I own a treadmill.
I bought it when I was pregnant with my son, who is 8 years old now. I bought it knowing that with a new baby in the house, it might not always be easy to get out and run – that sometimes the miles would have to tick off while he was sleeping or resting in his baby swing.
And that happened – not with as much regularity as I thought it would, but enough to justify keeping it around. Besides, it was in the basement, so it wasn’t in the way. It never turned into a platform to store old holiday decorations, but it also just hasn’t been used that much.
When I first started running, it wasn’t unusual for me to log many miles on the treadmill at the gym. I was completely broke, and I kept a gym membership – extravagant as it was at the time – because I considered it my social time. So instead of spending that money on drinks out after work, I would dutifully take my gym bag and go take the yoga classes or weights classes or run on the treadmill.
After a while, I began running outside more, and then I just never really looked back. My gym membership paid for me to have somewhere to take a shower after a run from downtown. I used the elliptical more, and then only if I was so injured nothing else would do. Tried the rowing machine here and there, but I’m just not that coordinated. And I taught spin classes every Monday at noon for many years.
Still, the true love is outside running.
So as I’ve watched my life unfold in the past year, I’ve realized that sometimes I change it, and sometimes it changes me. I’m divorced. Newly. I have shared custody. Happily. I’m signed up for a 50-mile race in April. Fearfully. And that means my habits have to change, my need to log miles tempered by circumstance.
Which brings me back to the treadmill.
It’s still in the basement. I angled it today so I could watch TV on it if I want to, something I’ve never done because I have fairly bad vision and it upsets my balance to try to focus on anything moving while on a treadmill. But maybe this way it will work and make it less boring.
I’ve considered moving it upstairs, to a room with a window, so I don’t feel so isolated. And I’ve thought about putting it in the garage, opening the double door and running while I watch the dog walkers and other runners file by in the early morning. It’s still an option.
For now, though, I think it’s level, and I can see the television from it, and the kids haven’t been bothered by the noise of it early in the morning or late at night. I updated my playlists on my ancient ipod. I’ve thought about wireless headphones for the television, if I can get past the dizziness. And mostly, I’ve been grateful that the treadmill is even an option.
Treadmill running is not running to me. It’s exercise. It’s a slog staring at the console, wondering how on earth it can seem so awful and endless, this running in place. I play with the incline, the pace, toggle back and forth between time elapsed and distance, try to do the math in my head and guess when I’ll hit 6 miles and be able to be done.
When I know I’m meeting friends to run, or even going by myself in the early morning light, it isn’t difficult for me to get up and go, and I’ll run for as long as my schedule allows, grabbing as many miles as I can, and reveling in the outdoors. That’s the true love for me, every time. It’s why I love trail running. It’s why I want every window in the house open from March through October. I just need it.
But the treadmill is something. It’s still miles. Maybe I’ll use it to embrace speedwork. Or watch every season of “30 Rock” on Netflix. Again. Maybe I can use the steady cadence, the rhythmic sound of my feet on the belt as a kind of meditation in the morning, a sort of sensory deprivation tank of a run – no music, no television, no conversation with friends, nothing to look at. Just me. My thoughts. My feet. My pounding heart. And my head – clearer and clearer.
Anything is possible, right?
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.
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