The Dreadmill

In my Getting Started  post, I talked about being on the treadmill and how I started slowly and then built it up and was finally able to run for 5 miles. What a successful story of triumph over the treadmill and the gym....And flowers and rainbows and unicorns and yeaaaa, if only it were that simple.

Oh the treadmill, how I love/detest thee! I decided to use the treadmill as my starting point at the gym. It was an old and familiar friend that had gotten me to my weight loss goals in the past so it was easy to hop on and run walk.

At the beginning, I didn't think it would be very difficult. Though I wasn't in shape, it was something that I had done before. How out of shape could I really be?! Well I soon found out that I couldn't pass a high school PE class! Initially, this didn't bother me very  much, until I spotted all the forty, fifty, sixty and seventy year olds going at a faster pace. Goodness gracious, how embarrassing!

I started paying attention to my fellow competitors, I mean gym members. There was a huge variety of them and many like myself, favored the treadmill. I observed that some of them would cover the display screen with a magazine or towel, some would read the entire time (how could they do that and run?!), others would get on the treadmill and simply run, while others came with their gym buddies and spent  more time talking than walking. One guy in particular would come in, hop on the treadmill and run at a dizzying speed for about 30 to 45 min and then leave. Oh how I wanted to have that talent!

It's a Mental Thang
Armed with my observations, I put together my own version of my treadmill experience. I would usually start with a 2 minute walk to warm up. The first few minutes of running after that were the most difficult. If I could get my mind to push through, it was easy enough to complete the workout. I also started to understand why folks covered the display screen. I would be huffing and puffing on the treadmill, having beaten the first few minutes and convinced myself to stay on, only to look down and find out that I had only be on there for a total of 6 minutes and still had about 24 whole long minutes to go! My feet would feel like bricks and I would instantly feel completely tired!

Running on a motorized platform that was not going anywhere soon got old and required major mental muscle to stay on. I found distractions that kept me running. I had noticed a sign that was posted in front of my machine of choice (yes by this time I had a specific machine that I preferred and would wander around the gym until it became available).  The sign was simple enough: it alerted gym members that there was  time limit for treadmill use and referred members to a wait list at the front desk if all treadmills were in use. I noticed that the second treadmill in the sign had 3 L's instead of 2 and this became my focus to get through my runs. I would start running and immediately want to quit and look at the sign, chuckle a bit to myself and then stare it down for the remainder of the time, willing the 3rd L to disappear.

When this technique would not work, I would stare out the window in front of me and count the number of cars that went by. Or if there were children playing basketball, I would keep score for them or cheer for them as they developed their skills on the court. I also learned to trick my brain by convincing myself that once I had completed 50% or 60% or 75% of the workout, I could walk. Once I got to the agreed upon point, I would talk myself into finishing it. 

Once I became comfortable with the treadmill, I started competitive running. Well, ok, I competed with whomever was on the treadmill to them, unknown to them of course. I would slyly glance over to see their speed and at least match it, often times cranking mine up towards the end to beat them. That attempt to keep up would spur me on and I would often hit faster speeds than I intended just so that I can "beat" them!

As I kept challenging my heart on the treadmill, I started noticing that it would take me a bit longer to get it racing. I also noticed that I didn't wear out as quickly doing other exercises.
Since then I've learned how to be more efficient on the treadmill. I added a burst at the end of each run to challenge my heart: I started around 7.0 mph and have gone up to 9.5 mph. I also use the High Intensity Interval Training technique to burn maximum fat in the shortest period of time.  I start with a 2-3 minute warm up (walk), followed by 2 minutes at 6.7 mph, 40 sec at 7.5 mph and 20 sec at 9.0 mph and then 2 min rest at 3.0-4.0 mph and then repeat it. I do about 3-5 sets of this for a total of 15-25 minutes. This technique can be done at any level; the key is to find a goal speed and work towards it.   
Though I found the treadmill to be a dread, it became the starting point for my come back into fitness. With the newfound endurance I'm able to push myself in all my workouts. The weight loss I experienced as a result of the treadmill helped build my confidence to keep working on my fitness and weight loss goals.
Lessons learned
1. Just run: whether it's on the treadmill or out in the open, just run (jog) or walk if that's what works
2. It takes a time and consistent effort to build endurance. Lack of consistency will require restarting each time. 
3. Like anything in life, if you believe it, you can make great friends with the treadmill
4. Distracting yourself on the treadmill can allow you to push through an especially tough workout
5. A little friendly competition is good for your heart
6. HIIT is an efficient way to maximize your workout, it can be done on the treadmill or really with any cardio workout.
7. The treadmill is a good starting point, as well as a great part of a workout at any level.
Did you see what this guy does on the treadmill?! Anything to keep you going!
Half-stepping diva