Treadmill Tips January 14 2015

In the winter weather, icy pavement and freezing temps force many of us to move our miles indoors.  But, the word "treadmill" invokes dread in many... What are ways to stay motivated while running, walking and dreading time on the treadmill?  

It's a question I asked myself week after week this past dreadful winter, while training for the 2014 Boston Marathon.  After the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon, and being stopped 1 mile short of the finish line due to the bombing, my sole focus was to train hard and finish the 26.2 physically and mentally strong. 

But a wrench was thrown into my training plan when faced with icy roads and whipping winds.  I forced myself to run inside on a treadmill, and focused my mind to look at the experience as an adventure rather than an arduous task. 

At first, I would set a time or distance goal for myself in order to stay engaged - something manageable such as 3 miles or 30 minutes.  A half hour isn't that long - it's the length of one TV sitcom or 11 really good songs on my playlist.    

But, as my Boston Marathon training mileage increased, and my tolerance for frozen temperatures decreased, I had to face the fact that I may be on the treadmill for as long as 16 or 18 miles - 3 to 4 hours - at one time.  Daunting indeed!

Because I race, raise money and coach with the cancer charity endurance team, Team in Training (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society), I have a network of cohorts training for their own races each season.  I gathered three friends who I knew would make a treadmill run fun and we hit the gym. 

What I learned was:
* Treat your treadmill training as you would a fun run or walk outside - be aware of your surroundings and enjoy the little things you see along the way.  Yes, the gym may not have ever-changing scenery or plenty of passers-by, but it does have its own cast of characters engaged in getting up and getting active.  Watch, learn and enjoy those around you.

* Set-up a treadmill work out that changes over time and/or distance - play the "speed interval" or "hill" game to keep you engaged.  I am a fan of the Jeff Galloway "Run/Walk" method - where you run, then walk. each for a set period of time (i.e. Run 3 minutes, then Walk 1 minute; later, rinse, repeat.)  My friends and I would set up at adjacent treadmills and, while our conversation would lag in conjunction with our energy, we made the effort to yell, "Run!" ... and three minutes later, "Walk!"  It ain't Shakespeare, but it works!

* Keep your eyes on the prize - set a personal goal and focus on achieving it.  When I do a shorter treadmill workout, I set my sights on hitting the 5K mark in as close to 30 minutes as I can, or upping the incline on the machine to reach my target heart rate as fast as possible...  Or, on a particularly tough day, I focused on guessing how many songs my iPod played before playing my favorite treadmill tune: "I Hate Myself For Loving You" (Joan Jett).