Running on a treadmill is odd at first. Your sense of propulsion is thrown off when you’re moving but not moving forward. There’s a feeling of not being in control.
But after adjusting to that with one or two runs I began to really love the treadmill. And since running outside I notice there are many things about treadmills I prefer.
The treadmill lets you focus. Whether on foot falls, or breathing, or any kind of form work, or on podcasts, or a movie, or brainstorming and problem solving. You can set the treadmill to the speed and incline you want and then concentrate. No cars, no dogs, no soccer games, it’s a Me-zone, a safe space.
For running form in particular it’s great because when you’re mind wanders, as it does when scenery changes, your body wanders back into bad habits.
No distance home means you can give it your all. There’s a psychological trick at play when you’re running, you’re tired, and you’re far from home. Your brain is doing the math of how much energy it’s going to take to get back so you’re counting every step twice. Furthermore, once you decide to go back the run is over, you either feel victorious or defeated but you don’t feel like running one more K just ’cause.
On the treadmill you just cross thresholds, see how you feel and where the next one is, then you keep going ’cause you can stop anytime. The first time I ran 10k I got myself to go way harder than I’d have predicted by caring about getting to a round number on the distance and the time. Meaning at 6.78K I’d think about 7k then at 7k I’d be at 31:23 so I’d focus on getting to 32 minutes.
Also, I find something cute about how 10k used to be a struggle.
Even on a bad feeling day on the treadmill I can always see how I feel at the next ten minute interval or kilometer.
Running outside it’s just do I have another lap in me? Feels like no. I’m far enough from home, might as well turn back.
Which brings me to the next great thing about the mill, knowing the time and distance. Free running you just know how tired you feel and what the weather is like. On the treadmill you get that first feeling of wow I’m surprisingly tired and it hasn’t been that long, am I not strong, should I hate myself? and then you look down and think oh right in that 12 minute zone as usual la de da.
That’s a personal thing I noticed. There’s always a twinge of crappy feeling at 12 minutes or 6k.
As an addendum for people who think they hate running: once you find your race pace you only feel the suck at that first wall. If you’re running harder than race pace (or lactate threshold) you’ll feel the suck a bunch of times as you sprint up and die down, feeling in and out of the zone alternately, and if you’re running slower than pace you’ll get bored. Those are the two reasons people think they hate running. But at your special magic just-for-you lactate threshold race pace you can just get in the zone and stay there for hours, just banging out K.
Which also reminds that on a treadmill It’s controlling pacing so you don’t have to. This might look like laziness but I’d say it’s just the efficiency of machine living. Free running you’ll start too fast, burn out, speed up for good songs, speed up when you think you’ve slowed down just because you’re in the zone and not struggling, you’ll slow down and down and down as you tire then burst back to compensate, and you’re just gonna be a mess of tempos wreaking havoc on your system. On the treadmill you’re like treadmill, I wanna be in the zone for 90 minutes and bang out some K and the treadmill is just like Yo.
You can’t slow to a pathetic stop you have to push a button that represents fully quitting. And when you reach for that button you’ll ask yourself do I really not have one more step in me? No, I can finish out the kilometer, or the 3 minutes to get to the next multiple of ten, I’ll be in the shower 2 minutes after I stop no matter when I stop so fuck it. And then the treadmill is like I got you, the whole time you were thinking I still had you had 7.6 mph and you’re like thanks brutha and it’s like Yo.
This is evidently the blog where Alastair got caffeine psychosis while writing.
And finally to wrap it up. The Weather. It would be easy to blow this off as complaining but toughing out the weather is what kills people. During the winter on the treadmill I was banging out 10k, then 12, then 15, then 17, in a climate control, dust free room. And bang those K I did, sir.
If you’re a beginner and weather is making you want to quit take it out of the equation. Don’t buy the notion that you have to toughen up because you won’t. Forming new habits is about training dopamine, the reward system in the brain. No reward, no habit. Build up the habit and the toughness on the easy levels and then do the boss fight of running in a hail storm. (Melissa’s 2018, I was there, humblebrag)
Do run outside eventually, do run outside when you feel like and sometimes when you don’t, do learn to control your own pace, do learn to rise and fall with your feelings, do run on different surfaces, do run barefoot, do everything. Swim, bike, and strength train.
I wrote about a while ago about the danger of being too sciency with your training and this post is more about the danger of being too spiritual, too earthy. Someone said to Tim Ferris that treadmills are bad for your soul and I’m like fuck off. This isn’t a prayer circle this is running, we’re training – we don’t have time for pretentious hippie bullshit.
With no offense intended to my pretentious hippie readers.