The dark satanic ‘mill

5618665304_b2e0ccd051_mI’d set a goal this year to run 1000 miles, which requires roughly 20 miles per week. I need to get a bit ahead of that in advance of the inevitable illnesses, vacations, etc., so I’m trying to run at least 5 miles most days. Yesterday was cold, rainy and close to icy. I opened the door and despaired at the thought of running 5 miles in that weather.

Then I remembered, hey! I’m now a member of the Y! So I got in my car and drove the 8 minutes over there. I was on the treadmill roughly 2 minutes after swiping my card. And there I continued to be, like a hamster on the wheel, for the next 50 minutes.

Oh, I tried to make it more interesting. Reading didn’t work; there’s too much bouncing involved in running to move smoothly from line to line. I watched CNN with closed captioning but daytime programming seems to be 90% ads for lawyers seeking clients suffering from mesothelioma. I tried Fox News (aren’t they supposed to be more entertaining?) but that wasn’t much better. In my gym in NYC I used to try to exercise during the Oprah Winfrey show since I found that made the time go faster, but she’s no longer on the basic channels at 4. And it wasn’t 4 o’clock anyway.

So I tried to make the workout more interesting by going faster. I was aiming to run most of the time at 6.0 mph (10 minute miles). I’d bump it up to 6.5 mph (9:13) for intervals. But 5 miles just takes a long time on the ‘mill unless you’re running 6-minute miles. And that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.

My Runner’s World February issue has an article claiming that we are, evolutionarily, programmed to look for stimulus change as we’re running. This does not happen on those dark, satanic ‘mills. “We may experience that mismatch as ‘boredom,’ but it can also be viewed as our senses missing what our species has always associated with movement.” The author, Hank Davis, recommends mindfulness as an antidote, turning the treadmill run into a form of meditation. Whatever. I feel more meditative with the trees and birds, and probably even the cold. So instead of looking for ‘mill fun ideas, I should, as one Twitter follower advised, just bundle up and get outside.

Can you stand the ‘mill? How do you exercise on cold and icy days?

Treadmill photo courtesy flickr user MetaphysicalPlatypus.com



23 Responses to The dark satanic ‘mill


  1. Nother Barb says:

    Never did like the treadmill. I used to live across the street from a high school with an indoor track that the neighborhood could use in the evenings. At least you were going PAST things, instead of running in place. And then there was the fellow who jumped rope, FAST. Fascinating to see. Yesterday I tried my hand, er, feet, at mall-walking. There’s LOTS to see, and you have to vary your steps to go around obstacles. I used to go with a friend when our babies were in strollers. But I don’t think they like runners, and I don’t think I’ll be speed-walking there, but it’s weatherproof and free. I’m heading out there again now.

    • Laura says:

      @Nother Barb – yep, it’s all about the scenery, and the mall certainly provides lots of that, both with the merchandise and the people.

  2. Jenni says:

    When I started exercising daily, I bought a treadmill and I do like it. It takes far less activation energy and I actually *do* it – first thing, just out of bed, every morning. I’m awake and refreshed and ready to go when I get off the ‘mill. I bought a TV to go with it and – this is the *key* – we hooked up the AppleTV to that television, so I can use Netflix. I’m currently working my way through West Wing (I was otherwise occupied in the 1990s and early 2000s). I only watch those shows when I’m on the treadmill, and I can become so absorbed that I end up walking further than I intended.

    • Laura says:

      @Jenni- that was always my hope with Oprah – that I’d get so into a show on hoarders or makeovers or Oprah’s favorite things that I wouldn’t even notice I’d been on the treadmill for 55 minutes. Sometimes it worked. Or sometimes it was an interview with a celebrity I neither knew nor (after the first 3 minutes) liked and that killed things for the rest of the jog.

      Since the treadmill is at my gym (not at home) there’s an additional time tax. Today I ran out the front door and did 63 minutes of running, which took 63 minutes. Driving to the gym and driving home added about 20 minutes, so running for 55 minutes took 75 minutes, meaning I was gone longer and running less…

  3. I am an odd duck in that I actually PREFER the treadmill! I don’t really like to run, so I am far too prone to stopping and walking instead, but when I’m on the treadmill, I have motivation in watching the speed and calories. (I tend a bit toward the obsessive, if you couldn’t guess.) As long as the ‘mill is turning, my legs have to keep running! I like to mix it up by changing the incline, and of course, listening to music.

    • Laura says:

      @Laura – well, to each her own! I have tried varying the incline too as a way to keep myself occupied. Changing the incline on the :30 and the speed on the :00 means you’re doing something to break up the tedium every 30 seconds.

