Posted on November 15th, 2011
Yesterday, I ran inside on the treadmill for the first time since Spring. I felt the tough headwinds would be too much for my interval workout, and I kept visualizing the 1974 tornado waterspout coming at me over the Ohio River. So I stayed in.
The dreadmill, runners call it. The classic metaphor for working hard and going nowhere. Last winter, the heavy snows started in December and the heavy rains ended in May. I adapted the series of hard off-season workouts from the Cincinnati elite running club, the Earth Drummers, running on the treadmill in my unfinished basement three days a week, and biking there on the trainer another two days.
It was Hell.
To endure it, I put on movies pilfered from Mom and Dad’s house. Either decent dramas I’d already seen like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Walk the Line,” or awful romantic comedies I hadn’t with their favorite actors like Matthew Modine and Sandra Bullock that they keep picking up from the bargain bin at Meijers. I had to set them up with English subtitles because the noise of the treadmill at running speeds is too loud to hear over. I’d planned to take the opportunity to catch up on movies I’d missed — except I couldn’t concentrate or hear well enough to watch anything I was seriously interested in! What I needed during a series of five “over-under” miles was motion and distraction, not intellectual stimulation. My brother-in-law suggested that movies with explosions and car crashes are particularly good for workouts, and I have to agree. The “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” shoot-ups actually made a lot more sense during a killer threshold run.
Once, an entire full-length movie (a historical melodrama with Pierce Brosnan; don’t ask) ended a full twenty minutes before my two-hour, 12-mile treadmill hill run did. I thought I would collapse of boredom and sore hip flexors before I was finished.
I got so desperate to be off that machine that whenever I could, I’d strap on yak trax (which I highly recommend — you will not slip on anything), and run on the slushy, icy trails at Miami Whitewater and the Little Miami Scenic trail left that way for the cross-country skiers. Those were some beautiful runs in the snow, with the damp cool ice feeling rising up at you, and only the occasional other serious person out, greeting you like another friend.
Yet — I do love my treadmill. It was the lone personal purchase I made from my third bonus from Quill. The lone personal purchase I made from my second bonus was an espresso maker, so the treadmill was a close second to caffeine, and that’s saying a lot! I appreciate the luxury of having an $800 machine in my house just for exercise, and of having an entire floor of my house to devote to it. I appreciate that I can walk or run anytime, no matter the weather, without leaving the house.
Outside, I never play music. I love the feel of moving under my own power, with the air and sounds of birds and my breathing. The treadmill is so different, so grinding and monotonous. I’ve read that, counterintuitively, it’s harder neurologically to keep up with the constantly moving belt than to power your own run. Yesterday I played the last Pearl Jam album (“Backspacer”) while I ran. I hadn’t warmed to it yet, but it turns out it makes great workout music. The hard songs kept me moving, and the slower songs, which I liked already, seem even more meaningful in an oxygen-compromised state. And just like outside this Fall, my paces came easier. A warmup working up to 7:36 miles (7.9 mph) and two “5K race pace” mile intervals at 7:04 miles (8.5 mph) were actually doable! I struggled or blew up on treadmill paces like that six months ago.
The weatherpeople are saying this year’s winter is supposed to be at least as snowy and difficult as last year’s. I’m not sure I can handle the same intense treadmill work this year, or the basement. But first, I’ve got the end of my 12-week plan in two weeks and races through mid-December, and then the holidays. Then I’ll need to figure out a good off-season plan that doesn’t drive me crazy.