treadmills: not just for lab rats

If you’ve been following my writing and running, you’ve probably heard me say that I do not, in any way, shape or form enjoy running on a treadmill. I don’t know what happened. Once upon a time treadmills were my M.O. Back in ye olde college days you rarely caught me running outside. I hit the gym every single day and did not leave until I’d finished 30 minutes on the treadmill. (Damn I was fit back then) This may have something to do with the fact that it was 20 degrees outside most of the time and the gym was three blocks from my apartment. Not to mention the fact that it was the most amazing gym ever known to womankind. Free tampons in the locker room, a rock climbing wall, and fresh cucumber slices for your relaxing pleasure next to the steam room, and did I mention FREE TAMPONS! Long live Healthworks!

Living on the beach in a place that is always between 70 and 80 degrees has single-handedly increased my penchant for running outside, and now that I have discovered the joys that go with it I can never go back. Every step on the treadmill is just painful and makes me feel like a pet rat in a spinning wheel.

So now you are wondering, well then what’s the problem? Just run outside dummy. There is one small problem. I run immensely faster on a treadmill.

I know exactly why this happens. Running outside is so pleasant, so serene. There is so much beautiful scenery to look at, so much people watching to take in. I feel like a relaxed pony out for a gentle gallop through the countryside. I want to take it all in, and it slows me down. Not to mention there is actual terrain outside and the slight increases and decreases in incline, turning of corners, and traversing of stairs does its part to put on the brakes. On a treadmill, it’s ruthless. First of all, outside, you are in control. Your muscles and mind constantly control how fast you’re running and in order to run faster than is comfortable, you must constantly push your muscles and mind out of their comfort zones. On a treadmill, the machine is in control. It’s like Terminator, I’m telling you. Once you set that speed, you MUST run fast enough to keep up with the machine or you will fall on your ass in the middle of LA Fitness and look like a fool. So that’s one reason the treadmill wins in the speed department, it runs YOU. The second reason treadmills equal speed goes like this:

There is no joy, no ambiance. It’s just you, your iPod, and that super skinny girl on the machine in front of you making you feel like a walrus as you are forced to stare at her long stride and toned tush for the next 30 minutes. It’s brutal. Sooner or later the vision of all the fit people around you makes you feel like you should press the + on the speed button. So you do, and it hurts, but you deal with it because you’re not going to live with the shame of running at a 5.2 when everyone around you is running at 6.3 which you know because you peek to your left and right every five minutes to see how fast the people next to you are running. Before you know it, you’ve completed 3 miles in 30 minutes which is something you haven’t done outside in years, but the competitive atmosphere coupled with the smell of sweat and testosterone have pushed you to your max and you killed that treadmill. You step off the machine feeling a sense of relief that you’re done, mingled with an overwhelming rush of cockiness that you ran faster than that skinny girl in front of you for at least 2 minutes. You take a shower and leave the gym feeling like an athlete. Despite the cutthroat nature of it all, this experience made you push yourself; and that must be positive for someone in training, right? It is. But here’s the issue. As far my motivation goes, the experience I’ve stated above has taken the backseat. I’ve become someone who runs primarily for meditative reasons. Running brings me inner peace, helps me clear my mind, boosts my self-esteem and puts me in touch with the air, the ground beneath my feet and the world around me. I’ve got a bumper sticker on my car that says “Running is cheaper than therapy.” Truer words never spoke. Some people have yoga, some have tai-chi, some have video games, some have hallucinogens. I’ve got running. It keeps me sane. This payoff is much greater than the pure sense of athleticism I feel at the gym. AND YET I WANT TO RUN FASTER WHICH APPARENTLY I CAN ONLY DO ON A TREADMILL! Oh the humanity. I feel like I say that a lot, but OH THE HUMANITY.

Not only do I run faster on a treadmill, but some days it’s much easier to get to the gym than it is to drive all the way home to Venice to run on the beach, especially if I have to be somewhere after work. I suppose I’m forced to combine forces. I’ll get in some treadmill time, let’s say once a week and/or as needed, depending on my schedule. It undoubtedly helps increase my speed and as I mentioned in a previous post, that’s important to me right now. I’ll spend the rest of my time on my beloved beach, and somehow figure out how to push myself running outside as much as I do on the treadmill. Maybe if I recruit some super fast super toned super fit people to run in front of me it will do the trick. A horse and a carrot folks. All I am is a horse with a carrot, gently galloping along the beach.

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