Milling It!

Many runners (including you perhaps!) emphatically declare, “I hate the treadmill.”  Some opt for the elliptical or stationary bike in lieu of stepping onto a moving belt.  To be sure, few would choose the mill over a nice outdoor run.  But adding to my prior post, Inside Out, the past couple of weeks have been unusually cold and windy in Vermont.  For both safety and comfort I’ve been spending time on Treadmill #53, a Cybex 770T at the UVM Rec Center.  It’s one of a bank of six high-end Cybex and Woodway treadmills that look over the UVM soccer/lacrosse field, where hardy UVM athletes often practice in extreme conditions. And there are clear views of Camel’s Hump, the second highest peak in Vermont some 30 miles away.  #53 is a pretty new machine with a cycling display of time, distance, pace, calories, calories/hr., watts, and METS.  Plenty to watch!

Well and good.  But to be honest I do find it hard to get started.  An inner voice asks – “can I stand doing this?”  That was the case last Sunday when I was planning to do a 12-mile run.  But with outside temps at minus six and 25 mph winds I found myself unenthusiastically staring at #53. I’m not alone.  The night before, my friend Jeff was recounting his 16-mile run on a treadmill in a year he was building up for the Boston Marathon.  It was a nasty, icy day so he went to the Y.   But thinking about 16 miles was too much to bear!   So he got going by telling himself he would run five miles.  When he got to five, he went for eight.   At eight he went for 12, and then lo and behold, he made it to 16! 

Indeed, there are various strategies for making peace with the mill.  Here are mine:

  • Music.  The only time I run with headphones is on the treadmill.  I have long playlists from road races where I provided music.  It’s a good time to play these playlists and recall those events. 
  • I start with an easy mile or two.  Enough to get the system moving, which usually results in a bathroom visit, breaking up the run a bit.  This is followed by a gradual ramp up in pace, often faster than a typical outdoor run, over the next couple miles.  By the time I top out, I’m four or five miles into it.
  • I continually play with the elevation button.  I rarely go more than a quarter mile without adjusting.  It keeps my mind on the running and off the treadmill.  If I’m preparing for a particular race, I may try to mimic the course elevation.  Up, down, level, up gradually, back to 0%.  No particular pattern — all kinds of variations!
  • I vary the speed, throwing in faster spurts, then taking it back down as elevation is increased.   Someone watching me might think I’m having an ADD attack as much as I play with the buttons!  But it adds variety and a distraction from the fact I’m on a stationary machine.

Like Jeff, thinking about the full treadmill run, especially a long one, is a definite barrier.  Some days I agree to just get started and see how it goes, though usually I am resigned to the full distance.  My core strategy, then, is to deliberately break it up into as many pieces as possible while keeping occupied with good music.   And it certainly helps if the folks next to me are pushing a good pace!

Happy milling! 

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