January 05, 2009

Mental challenge of treadmill running

Waking up to more snow on Sunday morning made the choice easy – I headed for the gym of which I became a 4-month member yesterday to do my long run on the treadmill.

Like last Sunday, my training today was an easy run of 2 hours and 20 mins. I made sure my iPod was charged, brought a small towel, a 750ml drink bottle, two bars and a gel with caffeine.

When I arrived at the gym, the manager explained that they use a sheet for their treadmills. While they have five, one was out of order. He recommended I try their newest treadmill, a Technogym. So I put my start time and projected finish time down for that treadmill and got set up.

I rarely choose programs on treadmills. Today I also simply pressed the quick start button and eased into my session by running the first five minutes at between 6 mph and 7 mph. In the next five minutes I increased my speed to 7.5 mph (12 kph).

The most challenging part about running on a treadmill, to me and I think nearly everyone else, is the fact that the scenery doesn’t change and that the effort seems `pointless’. By pointless, I mean that you are not moving from A to B.

For most of my long runs so far in Squamish, I run the same route out and back because I love how it makes the long run mentally so much easier. For a 2hr 20min run, I only think about getting halfway which takes a very manageable 1hr 10min obviously.

At that point I simply turn around and consider myself on the homestretch. By the same method, a 3-hour run becomes only a 90-minute run before turning around for the home stretch.

On a treadmill, the main changes in scenery are the minutes ticking away on the clock, the amount of calories burnt and the distance run. But music helps, as does the joy of being able to complete a run in a comfortable temperature without the dangers of cars and slippery roads.

I typically vary the speed slightly to keep myself amused. Yesterday I stuck between 7.5 mph and 8 mph for most of the day. In the final 20 minutes I felt particularly good – excitement that I was soon finished combined with the effects of a caffeine gel probably – and bumped the speed to as high as 9 mph (14.4 kph).

At the end of my workout, the treadmill clock (obviously) read 2hr 20min and distance covered was 17.5 miles (27km). Calories burnt were about 1950 but since I didn’t bother to put in my personal details about height and weight those are unlikely to be accurate.

While mentally I found it a bit hard after 1 hour until about 1 hr 45 min, I was very happy with being able to complete a solid and efficient workout. I love running outside. While running outside in Squamish in the snow and winter light is pretty special, I do worry about slipping in those conditions. So a treadmill run was well worth it.

Before I signed up at the gym yesterday, I made sure to stress with the manager that my reason for becoming a temporary member was the unusually harsh winter weather. I was looking for a gym that would allow me to do my run training without interruptions.

Many gyms have policy of limiting time on their treadmills during busy times. While I can appreciate that policy, there simply was no point in me signing up with a gym with policies that would interfere with key training runs.

The manager explained the busy times I should avoid (around 8am and 4pm). He recommended that my long run on Sundays would be best start when the gym opens at 8am. Yesterday he recommended I try the newest treadmill and allowed me to complete my full workout.

It wasn’t busy though there was one short period where all four working treadmills were being used while two people were waiting (I realized after). So after my run, the manager again stressed the importance of me coming to the gym, particularly for my longer runs, during off-peak hours.

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