Posted in Fitness, Opinions and Thoughts, Running

Is There Middle Ground in the Treadmill vs. Outdoors Debate?

Dark Outside

It happens every year, like clockwork.

With the onset of fall, as darkness falls earlier come the obligatory posts about running safely when it’s dark outside. And the running websites, magazines, and  Facebook groups throw out the question – Do you bring your run inside when it gets dark outside? The answers fly fast and furious, ranging from the tame, “No, I hate the dreadmill,” to the self-righteous, “It’s only a run if you run it outside.”

You know it's cold outside when you go outside and it's cold
You know it’s cold outside when you go outside and it’s cold

Now, as the country is in the throes of the “polar vortex,” we are going through round 2 of runners’ self-righteousness. Once again, the running websites, magazines, and Facebook groups are pitting the “real runners” against the “hamsters on the hamster wheel.” The question takes the form of – It’s X degrees out today, did you run outside or did you break down and hit the treadmill? Once again, the answers fly left and right, ranging from the weather-immune, “Of course I ran outside, just threw on an extra layer,” to the Eeyore-esque, “Call it what it is, the dreadmill,” to the haters, “Yes, I ran on the dreadmill, hated every second of it, and kicked it when I was done.”

picture of a treadmill

Every time these questions pop up or I read comments or posts about the “dreadmill” or people who proudly crow that they run outside exclusively no matter the conditions, I get a visceral reaction. “How dare they put down my beloved treadmill?” I ask myself. “Who are they to judge me or anyone else who runs on a treadmill?” I fume. “I’ve run marathons and half-marathons, too! Why are they bashing one of my training aids?” I rail inwardly.

Is this what a "real" runner's leg looks like?
Is this what a “real” runner’s leg looks like?

I‘m not sure why I have such a strong reaction to those posts, but I do. I’ve actually not renewed a running magazine subscription because one of their editors – yes, an editor – mocked treadmill runners. Why would an editor of a running magazine put down anyone who is running, regardless of where they’re running? Of course, I was accused of not having a sense of humor but what people don’t understand is that the little jabs here and there start to add up and pretty soon, anyone who runs on a treadmill will start to think that they aren’t runners. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it treadmill bullying but if the shoe fits…

Running Shoe
Running Shoe

The treadmill vs. outdoor runner debate will never get as heated as the runner vs. jogger debate. Yes, I saw one running group had resurrected that old saw recently, too. Why will it never get as heated? I can think of 3 reasons:

  1. Treadmill runners are intimidated by the “real” runners and feel inadequate after seeing all the vicious, hateful rhetoric about treadmills. These people don’t want to get flamed by the “real” runners when they make a comment that they run on a treadmill.
  2. A lot of treadmill runners probably don’t consider themselves real runners, which is an incredible fallacy. I’ll bet a majority of treadmill runners are gym-goers who are fit people. They probably crank out 3 to 6 miles 3 to 5 times a week as part of their workout without blinking an eye. But they may not consider themselves runners because they’ve never signed up for a race or because they’ve never followed a training program or because – heaven forbid – they run on treadmill instead of outside.
  3. Treadmill runners are not exclusively treadmill runners. We prefer the treadmill, but we also run outside. We are capable of finding the benefit in both.
No Haters
No Haters

Here’s the interesting thing to consider if you’re one of those outdoor-only runners – a run is a run is a run, no matter where you run it, no matter how fast you run it. We cheer the beginning runners who gasp their way around the block, but we denigrate the runners who have the mental toughness to slog out their runs on a treadmill. Why is that?

And if you’re one of those runners that thinks it’s cute to call it a dreadmill, consider this – if you name it, you own it. You call it a dreadmill and so you’ll dread every minute on it. You’ll never come to terms with how beneficial a treadmill can be. For a mother without childcare, a treadmill in the home could be a god-send. For a woman alone in a strange city, a treadmill in the hotel fitness center may be the only safe option. And the list goes on.

