The Treadmill Ten

Heavy, cold run is not my ideal running weather. Photo by AlmazUK.

Heavy, cold rain is not my ideal running weather. Photo by AlmazUK.

I’m not a huge fan of running on treadmills. It’s also not something I’m good at which makes me like it even less. But when it’s 45 degrees outside and there is a steady, heavy, cold rain, I have to admit I’d rather run on the treadmill than in that weather. The trouble is that I’m on week 12 of training for the Richmond Marathon and I already lost one 7 mile day to the weather and my own schedule. The weekend called for 8 miles and 15 miles and I started agonizing over how I was going to make this happen as soon as I saw the forecast earlier in the week.

I had already planned to flop the 8 and 15 so that the 15 was on Saturday and the easy 8 would be on Sunday. I believe I’ve run 7 miles on a treadmill before but I literally couldn’t wrap my brain around doing 15. For the first Saturday in a very long time I did not have to set my alarm clock and I was able to just let my body sleep as long as it needed. And apparently I needed sleep; by the time I got to the gym it was 10:45 a.m.! I was headed to the gym thinking I’d shoot for 8 miles and if I could get to 15 that would be awesome; I decided to deal with the remaining miles as best I can on Sunday and if I don’t get to this week’s full 47 then I’ll just have to deal with that.

The only time I ever run with an iPod is at the gym so I had mine with the gym playlist my best friend made for me and was happy that my favorite treadmill was available. (It’s the little things!) The Precor Treadmill has an automatic max time of 60 minutes with a built-in 5 minute cool down. (Of course, not all treadmills are created equal and a great site called Run Reviews happens to review all different treadmills!) I assumed I’d run about 6 miles in that time at an easy pace and decided that when I had to start the machine over for the second round I’d try for another 60 minutes.

Treadmill Pace and Form

I did the first mile at a 10 minute pace to warm-up. Knowing I was going to be trying for 12 miles I didn’t want to go all out at my 9 minute pace and wanted to gradually increase speed. So with each mile I increased the speed one “up arrow” push at a time. By mile 4 I was at the 9:05 pace and stuck there until I got to 6 and then I went back down to a 10 minute pace to cool down before starting over. However, then I remembered I had another 5 minutes worth of built-in cool down time and when I looked at the machine thought I might be able to squeeze in a seventh mile so I increased the speed again. I ended at 6.85 miles on the first round, so close!

Throughout the first 6 miles I people watched, listened to my iPod, thought about what I needed at the grocery store, and thought about the dramatic difference between running indoor and outdoor. Pretty early on I decided I’d go to the bathroom in between run batches, just because I could. The gym’s bathroom was 50 feet from my treadmill, so why not? On an outdoor run I’d only hit the head if I absolutely had to.

The last time I wrote about treadmill running it was about proper treadmill form. I regret to say that I’ve made little improvement in my treadmill form. My iPod headphones were still in the way (should’ve worn my Gracie’s Gear top!) and at one point my arm hit them yanking the iPod off the machine so it dangled in between my legs. I guess I have strong earlobes because it didn’t disconnect from the earbuds! I definitely still run way to close to the front of the machine, so close that sometimes my stomach brushes the front where the emergency stop button is. I tried to notice how others around me positioned themselves and the girl next time was almost centered in her treadmill. I tried to let myself ease back and realized part of the reason I run so close to the front is because I’m afraid of flying off the back.

Despite the challenges of treadmill running, it was a decent opportunity to focus on other parts of running form. In the past, I recall looking at my footfalls often on the treadmill. This time I kept my head up and simply watched whatever was in front of me. I focused on keeping my shoulders down and back and the rest of my back straight as well. (As a side note, working on my posture overall is a new goal and it’s not easy.) I also tried to make sure I was keeping my hips in alignment with my body instead of letting my lower back round pushing my hips backward. I didn’t put any incline on the treadmill and I actually think that made it harder to maintain good posture while running. If I had a little bit of an incline it would have forced me to push my hips forward more.

Needless to say by the time I was starting the second round of running, I had plenty to think about. I let the Precor start at its automatic 60 minutes and set the pace to a 10 minute mile for the first mile. Toward the end of the first mile I started to feel uncomfortable and slowed it down to a crawling 11 minute pace. At that point I made the decision that I would get to 3.15 miles on this round to make the run an even 10 miles. More than the original intended 8 but not the full 15 on the schedule. After about 30 seconds at the 11 minute pace, I moved it up to 9:30, then 9:05, then back to 9:50–I was all over the place just trying to get comfortable. I also find that constantly adjusting speed helps time on the treadmill pass by faster. Finally I hit my self-imposed magic number and slowed the machine down to a cool down walk pace.

I wish I could have gone further but I think mentally I just psyched myself out. My iPod playlist was over, there were fewer people to watch, and all I could think about was getting off the treadmill. I know for a fact that I can run farther than 10 miles but when I’m doing a long run outside I can’t quit. If I quit, I won’t get home. On the treadmill, the motivation to just keep going is much harder for me to find. The good news is that now I know I can do 10 miles on the treadmill so maybe next time I’ll shoot for a couple more. Or, maybe the rain will stop and I can just head out the front door.

How far have you run on the treadmill? What keeps you going? I’m sure this won’t be the only rainy weekend in the history of marathon or triathlon training so any tips or advice you have on how to power through indoor work-outs is more than welcome!

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