      • Ana says:

        Ha, I do the same thing with the elliptical (changing the resistance, or going backward, at LEAST every 30 seconds (sometimes I do 20 second intervals), to keep my mind busy. I hate the treadmill & much prefer to run outside. I’ve found podcasts help with the elliptical (we have one at home that after 3 years I am finally trying to regularly use), since I can’t read and we don’t have a TV in our (tiny) workout room. Music just isn’t enough for me most times. When running outside I don’t even need music. I concentrate on the road, the traffic, people-watching, and keeping watch over my 4-legged-running partner.

    • Rinna says:

      I agree with you! I don’t like to run period, but with the treadmill, I force myself to do so b/c I get instant reinforcement in terms of distance, calories, speed, etc. I usually choose the elliptical, though, instead of treadmill as I find it more interesting and more of a full body workout.

      I recently bought my husband an iPad for his birthday and “may” need to start using it to watch shows while I exercise…

    • ARC says:

      I was just going to say the same thing. When I used to run, lo these many years ago, I LOVED running on the treadmill and could not get used to running outside AT ALL.

      For me, loud, driving music works really, really well. Especially trashy pop music and hip hop. The more aggressive/more bravado, the better.

      • Laura says:

        @ARC – very true, there are songs I would listen to on a treadmill that I would never be caught listening to at any other point!

  4. Susan says:

    When I do cardio, I listen to upbeat music that makes me want to move. Also, I vary my cardio (elliptical, stationary bike, etc.). I’m afraid to do the treadmill, because I’ve heard that running can be hard on your joints.

    • Laura says:

      @Susan- I’ve never found running to be hard on the joints, though I suppose everyone is built differently. My approach is to run on the slower side (usually) and I scaled up, starting around 1-2 miles at a time and building up mileage gradually. Cross training is also good for keeping volume of activity high, but stress on any one part of the body low.

      • Susan says:

        Thank you, I’ll look into cross training.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    My gym in San Francisco what now seems like lifetimes ago had video screens on its treadmills and stationary bikes of “routes” through forests, beaches, trails, etc. Not quite the real thing, but it tricked my mind for 40 or so minutes. Enough to get me through days when it was too rainy to be outside on those real trails and beaches.

  6. Rebekah says:

    I haven’t read through all the comments so this might have been mentioned already, but have you tried listening to podcasts? That’s what I do. Love it! Keeps me entertained!

  7. Christine says:

    I really vary on whether I prefer to run outside or on the treadmill. I do both. Recently, however, I made a couple of mixes on my ipod that I love so much that Iook forward to running on the treadmill, just so I can hear them. I exercise at lunch and the thought of listening to my favorite tunes for 30 mins (I only run 3-ish miles) seems like a welcome break from my computer. When I run outside, I don’t listen to music for safety purposes. I get different benefits from running outside, but not the same lift as I do from music.

  8. I’d probably shoot myself, but I was gonna suggest what Rebekah did (podcasts… would the Splendid Table podcasts defeat the purpose?), also Audible. Listening to Redshirts narrated by Wil Wheaton made much of the 14+ hour drive back from the cold midwest with the kids in the backseat almost enjoyable!

  9. Judy says:

    Food Network. Love the Food Network on the treadmill. All visual, can still listen to music if you want. Doesn’t really require much investment to follow it and the fast moving hands are kind of hypnotic. With no sound, you can kind of muse about it: “what are they making?” “is that healthy?” “Am I really on the treadmill watching someone make donuts?” “will that guy win– his thing looks good?” etc. On an elliptical, I watch things like Mad Men on my iPad, but I find I can’t really do anything like that on the treadmill.

  10. hush says:

    The treadmill is where I get most of my TV-watching done – but I only use my home treadmill, which is in front of a TV with a DVR and Netflix. I’ve watched all of the recent “greats” (Wire, Mad Men, Sopranos) and many other fun shows. I’m starting Downton Abbey soon. It feels like guilt free TV-watching because of the fitness component.

  11. Linda says:

    I agree that the treadmill definitely needs a distraction! I use the cardio equipment mostly in wet or very hot weather as I would rather be outside. For me, listening to books on Audible has completely transformed my workouts. Since I discovered this web site, I have enjoyed dozens of novels, even taking extra walks just to listen to a riveting novel. The miles literally fly by. I do admire your goal and your willingness to change it up so that it works for me. Happy running!

  12. Linda says:

    Correction–works for you (proofreading helps…)

  13. WG says:

    I make playlists specifically for the treadmill. They harken back to my early 20s when I worked hard all day and spent the evening dancing the night away. Today, I put on my headphones, tune out the world, and day dream that I am rocking out somewhere on a dance floor.

    Ah, late 30-something, full-time employed, married, mother of 2 fantasies. I love the treadmill, though.

    [I am in the processing of figuring out a new handle. I was washgirl before, but I sort of hated it and can't decide yet on a new one.]

  14. i got a treadmill for our home just after my daughter was born and i have no idea how i would stay sane without it! i am lucky in that i CAN read while running even if I’m doing intervals or a tempo. but TV is definitely nice, too. i second the idea of podcasts– i listen to this american life or sound opinions on almost every long run!