful for my treadmill. Especially in the winter. But even at other times of year, it gives me options I wouldn’t have otherwise. It is a tool that I am learning to happily use to my benefit. I hope you can do the same.