PUMPING IRONY: The Trouble With Treadmills

Of course I didn’t do any stretching to speak of last night at the gym (see previous post). I mean, I did sort of stretch my calves and hamstrings before I revved up the treadmill, but you’re supposed to do that after your muscles warm up a little. Anyway, because I’ve been off my walking… Read more »

Of course I didn’t do any stretching to speak of last night at the gym (see previous post). I mean, I did sort of stretch my calves and hamstrings before I revved up the treadmill, but you’re supposed to do that after your muscles warm up a little. Anyway, because I’ve been off my walking routine for a few days, I thought I’d see how the knee responded to a little more ambitious ambulatory activity.

I don’t much like treadmills, to be perfectly frank.

They give you lots of good information about speed and time and heart rate and calories burned, but they always seem to be more in control of my workout than I am. Plus, I’m constantly worried about striding off to one side and finding myself quite suddenly flung to the floor. (Is there such a thing as treadmill vertigo?)

Nonetheless, I cranked up the machine and did some walking at a moderate speed for about six or seven minutes before attempting a bit of jogging — which always serves to remind me how much I hate running. I read about folks who live for their daily run, people who just kind of lapse into a pleasant meditative state as they stride along their chosen route. I’ve never been one of those people.

I remember running cross country in junior high and the utter pain and exhaustion that accompanied every stride — lungs burning, legs aching, stomach churning. And though I’ve done a little bit of jogging in the years since then, it’s never been my favorite activity.

I think I managed to keep a 5 m.p.h. pace for five or six minutes last night before I felt a little light-headed and way too exhausted than I should have felt (hydration anyone?). So I dialed down the speed and got back into a walking gait. I did run for another couple of minutes toward the end of my 25 minutes on the machine, but it never quite felt comfortable.

This is a little disconcerting, because I know how my heart rate ratchets up in a healthy way when I run. And if my knee isn’t bothering me, it’s really something I should focus on in my workouts. (Also, because it’s difficult, I assume it’s good for me, right?)

Not necessarily, says Bess Marcus. The director of physical activity research at Brown University Medical School notes that there are a variety of activities the running-averse can turn to for aerobic exercise. In an EL story from Jan./Feb. 2005, she lists walking, cycling, swimming, wall climbing, stair stepping, elliptical training, rowing and even jumping rope as great alternatives to running.

It’s all part of a fitness philosophy that encourages people to do stuff they enjoy rather than stuff they figure they need to suffer through. That’s the only way you’ll sustain a workout regimen over the long term, she says.

It’s a good reminder. I’m all for enjoyment, so I’ll get back to my walking commute (the arctic cold wave is said to be ending today), and next time I’m at the gym I’ll get back on the bike or maybe even try that elliptical thing. Anything’s better than running.

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