The Treadmill…the Friend You Love to Hate!

It is that time of the year again when you start to hear the increased rumblings from the treadmill naysayers.  Cold weather and shorter days can force even the most dedicated runners indoors for at least some of their runs.  I get the sour attitude…treadmills are boring, feel different, and don’t offer the scenery that running outside does.  Still, I don’t think the treadmill deserves all of the bad reputation it has garnered over the years.  If you take a moment to think about it from a “glass half full” perspective, you can see that the treadmill does offer some benefits.

Softer surface.  For me, when the trails become snow covered, I dread the idea of having to spend more time running on the pavement.  The harder surface is quite a bit more impact than I am used to after a season of running on the trails.  The soft surface of a treadmill more closely resembles the trail surfaces that I am used to.
Structured workouts.  The thing I like about the treadmill that causes me to use it even on nice days is the ability to use it to create a structured workout. While I don’t generally like a lot of structure, there are times where I need the discipline to help with a particular training goal.
Mental challenge.  I think this one is particularly helpful for long distance runners.  Running on the treadmill doesn’t offer the scenery that can be found outside, which can be mentally exhausting.  I use the treadmill for some long runs to help build up mental toughness, which comes in handy at the end of a long ultra.
Break from the elements.  Most of the time, I find solace in running outside in the rain or snow, but other days I want nothing to do with it. The treadmill provides a way of getting in my run without the elements to contend with.
Schedule Flexibility.  With a full time job, two young kids, and a wife that works, sometimes I don’t have the luxury of going outside for a run.  Whether you have to keep an eye on the kids, wait at home for an appointment, or cut your commute time by making a stop at the gym, a treadmill grants a bit more flexibility.
Safety.  Some people have concerns about safety, especially if they often run alone.  This could be safety from animals, people, injuries, getting lost, or a number of other things.  In any case, running on a treadmill often helps alleviate many of these concerns.

So you see, maybe you should cut the poor treadmill some slack…it isn’t all that bad.  It will help you stay on track with your training goals, which after all, is important for many of us.  And if all else fails, you can try to pretend that you are out on the trails!

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Why Do I Run?

We all know the questions and comments that we get on almost a daily basis that typically revolve around such themes as “you’ll mess up your knees” or “I don’t even drive that far”. Mostly I will brush these off, but occasionally I run across someone that is genuinely interested, typically because they are also interested in running. To these people, I try to explain that running is often deeply personal and that you could probably ask 100 runners the same question and not get the same answer. However, these instances do often cause me to reflect on my personal reasons for running.

  1. Peace and “Me Time”. While I do have my moments of social expression here and there, I am actually very much an introvert. If you have ever read “Quiet” by Susan Cain, you would know that social interactions and the constant hustle and bustle of today’s fast-paced life can be both mentally and physically exhausting. Running, especially on trails and away from the city, provides me an outlet to get in my own head, to unwind, and to embrace the quiet beauty around me. It is my natural medicine that never fails to recharge my batteries.
  2. Perspective. Trail running has changed me so much as a person, which is easy when running in the Wasatch Mountains. I embrace my beautiful surroundings. I am more aware of the natural beauty around me and have become more protective of it. My priorities in life have shifted so much (and continue to do so) since I started running. I value “things” less and “experiences” more in the grand scheme of things. I volunteer more. I stop and pick up trash when I see it on the ground. I care about the world that my children are going to inherit. Sure, I still love my toys and I don’t drive a hybrid (yet), but I also realize that things like my family, nature, memories, etc. are way more important and worth more than anything I could ever buy.
  3. Fitness. I would be remiss for leaving this out. In fact, this was the main reason that started it all. Running has helped me reach a level of fitness I never imagined before as a high school kid with asthma or a post-college overweight desk jockey. I love the doors that have been opened for me because I am healthy and fit. I can literally see the world around me from atop mountains and that is fantastic! I can be almost certain that when my kids get to high school, I will still be able to keep up with them. For me, this will always be a motivator.

So, in a nutshell, that’s why I run and why it was so easy for me to fall in love with it. While it is not the only part of my life or even the most important, it is very much a part of who I am…it is one of the pieces that make me whole. I understand that running is not for everyone, and that is ok. However, the next time you are reading one of my many Facebook posts or listening to me ramble on about my last run, just smile and remember that it is a huge part of what makes me me! 🙂