When daylight gets scarce, my favorite trails are closed, or on the days when I get an F for time management (or an A+ for procrastination, depending on how you look at it), treadmill runs are sometimes the only way I am able to fit in a workout.
When I’m traveling, have a lot to do with the kids (homeschooling is busy), the weather is too cold or the days get too dark too soon, or I don’t feel like going outside, I find comfort in knowing that I can get on the treadmill to get in a run.
When the kids were smaller, the treadmill was really the only way I could find a way to run, given my husband’s availability/work/travel and not having a babysitter or nanny around to help. Even after my oldest took a Red Cross Babysitter’s course, I still didn’t feel comfortable enough to leave my kids for a short run. Starting to run together with my children was the creative way I addressed my desire to run and lack of a sitter.
While some refuse to run on a “dreadmill,” the treadmill represents something important to me: space to take care of myself. After years of not running and chasing toddlers instead, the treadmill was my way back to running. I think of myself as still getting back to running because I haven’t yet figured out when I’ll know I’m back or if there is even such a place.
Like any run, the treadmill run — though lacking in varying landscape and terrain — is a unique personal experience, and with that comes meaning and value. It may get easier to get bored on a treadmill and the time may seem to tick by slower, but a treadmill run still provides time for reflection, contemplation, and mental escape or liberation.
In many situations, treadmill runs are practical. A treadmill run still provides a sweaty experience. It provides a chance to feel aches and pains. It provides a chance to deal with (or succumb to) boredom, exhaustion, negative thoughts, and self-doubt. A treadmill run is a real run. Your shoes just stay a lot cleaner.
Treadmill running can also be a way for people to feel safe when running. Take for example, the NYC Marathon Finisher who trained exclusively indoors in Afghanistan because it wasn’t acceptable or safe for women to run outside. There’s no denying the fact that she’s a real, bona fide marathoner and the treadmill helped her get there. For others, treadmill running makes running without worry possible–whether that run is worrying about animal or human predators, traffic or accidental injuries, such as being mistaken for an animal while running during hunting season.
People will judge, criticize, and grumble about the treadmill and runners who use them. But in the end, the treadmill experience just like any outside run is personal. It’s mine. It’s yours.
Own your treadmill run.
The trails will be there when you’re ready and able.