Treadmill Tip of the Week: A Peek Inside the Mind of a Treadmill Rookie

While some of you have an easy relationship with your treadmill, mine’s playing hard to get. (Photo credits: Best Buy)

The other day I had some serious speed work on the ol’ training calendar. I was a little nervous about getting it done on the track, but then the unthinkable happened – I found myself in a position where I had no choice but to do my workout on the dreaded treadmill!

While some of you (*cough* Cilantro *cough*) are pros at getting it done inside, the treadmill and I have some work to do on our relationship. I wish that this could be one of those posts where I would be all like “Ooh, I was all worried and nervous because I had to do my workout on the treadmill, but then I did it and it was awesome and now the treadmill and I are like totes madly in love.”

It’s not. You’ve been warned. 

I know you’re probably thinking something like Oh, you wimpy Southern wuss! Guess you stayed in ’cause you couldn’t handle a little snow day!  This wasn’t a cold weather problem, it was a staffing issue. Since today was a snow day, I had to open the fitness center (and yes, we still opened at 5 freakin’ a.m. despite the treacherous – for North Carolina – conditions), and I was stuck there alone until pretty much the end of my shift. With a busy afternoon ahead of me, I had to get my workout done in the morning and since there was no one else there to attend to the fitness center, I was confined to the treadmill. (And p.s. there’s nothing wrong with the treadmill anyway – if it’s your thing.)

The workout was 5 x 4 min. at 5K pace, which I thought sounded vile even under the best of circumstances. I had NO IDEA how this was going to go, or if it was even possible since I had previously never even cracked the 1 hour mark on the TM, much less attempted any sort of hard effort on it.

I climbed aboard and fired up the 2 mile warm-up. Here’s what was going on in my head:

Holy crap, you have to put this thing on level 7.5 just to get to 8:00 min pace?! OMG, I must have to it on like level 17 to get it down to 6:20! Does it even have a level 17?!? It must have a level 17. Wow, I’ve only been running for 30 secs? Kill me now…

The warm up was kind of boring, but I got through it easy enough once I settled down. Time for round 1 of work. I hadn’t the foggiest what speed I would need to set the machine on to find 5K pace, so decided I would start with 10. I wondered if this might actually prove to be too slow because I felt like I had to jack it way on up there just to get to warm-up mode. As it turned out, 10 was a little to fast, but not that far off the mark. I dialed it back to 9.5, which was 6:18 pace according to the treadmill I was using.

Guys, I swear doing intervals on the treadmill is like entering some sort of bizarre time warp where everything happens 2 times slower than in real-time. Holy long-ass 4 minutes. I finished my first interval and stumbled over my feet in my effort to straddle the belt so I could grab a sip of water. It took me by surprise that the hard indoor effort seriously dried out my mouth and throat.

But that’s nothing. When I tried to jump on the sides, I missed. My misstep spiraled into the most epic save ever, shooting me towards the back corner of the deck, arms failing and spewing obscenities all the while. But I mercifully managed to catch myself on the rails before impact, thus holding my dignity intact by the skin of my teeth and escaping what was sure to be the belt burn of the millennium. I can’t decide if I am incredibly relieved or disappointed that absolutely no one was around to see this little spectacle.

Interval 2 was uneventful enough. I made it through and successfully straddled the belt with no major disaster. But by interval 3 the effort was starting to get uncomfortable and my pre-schooler-esque ADHD attention span was really starting to unravel. I decided this might be a good time to try some mantras. I usually think those are bullshit (no offense to anyone who thinks they’re awesome), but things were getting desperate and I was only somewhere around halfway through. I repeated every positive, calming affirmation I could recall from every blog and tweet I’ve read. “Breathe in, breathe out. I am stronger than I think am. Eff this stupid effing mantra.” That ate up all of about 10 seconds. Ugh. But I made it through yet another round without face-planting. Progress!

