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How Treadmill Running Is Like Mile 21 Of A Marathon

There's a trick to the madness.

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I made the mistake of not going for my long run on a day when I could do it outside. Because the weather the next day was horrible, I was forced to bring my 8 miles to the treadmill. Many people refer to the ‘mill as “the dreadmill,” which, for many of us, is like a medieval torture device meant to make us despise running. Yet, it is a necessary evil, especially when living in a place where ice and horribly cold temperatures happen in winter and stifling heat happens in the summer.

I knew I had to change my thoughts about treadmill workouts. I hate them for several reasons. First, I run much slower. I can do 5.5 mph outside, but feel tired at 4 mph inside. I’ve heard many people complain about the same thing. I have no scientific proof, but I think it’s because my running form seems to adjust when on the treadmill.

I also get bored very easily. Without a change of scenery, I keep looking back at the controls. When it feels like hours, it’s only been 5 minutes since I last peered down at the control pad. Watching TV helps, but it doesn’t always fully distract me from staring at the slow-moving clock.

But this morning I had a revelation. I realized that running on the treadmill was very similar to mile 21 of a marathon. When I ran my one and only marathon, at mile 21, I felt like I couldn’t go any farther. My brain told me I’d die if I took one more step, and that’s how I feel running inside. Yet during the marathon, I managed to keep going and finish the race…

…so I decided that the best way to view the treadmill is as a mind-training tool. We all know that long-distance running is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. So when I got on my treadmill, I started to view it as an exercise for the mind. If I could complete my 8 miles and keep my mind in check, I would succeed. Mantras ran through my head. I reminded myself that it is one more step, one more mile, one more minute, toward my larger goal of finishing and of my race. I visualized running outside and what I’d be passing if I were on my regular route. And sure enough, there was something about visualizing these landmarks that made running more bearable.

The beauty of it was that I finished my 8 miles! I won the battle against my mind that wanted to stop after 3 miles. Then 4. Then 6. And when my treadmill automatically shut off after 100 minutes, I had to force myself to turn it back on for my last 1.31 miles. But I won the battle; I got back on and finished my prescribed workout. I was victorious!

The treadmill is very useful for maintaining our training when the weather makes it unsafe to go outside. It can also be a valuable tool for the mental training that also goes into running long distances.