Relax and run more naturally on a treadmill

Appreciate the treadmill when it is hot outside.

By Elizabeth Staugler

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE

It’s hot and as much as I want to run outside, some days I just can’t. I’ve just started a new marathon plan and every week I have at least one speed workout. When it’s hot, it’s hard to run period, let alone run fast. So, I’ve learned to appreciate the treadmill for these runs.

Although I’ve gained an appreciation for the treadmill, I have to admit, I was not a treadmill natural. But then again, running on a surface that moves under you is not natural. In my early days of treadmill running, I ran with fear — fear of falling off the end of the treadmill, fear of falling on my face and fear of looking like a complete idiot as those things happened.

Over time I’ve become more comfortable. Now, instead of being that person who runs as far forward on the treadmill as possible, and leans way forward because that is going to somehow keep me on the treadmill, I’ve learned to relax and run more naturally.

But as I gained my treadmill confidence, there was something else that I just couldn’t seem to escape, boredom. I mean let’s face it, the treadmill is called the dreadmill for a reason. Many treadmill users watch TV or they listen to music or ebooks. I have yet to try ebooks, but I have tried the other two. My problem is that I’m never really listening or watching. Instead I’m often thinking about what I’m going to do when I get off the treadmill and the TV or music becomes pointless noise.

So I’ve learned other ways to entertain myself, like playing with the treadmill settings. For instance, the treadmill at the gym I go to has a hill workout that I particularly like. Every minute the treadmill elevation changes which kind of keeps you on your toes. There’s also a speed setting where you can program your speed pace and your recovery pace and then toggle between the two. The constant change in speed or elevation tends to keep my brain busy which helps me pass time.

Another thing that I’ve started using is treadmill apps. One that I particularly like is called RunBetter. It is loaded with the elevation profiles of several major races. You select a race segment and the pace you intend to run. As you run on the treadmill, the app will alert you when you need to incline or decline to mimic the elevation of the selected course segment. This app has one or two free courses that periodically change. Beyond that you will need a subscription for access to the rest.

Another app, called Treadmill Trails helps bring the outdoors to your treadmill. This one takes you on 30-minute runs along beautiful trails in Hawaii, National Parks and ancient cities. You’ll run through the mountains, along beaches and even across a canyon. You pick the destination, download the video and go. Although not free, each video is only 99 cents, a small price to pay to relieve a whole lot of treadmill boredom.

One thing that I do like about the treadmill is that if I want to maintain a specific pace, I just have to set it to that pace. Once the pace is set, I either run it or fall on my face. Oh wait, I’m in control of the buttons so I can slow it down too. What a relief.

What the treadmill is not going to do for you is help your body adapt to the weather we’re dealt or the outdoor running surfaces we typically run on. So, it’s good to get outside when you can. In the end, I’m happy to have options.

Betty Staugler is the Charlotte County extension agent for the Florida Sea Grant Program and an active runner. Contact her at staugler@ufl.edu or 941-764-4346.

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