I’m a treadmill runner. I once ran a virtual half-marathon on my treadmill with nothing but music to keep me company. I learned my lesson after that run and now, the biggest television in the house is in the garage in front of my treadmill! But treadmill running has helped my focus, my mental toughness, and my consistency. Do I run outdoors? Of course I do! The fresh air, the sights and sounds, the social aspect of encountering other bikers and runners – what’s not to like? But at 5 o’clock in the morning when it’s still dark outside or after a long day at work, the treadmill is my friend.

My wish for the new year is that we runners support each other. Stop putting each other down. Stop making other runners feel like less than a runner because of where they run, how fast they run, or how they run. In my book, you’re a runner if you run. I don’t care if you run on the sidewalk, on a trail, on a bike path, on the beach, or on a treadmill – to me, you’re a runner. I don’t care if you run a 14 minute mile or a 10 minute mile or a six minute mile – to me, you’re a runner. I don’t care if you run, jog, run/walk, or walk/run – to me, you’re a runner.

In the meantime, wherever you run – Happy running!

Posted in Running

The 10 Things I Love about Running

The Old Running Shoes
The Old Running Shoes (Photo credit: Mike Spray)

I’ve been running for a long time. Not very fast (6 mph on a good day for maybe a half mile) and not very far (my longest so far has been a marathon) but I run. I’m pleased to say that I’ve inspired some to start running, some to keep running, and still others to take up running again.

But what is it that makes me run? What is it that gets me out on the road or on my treadmill? Why am I a runner?

In no particular order, here are 10 things I love about running. I love

  1. the endorphins
  2. that it feeds my inner planner (training plans, training paces, trips for races)
  3. that I can catch up with television shows on my treadmill
  4. that a good run leaves me feeling strong, powerful, and invincible
  5. that a bad run leaves me looking forward to the next run in hopes that it will be better
  6. the “me” time
  7. the sound of my footsteps on the pavement or my treadmill
  8. the meditative nature of my morning runs
  9. the stress-relieving nature of my evening runs
  10. that some days I run further than some people drive

This list is a good reminder of why I run but it also helps me appreciate the fact that I can run. If I could no longer run, I would miss all of these things. It makes me want to hop on my treadmill right now, even though I ran in a 10k this morning and it’s 2230 right now.

What do you love about running? What would you miss about running if you couldn’t run again?

Happy running!

Posted in Running

Help! I’m Being Attacked by…

Italiano: Trespolo per rifiuti English: Garbag...
Image via Wikipedia Trash can

I’m being attacked. I’m running and I’m being attacked. No matter how fast I go, I can’t escape. I dodge first to the left then to the right but it’s hopeless. There are too many of them. And each evasive maneuver only serves to move me closer to one of them.

No, I’m not dodging snowflakes or slow walkers or crazy drivers. I’m being attacked by litter on my run around the pond. Plastic bags swirl in the wind. Napkins and crumples of paper roll around each time a car passes. Take-out boxes jammed into bushes along the sidewalk rustle with each gust of wind, eager to be free, to take flight.

I cannot escape the detritus drifting around my ankles, over my feet.

As I run, I wonder who dropped that Jack-in-the-Box bag next to the garbage can. Whoever it was, it’s obvious they didn’t make the varsity basketball team. The crows have gleefully swooped onto the bag, ripping it open, looking for scraps. Surely someone too lazy to put the bag into the trash bin will have left bits of food amongst the discarded wrappers.

Plastic bags flutter as I pass, weighted down by something I can’t see. Don’t worry, I think as I keep running, the crows will get to you, too, and set you free to float along.

I suddenly find myself wishing that I was walking and that I had brought a garbage bag with me to clean up the mess that other people have carelessly left behind, thoughtlessly thrown out of the window of a passing car, inconsiderately dropped as they walked along.

And just as suddenly, I realize another benefit of my treadmill – no litter attacking my ankles.

Happy running!

