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!