It is true that at one point in history treadmills were used as a torture device. Back in the 1800’s they were used as punishment for people sentenced to hard labor in prison. Ask around, you will likely find someone today that considers it still to be true, metaphorically of course. The treadmill has transformed considerably from a machine that was invented to harness power to indoor exercise machines that can simulate terrains, hill training or even create your own map from other parts of the country/world to simulate that location. They are also a key tool for the medical industry as therapeutic and/or diagnostic devices.
Depending on your location, the time of the year, or other personal factors – you may find them as a necessity. For me I use the treadmill more so in the winter months than any other time of the year. Winter in the Midwestern section of the United States tends to experience the brunt of extreme cold, snow and ice. When the weather conditions are not favorable or if you have other scheduling obstacles, how do you do to keep your running plans on track when outdoors isn’t an option? Do you brave the elements, alternate your running time or do you hit the gym?
I live in Michigan, so I am accustomed to the changing seasons and especially the colder winters. However, I am an early morning runner (5AM) which means it is completely dark at my normal running time. This makes me very hesitant to brave the winter cold when I also fear slippery conditions. Our winters can range between somewhat mild, bitter cold and various levels of snow or ice. This winter seems the worst I have encountered since becoming a runner. Previous winters I could split up my runs and do my early morning week day runs on the treadmill, and then enjoy the blistery cold runs on the weekends when I could time them with sunlight and warmer temperatures. This winter, I haven’t been so fortunate. Since Christmas, I have only run outside a handful of times due to extreme snow, ice and/or subzero temperatures. And having just come off a stress fracture, I’ve had to take extra precautions to ensure I remained on the “healthy” list. And to top it off, I signed up for an early spring half marathon in Louisiana. Which meant I must endure this love hate relationship with my treadmill to aid in my recovery and train for the next race.
It seems everyone has an opinion on treadmills. I’ve even heard some say that treadmill miles don’t count for running. What!? Yes, there is a belt being driven by a motor but your body mechanics are still the same. You must move your legs to keep moving or you would fall off. Not to mention the mental stamina you must endure on a treadmill. Staring at the same walls in likely a warmer stagnant temperature, you need to find ways to keep your mind busy. I generally prefer music while I run, but with so much time spent on the treadmill I have developed a fondness of binge watching TV shows on Netflix. I have caught up on an old favorite, Grey’s Anatomy and have been enjoying Planet Earth episodes. What are some of your favorites? Another way to mix up my routine is I search Pinterest or Runner’s World to find various workouts specifically geared for treadmills. It has been beneficial to work on various speed drills or just to experiment with an alternative workout.
Regardless of your personal circumstances or preferences, do what works for you and your lifestyle. Enjoy the outside as much as you can and for when you can’t, remember that trusty “beast” in your basement or gym can also be your friend. Mix up your programs, watch a television show or just blast some music…the most important thing is to just keep moving forward.
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