Posted in Running

The Day the Treadmill Died (Almost)

Apologies to Mark Twain ~ The rumors of my treadmill’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

When I was running this morning – on my treadmill, of course! – I had a scary moment. I was running happily along when suddenly the belt slowed down like it was going to stop. I hadn’t touched any buttons and the emergency stop button was in its proper place. It must have been a power surge because the machine quickly returned to its proper speed and I was back in business.

That made me start thinking about what I would do if my treadmill did suddenly die on me. It is over 4 years old now and hasn’t had any maintenance or repairs since I bought it. I depend on my treadmill. It’s easy to find excuses not to run outside but it’s harder to find excuses when the treadmill is sitting right there and there’s no weather or traffic to worry about. I can’t imagine my mornings without a quick spin on the treadmill.

Is my treadmill a crutch? Or am I just a wuss?

Happy running!

Posted in Running

Say It Loud, Say It Proud – I Am A Treadmill Runner!

If you want to start a rousing discussion amongst runners, ask them what the difference is between a runner and a jogger. The responses will fly fast and furious and will likely include the following:

  • The difference between a runner and a jogger is a race entry
  • I’m a runner no matter how fast I’m going
  • The difference between a runner and a jogger is an attitude/mindset (this one is almost always followed by the statement, “I’m a runner!”)
  • I run when I’m training for something, I jog when there’s nothing on my race calendar
  • I never say that I’m jogging!

In the discussion, no one will claim to be a jogger. Everyone is a runner. Some bristle defensively at being called a jogger.

Turn the topic towards running on treadmills and the reaction is similar. The responses will often include the following:

  • I never run on the “dreadmill”
  • I don’t care what the weather is like, I suck it up and go run outside
  • I can’t stand the “dreadmill” – I feel too much like a hamster on a wheel in a cage
  • It’s so boring.
  • I hate it. I’d rather use the elliptical machine.

That last response is a bit ironic, don’t you think? What’s the difference between a treadmill and an elliptical machine?

I participated in a Twitter chat recently where both of these topics came up. I’ve never paid too much attention to the jogger versus runner debate because it seems trivial. Would I get upset if someone called me a jogger? No, of course not. I happily acknowledge that I’m a slow runner and if it makes someone feel better to call me a jogger, that’s fine. It’s merely a label, after all.

However, I do resent the runners who smugly denounce the treadmill. The ones who imply by their denouncements that real runners run outside. The ones who use the word “boring” and “dreadmill” with a self-satisfied smirk. I’m a treadmill runner. I’ve been a treadmill runner for years now. Do I run outside? Of course I do. I enjoy the fresh air and the scenery as much as the next runner.

But for my daily 5 a.m. runs, the treadmill is my friend. And when I’m in a different city on business, the treadmill is my friend. On the treadmill, I don’t have to worry about tripping on something or wrenching my ankle because of a misstep in the darkness. On the treadmill, I don’t have to worry about the weather or my personal safety from running in the dark. On the treadmill, I am in control – of my speed, of my resistance, of the distance, of my workout.

Treadmill runners are often silenced by the smugness of outdoor runners, much like conservative students on a college campus keep silent about their views in order not to be ridiculed by liberal classmates or given a bad grade by liberal faculty. Treadmill runners often are reluctant to admit that they prefer to run on a treadmill to running outside because they’re afraid that the smug outdoor runners will put them down and think less of them.

I run on a treadmill but that doesn’t make me any less of a runner than someone who runs outside. My time running on the treadmill has taught me mental toughness, patience, and makes me appreciate my outdoor runs all the more.

So don’t be ashamed to admit that you, too, are a treadmill runner. Whether you run on a treadmill or outside, you are a runner. And isn’t that the most important thing?

Happy running!

Posted in Running

5-1/2 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Treadmill

In the running community, the treadmill is often called the “dreadmill” as most runners prefer to run outdoors. But don’t let that put you off from using a treadmill. There are many advantages to having a treadmill or having access to a treadmill, including being able to do a cardio workout regardless or the weather and being able to control your workout. Here are 5.5 ways for you to get the most out of a treadmill.

