Treadmill running – going nowhere

That 3-mile running route in full.

That 3-mile running route in full.

My bay of Naples run was a hair-raising close encounter with reckless Italian drivers. I didn’t want to repeat that, but I needed another run during my holidays. What was I to do?

Well, on a sheltered veranda overlooking the sea our hotel had some gym equipment – including a running machine (or a treadmill, if you prefer).

I had never used a running machine before, nor had I ever wanted to. Needs must, though. I didn’t fancy another brush with crazy traffic, and I only needed a light run to keep the engine ticking over. The running machine it was, then, for the first time. After all, holidays are a time for trying new things.

And what did I learn from this new experience? Only that running on a treadmill is the most boring and unproductive run possible. Unless you’re snowbound for the three months of winter, or suffer from severe agoraphobia, I can’t understand how anyone could choose a running machine over proper running.

Here’s how tedious a treadmill run is; the machine I used was overlooking the bay of Naples, famed in song and poetry for its breathtaking beauty, and yet the machine still needed to have a giant iPod Touch as its control panel in case you needed to watch YouTube videos to relieve the boredom. If you listen to music while running, though, then watching videos might be your logical progression.

Also, running on a machine feels a bit silly – a hi-tech version of running on the spot while waiting to cross the street. (You know you don’t need to run on the spot while waiting to cross the street, right?)

And there’s no way you can get any sort of substantial workout done on a running machine. The tedium means that after half an hour you’ll be itching to get off it – I stuck around just long enough to clock up 5 kilometres, or 3 miles. The settings are more of the sort of fidgety distraction of MP3 players and GPS watches. The fear of flying off or getting tangled up means that you can’t switch off your mind.

Perhaps it’s one of those things that initially seems tiresome but eventually grows on you, like muesli or self-flagellation, but I didn’t like the sensation of running on a machine at all. The soft and slightly yielding treadmill surface made me tense up my legs, even though I set the gradient to 1% because I remembered some article saying you had to do this to get the proper feel of running.

But what most annoyed me about the running machine was how, despite the shiny control panel at your fingertips, you have to give up control of your run. Forget about running on feel; you run at whatever pace the machine is going at. Never mind the freedom of running; you’re a hamster on a wheel. My feet kept brushing off the sides and almost making me stumble, as the machine demanded I stay in a straight line and confined space.

If you liked being cooped up in the classroom on a sunny afternoon, then you’ll love running machines!

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9 Responses to Treadmill running – going nowhere

  1. lealorali says:

    I 100% agree with you about the “dreadmill”!! It’s the worst, isn’t it? 3 miles feels like you’ve run 10! And the unfortunate part for me is I live in Northern NY so I am forced to run on a treadmill for about 1-2 months of the year. The snow piles up and there’s ice everywhere (but I don’t mind the cold so much.) Sucky!

    • Run and Jump says:

      Yes, I was surprised at how long 3 miles felt on the machine – you see every increment of distance clocked up on the bloody control panel. And even while on the sun-kissed bay of Naples I was thinking of the folk in upstate NY and in Canada, with only a running machine to save them in the depths of winter. You have my sympathy!

  2. I think the treadmill does grow on you, try doing intervals next time, switching the speed up and down every 2 minutes will keep you a bit busier, and running the fast part of the interval as fast as you can will keep you challenged.
    Sure, it doesn’t compare to running outside, but it has its benefits. And I hate being in the classroom on sunny (or cloudy) days.

    • Run and Jump says:

      I don’t think I’d fancy doing intervals on a treadmill – switching the speed up and down every 2 minutes sounds too fiddly for me. And I wouldn’t be running as fast as I can – only as fast as I’ve set the machine: there’s not much room for improvisation or trying a fast burst of speed.

  3. 11315miles says:

    I hear you, I hate them too. They do help to recover from injury though. So, from time to time I’ll use one if I still need to get some miles in and give my knee a break. Other than that ~ I can’t stand them.

    • Run and Jump says:

      If I were coming back from injury I’d feel happier on solid ground than on a rolling treadmill. A track or a sports field are soft enough to be easy on the limbs, without being too soft.

  4. I’m not the biggest fan of treadmills either, I never managed more than 20 or 25 minutes on them. And if I manage that long I’m probably already bored for half of the time. But I have to say, I like treadmills for the warm-up at the gym (then I just jog for 3 to 5 min and jump off right away =) ).

  5. Sometimes, when its really cold, I appreciate the treadmill.

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