Too fast you go. Fall off you will. (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

By interval 4, I decided that it was time to bring out the big guns. I busted out the mother of all mantras , “Everything is fine. Nothing is f@#$ed.” And I didn’t just repeat in my head, I freakin’ sing-song yelled it (silently, of course), like ROTC style. I think all this mantra excitement might have got me a little too worked up because at roughly minute 2 of 4, the dreaded feeling of impending vomit set in. Commence panic mode. My rational brain had ceased participation in this workout miles ago and I was consumed with thoughts of the fear and shame of barfing on the work treadmill. My panic level increased when it occurred to me that I was only person in the building at the moment, and therefore I would be solely responsible for cleaning up any barf that might happen. OMG, and FML! Miraculously, I made it to the end of round 4 vomit-free.

My spirit was completely broken by the final of my five intervals. All attempts to buoy myself up knowing this was the last one were completely in vain. I made it through about 90 seconds at 5K pace before I caved and despairingly took a break. I think I was weeping by this point. At least on the inside. Then I got really angry at myself for being such an effing wimp, gritted my teeth, prayed not to barf, and busted out the final 2:30 seconds at 9.5. This put me at a mileage total of 6.75. I was determined to run 8 miles on this abomination of a machine if it killed me.

Try as I might, I could not stop obsessing over that little track indicator thing that tells you how many 400 m laps you have completed on the display. I tried to count all the little triangle markers that go around it to pass the time, but that was making me feel kind of queasy. So then I just tried counting. I made it to maybe 60 before I decided that counting  just required too much brain power for my current state. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, I completed the longest 1.75 miles of my life and watched the display flash that glorious 8.0 in the distance box.

Oh thank God. Somebody hug me.

And that, friends, is the sweaty, pathetic tale of my new treadmill distance PR. MAD RESPECT to all my homies out there who run on the treadmill all day er’y day. Y’all are Jedi-masters of self-discipline and dedication, and I have no frickin’ idea how you do it.

Do you have any tales of treadmill disasters? If you love this filthy beast of machine, how do you do it?!


If you’re like Wasabi and need a little assist in the treadmill love department, read our post on Learning to Love the Treadmill 

For all our Treadmill Tip of the Week Posts go here.♥

Mid-pack racer and social running enthusiast. Full-time fitness specialist and part-time running store employee extraordinaire. Certified running gear fashionista and lover of laughing, lattes, and color coordination.

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  1. I have only run on a treadmill once, and only lasted 2 miles. It was the longest and most boring two miles ever! And I felt like I sounded like an elephant on that thing! I don’t know how people do it, I’m with you! Some kind of jedi-master….

    1. Seriously, 1 mile feels like 5 on the treadmill! How do they do it??? Hope your training calendar holds only non-treadmill runs in the future, and thanks so much for your comment!

  2. I love this post so much. I can totally relate to all of it, even though I will admit I have, over time, befriended my old hamster wheel.

    What is just as bad as what happened to you (which coincidentally happened to me this morning during my tempo run on the TM) is when you are trying to talk yourself into the mantras and get through the time slog, the damn thing cuts power. It.just.stops. I can tell you first hand that requires an epic save also to avoid a face plant.

    The good news is that we got our workouts in AND have entertaining stories to tell, right? 😉 Congrats on living to tell the tale and hitting a TM mileage PR.

    1. Aw, thanks for the love, Mint! And I am REALLY GLAD that we both made it through our recent treadmill workouts face-plant free! And you are so right, this is the stuff that great, hilarious stories are made of! Cheers to silver linings, and hell, cheers to the effing treadmill! 🙂

  3. I have a love/hate thing with the treadmill. I get through it right now by listening to podcasts and frequent fiddling with the controls to keep my brain a bit more engaged.

    But, once I tried to run and watch The Daily Show at the same time. I don’t recall what Jon Stewart said that was sooooooo funny, but I had to laugh and nearly fell off the treadmill, much to the amusement of the people around me who had the sense to hop off before giggling.

    1. Thanks for the tip! Maybe all I need is a little distraction to get me through those eternal treadmill workouts. I’ll be careful to pick anything too funny though. I narrowly escaped face-planting distraction-free!