1 ~ Safety
Safety is the most important thing on a treadmill and being safe on a treadmill will ensure that you get the most out of using it. Make sure you know how to stop the treadmill if anything happens. Most treadmills come with an emergency stop clip. If you are new to using a treadmill, don’t be ashamed to use this clip even if no one else in the gym is using it. It’s better to be safe than sorry. The emergency stop clip is simple to use – just attach the clip to your clothing and make sure that the magnet end of this device is installed correctly on the treadmill. The treadmill will not start if magnet is not connected.

When you start the treadmill, start it at a slow speed and gradually increase it to your desired speed. You may see some treadmill users stand on the footpads on either side of the belt, crank up the speed, and then jump onto the belt. This is not the recommended way to get on a treadmill because it’s not the safest way to get started. With a treadmill, think of safety first.

2 ~ Incline
Increasing the incline on your treadmill is one of the easiest ways to make your workout tougher and more like you’re running or walking outdoors. When you’re indoors, you don’t have to deal with wind resistance. The treadmill also helps you a little bit because the belt is moving beneath your feet and each step doesn’t take as much effort as it would if you were outside. Setting the treadmill’s incline to at least 1% will help compensate for the lack of wind resistance and the moving belt. Once you’re comfortable at 1% for your regular workouts, consider increasing the incline to 1.5% or even 2%.

Changing the treadmill’s incline during your workout will challenge you and keep things interesting. A simple incline workout might look like this – jog for 10 minutes at 1% to warm-up, run for 3 minutes at 5%, jog for 2 minutes at 2% to recover, run for 3 minutes at 5%, jog for 2 minutes at 2% to recover, run for 3 minutes at 5%, jog for 2 minutes at 2% to recover, jog for 5 minutes at 1% to cool-down.

3 ~ Speed
Playing with the speed is another way to get the best out of a treadmill. Some people hop on a treadmill and do the same workout each time. While the consistency is great, your body will get used to a workout if you do the same thing over and over again. To challenge both your body and your mind, incorporate short bursts of speed into your workout. You don’t have to increase the speed by too much or for too long to get a benefit. A simple speed workout to try is 20/40 – after a warm-up, simply increase your speed for 20 seconds, recover for 40 seconds, repeat for as many times as you can, and then return to your normal pace for the rest of the workout.

4 ~ Consistency
Being consistent about using your treadmill will ensure that you get the best results. Bad weather, not enough light, unsafe or unfamiliar neighborhoods – these excuses are no longer relevant if you have a treadmill. Even injury isn’t as much of an excuse because a treadmill offers a softer impact than running or walking outside and most doctors will recommend rehab on a treadmill. So if you have no excuses, your cardio workouts will be more consistent and you will see results.

5 ~ Reading and Movie Lists
The treadmill is a great place to catch up on your reading or your movie watching, things you can’t do if you’re running or walking outside. I don’t recommend actually reading a book or a magazine while you’re on the treadmill because if you do, you will likely be working out at a lower intensity and using the hand rails for support, which detracts from your workout. However, you can listen to audiobooks. If you have a Kindle, there is an audio function that will read your book out loud to you. You can learn another language while you’re on the treadmill by listening to language CDs or MP3s.

If you have an iPad, a tablet, or a smartphone, you can watch videos while you’re on the treadmill. You can set your treadmill up in front of a television and watch while you work out – this could be a great motivational tool if you tell yourself that you can only watch a certain show or movie if you’re using the treadmill. Some treadmills have built-in televisions and most gyms set up their treadmills and other cardio equipment in front of banks of televisions.

5.5 ~ With Apologies to Nike – Just Use It!
The best way to get the best out of a treadmill is to just use it. Hop on your treadmill on a regular basis, use the speed and incline to make your workout interesting, and listen to audiobooks or watch movies to prevent boredom. Just use it!

Happy Running!