Treadmills are for wimps; no, scratch that.

It’s time for Trail Boy to eat some crow.

For the past umpteen years, I’ve pooh-poohed treadmills as a crutch for the timid, unimaginative runner. You know, your basic indoor wimp.

Real runners, I said many times, chase their endorphins outside, preferably on muddy trails.

OK, I take it all back. Well, some of it, anyway. Here’s why.

A few weeks ago, the company I work for set up an indoor exercise room, containing weight machines, elliptical trainers and yes, treadmills.

At lunchtime today, I finally got around to trying out one of the treadmills.

“Why, Trail Boy?” you might wonder. “Why didn’t you run outside, where everything is wonderful?”

Good question! First, let me point out that the temperature outside right now is about 15 degrees. (Not that I’m afraid of cold weather. Just check out my last post, about running the Siberian Express Trail Run in 8 degree weather on Saturday.)

But the treadmill was just sitting there. I had to give it a try. I changed into shorts and a T-shirt. I left my fleece top, SmartWool socks, Lycra running pants, hat and gloves in my gym bag for another day.

But more to the point, I thought that running on the treadmill would give me lots of material for a poison-pen blog entry. I could slam treadmill runners with a whole new batch of vitriol, having experienced, firsthand, the boredom of running in place for a half-hour or so.

In my head, I had already had the first sentence of my blog entry: “I just remembered why treadmills are for weaklings and wusses.”

I hopped on the treadmill and punched the Start button. I started running — nice and easy at first, a 9-minute mile to warm up, and then gradually speeding up to a 7:30 pace, with a 2 percent grade.

I even turned on the TV — to the Weather Channel, of course, where the announcer was talking about how cold it was outside. “Hey,” I thought with a slightly guilty conscience. “I’ll be back outside tomorrow. Trail Boy isn’t afraid of a little snow.”

And I kept running.

After 10 minutes, I was sweating and feeling a burn. After 15 minutes, I had to slow the machine down, first to an 8:00 pace, and then to an 8:30 pace.

In the process, I remembered the funny thing about treadmills. When you need to slow down, you have to push a button and watch the red, digital readout scream out your slower pace.

That doesn’t happen on trails. When I need to slow down on a trail, I just move my legs a little slower. There’s no machine laughing at me.

Yes, laughing!

“Take that, Trail Boy,” the machine laughed. “Who’s the wussy now?”

As I was sweating, I tried to remember the last time I ran on a treadmill. I think it was about six years ago, during an ozone alert day. The weather was brutal that day: 100-degree heat, with thick, smoggy air. I beat a retreat to the gym and ran about five miles in air-conditioned relief.

But the very next day, I was back outside, on the trails. And I haven’t been back since. Until today.

Before that ozone alert day, I hadn’t run on a treadmill in probably 10 years.

But when I forced myself to think harder, I remembered that I used to run treadmills. A lot.

Three or four days a week, I ran on a treadmill at the YMCA in New Castle, Pennsylvania, right across the street from my office.

That winter, I lost 30 pounds, and looked pretty damned trim. It was the last time I weighed less than 175 pounds.

Treadmills might be boring. But they keep you honest about your speed and intensity. And if you run them often enough, they can melt off the pounds in a way that trails or roads just haven’t done for me.

So I’m going to try this treadmill thing a few more times this winter.

Trails are great. But treadmills have their place too.

I can use a little more push this year, to get faster and lose a few pounds.

Treadmills, I take back all the mean things I said about you.

Now quit laughing at me.

(To return to the home page, click here.)

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One Response to “Treadmills are for wimps; no, scratch that.”

  1. Hey, running on a treadmill is better than sitting on the couch watching NASCAR!

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