Saturday, May 25, 2013

In Defense of Treadmills

Treadmills, I owe you an apology. For years I've avoided you at all costs. Rain, ice, snow, dark, traffic, mosquitoes, smog, cold, and wind all somehow seemed preferable to to the monotonous whir-whir-whir of a treadmill. Recently, though, I've started to come around. 

Treadmills offer a way to run that is always safe, well lit, and 68 degrees. They provide an area that is entirely mine, no sharing required. I no longer need to meander around mommy joggers with their enormous strollers.  I never have to red-rover my way through social walkers, chatting three abreast. There are no dogs, or gum, or puddles. It's a 3' x 6' space free of hazards or distractions. 

Indoor running also allows a higher level of spontaneity. Rather than commit in advance to a three, five, or seven mile loop, I can determine in real time what kind of run I want to make it. If I'm feeling strong and light, I can increase my speed with the touch of a button, or let the clock continue to run as I extend my miles. Hills and elevation changes are my own creation, and if I ever feel exhausted or hurt, I just step off. There's no fear of being stranded or injured miles away from home. When I need to be done, the run is over, no questions asked. 

Even competition is minimized, as each runner in the row looks straight ahead, concerned only with his or her own performance. The run is entirely personal. (Granted, healthy competition has its advantages. When I was feeling sluggish and tempted to quit on a long training run a few years ago, I was passed by a 70-year-old in a GRANDMAS TRI HARDER shirt. After that, I couldn't not finish the run. Shame is one hell of a motivator). 

I certainly won't be eliminating outdoor running anytime soon. The sunshine, the fresh air, the scenery, the using-your-legs-to-propel-your-body-forward-rather-than-letting-the-treadmill-belt-pull-them-back -- these are all important and beneficial aspects of running. Battling the elements is part of the reason we runners are so proud of our sport, and I have no intention of running exclusively in a sterile environment. But for the days when the great outdoors is just more than I can handle, it's nice to have a safe place to run. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

New Routine

One of my first jobs was on an assembly line in a packaging factory. Hour upon hour, repeating the same motion. Take it from the left, move it to the right. Again. And again. Sound like hell? It wasn't. It wasn't a dream job by any means, but it was pleasant, peaceful. I knew what to expect, and I did it. Every. Day.

I love routine, especially when it comes to running. Meals, paths, brands, race organizers, even specific annual races--if I like something once, I'll repeat it as regularly as possible. I don't do well with chaos, so I find order where I can.

For almost entirely positive reasons, routine has been out of the question this month. New job, new house, new dress code, new commute, new responsibilities, all in a city that I'm still discovering by the minute. Each change has been for the better, but adapting can be painful.

On my first run in the new neighborhood, I got lost. Despite Google Street Viewing and MayMyRunning the course, the turns happened sooner than I expected, or later. I don't know where I went wrong, but I did. No landmarks looked familiar. I hadn't set out on a long run, so I couldn't be that far astray, but it was enough to shake my confidence. I twisted and meandered my way back to a major street and found my way home, nowhere nearly as neatly as I'd intended.

As much as I try to hold on to structure and sameness, change just keeps on coming. But that's what's wonderful about running. Change can lead to exciting progress and new discoveries. The motions of running are consistent, but there are new variables every day. I can change location or time of my run, change my motivation for running, the distance, or level of difficulty. If I'm not getting the results I want, I can add a new element and improve the way I run.

Maybe I'll join a running group. Maybe I'll try an obstacle course race. Maybe I'll stop running with a watch and run until I feel finished, not until I hit a certain time.

There's always a way to change and make it better. Even it's not the direction I intended to go.