Why I Hate the “Deadmill”

Yesterday on the training agenda: three miles. While it sounds like nothing when compared to the 26.2 miles to come, there is little to be excited about running even that short of distance first thing on a Monday morning after a three day weekend that included more red, white and blue cake and sangria than one wants to remember.

So rather than setting an alarm clock even earlier for a Monday, I slept “in” and decided that my three miles would have to be completed in the second worst possible way: on the treadmill.

As I slogged through a 5k in my office’s basement gym, I did just that: slogged. While I love running, not all running is the same, especially when it involves a moving belt confined to a windowless room with no Wi-Fi that makes it impossible to stream my favorite playlists from Spotify.

Although the idea of running in 95+ temperatures after 5 PM in the summer or dodging blankets of ice on wintry sidewalks is less than idyllic, there is much greater appeal to me to run outdoors than inside on a treadmill. For me, I get so much more out of my runs when I am dirtying my sneakers on a D.C. trail or photobombing photos of school-aged children all wearing the same colored t-shirt (which never gets old).

I contribute my running preferences to my first few months of training for the Nike Women’s Half in the winter of 2013.  Aside from my weekly long run spent with D.C. Road Runners, the local running group I joined, nearly all of my weekly runs were done inside on a treadmill. And I hated them. In fact, I think it was my hatred for these indoor runs that fueled my intensity and excitement to run long and hard early Saturday mornings.

On the treadmill, I also felt slow. I typically ran at least one minute slower per mile when inside than when on the D.C. sidewalks. Without the natural breeze and camaraderie of my training group, it felt difficult to keep up a good pace for an extended period of time, particularly when my focus was limited to the sweaty parade of undergrads crossing paths at the gym.

Once the weather went from winter to spring (which in D.C. is always in question), I was outdoors immediately. Naturally, my pace picked up and so did my confidence heading into the race. When my first half marathon arrived, the weather could not have been better: sunny and comfortably cool at 7 AM on a Sunday.

Training for my second half, which took place in the fall of 2013, was quite the opposite of my first because it meant training in the peak of summer. But my experience from the first race taught me that no matter how hot it could get, an outdoor run always tops one on the “deadmill.”

With that in my mind, I dreaded yesterday’s run, not because of length, but because of location. Yet, I set myself up for it, having chosen to take the extra 45 minutes of sleep over a 6 AM blaring alarm. I foresee these short runs in my training plan as being more of a concern than the longer runs. At least with the SLRs, I have a running group to keep me reliable and motivated to show up; during the week I only have myself.

So I ran a 5k, setting no personal records and experiencing no runner’s high. I just did it to get it done. Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, depending how hot the D.C. weather gods want us to bake, tonight I have a training group workout focused on hills. If I survive the workout on one of D.C. most notorious hills, aka the Calvert Hill, tomorrow’s post will include all the sweaty details. And even I manage to survive the heat of the hills, at least I will have done them on a terrain much less than painful the hills generated on a treadmill


6 thoughts on “Why I Hate the “Deadmill”

  1. Bethany,

    I can so very much relate to this idea of running outside versus the “deadmill”. And it has been my goal all summer to wake up before the sunrise so that I have time for my much needed “coffee time” prior to heading out for a run as the sun is on the rise. I have a little fear about what’s to come in the months when school is open again because I will need to gain comfort in running early mornings with a headlight on! I live deep in the woods so it isn’t the darkness that scares me as much as it is the wild animals lurking behind the wooded tree lined streets. It will be an interesting endeavor on my part! But I, like you, am determined to “Run On” outside to avoid the “deadmill”.

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