Tag Archives: lab rat

Treadmill Running: Better Than Nothing

14 Jul

Today, for the first time in many months, I came face to face with the treadmill at the gym.

Anyone who’s read my previous posts about treadmills will know exactly how I feel about them. For those who haven’t, I will merely say that I’m not a fan of the lab-rat machines, but regard them as a necessary evil. There are times when road running is just not possible, and running on the treadmill is better than not running at all.

Over the last few months, when I have had to run on the treadmill, I have used the one at home. It sat gathering dust for a few years after my younger son, then aged two,  put his hand onto the treadmill while it was moving, and took off the top few layers of skin. He is now old enough to respect the treadmill, and he knows to stay well away from it.

Treadmill running at home is marginally better than treadmill running at the gym. For a start, my home treadmill has a natural incline to it, so even on its “flat” setting I can simulate outdoor running reasonably well. And in addition, I can watch what I want on the TV without having to plug headphones into a weird little box that may or may not work. So the home treadmill has been a reasonable enough stand-in for “real” running on occasions when I’ve had no-one to watch the kids.

I was supposed to do a tempo run yesterday morning, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t have been a problem. The only thing is that when I do morning runs during the workweek, I have to get out early. I have to be awake by 5:00, outside waiting for my GPS watch to get a signal by 5:10, and running by 5:15. I have discovered that running on less than six hours of sleep makes me feel sick (unless I am racing: I can race on virtually no sleep at all, but racing has its own special set of rules), so I have to be asleep by 11:00 the night before an early morning run.

The night before last, we were having a whole lot of things happening at home. No hot water. Kids refusing to settle. A visit from my accountant. A dryer that wasn’t drying properly, resulting in me having to put each load through the cycle twice.

I did not get to bed until shortly after midnight, and by then my husband and I were so wound up that neither of us could sleep, so we talked until the wee hours of the morning. I did not get to sleep until well after 1:00 in the morning.

There was no way I could run when I woke up. I felt nauseous when my alarm clock went off, and that was before I’d gotten out of bed, never mind attempted to actually run anywhere.

But runners can be flexible, so I decided that it was no problem. I would just move yesterday’s run to this morning, and tomorrow’s run to Friday.

Last night – or should I say this morning – I got to sleep at about 2:30. Fannnnnnn-tastic.

When my alarm went off this morning, I got up, thinking that maybe I should just bite the bullet and run. But as I got up, I felt light-headed. I actually swooned, like they did in eighteenth century novels.

I was left with no choice. Either skip the run entirely (Scandal! How could I even think that!), or I could put in time on the treadmill at the gym at lunchtime. Like I said before, treadmill running is better than not running at all, so the gym it was. I stuck my headphones in my ears and turned on the music, set my training watch, and programmed the treadmill for a 45 minute hill workout.

It was good. I mean, as good as a treadmill run can be. My legs felt strong, my heart rate – inexplicably – stayed in the 150-155 range despite the fact that I was running quite intensely, and I actually kind of enjoyed it. I’m not suggesting that I am going to make treadmill running a regular part of my program, I’m just saying that it’s not always so bad.

So my scheduled run was finally done – albeit a day and a half late – and I have taken another baby step towards my goal of shattering last year’s time for the Autism Run.

And I feel a sense of accomplishment that has me grinning like a village idiot.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahidoodi/199747855/)

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Weight a Minute

1 Mar

This morning I realized that after a long, bitter winter, I am done with the treadmill. I actually dragged my feet into the gym and sighed wearily as I punched the buttons on the machine to get the damned thing going.

They’re great machines, treadmills, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I’m definitely an open road kind of girl. I like the freedom, and the sunshine (assuming there is any), and the feel of a light wind on my face. Road running makes me feel invigorated and carefree.

Treadmill running makes me feel like a lab rat doing an experiment. I can picture the men in white coats standing on the other side of a one-way mirror, observing my every move and deciding what mind-altering drugs to inject into my brain next.

I have a history of using the treadmill only in extreme circumstances. Last winter I didn’t use the treadmill at all because it was so mild, and there was very little snow. Even though it was dark, I could go running at five in the morning and not worry about ice.

I did have to worry about a chiropractic injury that had me crying like a baby for three months, but that’s another story.

This winter I’ve been making extensive use of the treadmill because the weather has been so messed up. We have spent some time in a deep, deep freeze, with temperatures going down to -30 degrees Celsius (or -22 degrees Fahrenheit). When it’s that cold out, I cannot even breathe, and despite layer upon layer of clothing, my entire body goes numb within about five minutes.

Along with the cold, there has been snow and ice. When the cold has abated, the snow and ice have remained. It has been treacherous out there, and so I have only been willing to run outside at times when I can actually see where I’m going. Without the ability to see where I’m planting my foot, I run the risk of landing on my ass while anyone who happens to be nearby points and laughs. Since I only have time to run before work when it’s still dark, this has meant a long sentence of treadmill running.

This morning, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got onto the treadmill and decided on a hill training workout. Just fifteen minutes in, though, I’d had enough and I had to stop. It wasn’t that I was tired (I wasn’t). It wasn’t that my legs were sore (they weren’t). I was just out-and-out fed up with running on the treadmill.

Despite cutting my run short – something that did not sit well with my consciousness – I managed to make a decent workout out of the whole thing. I headed over to the weights section and pumped iron for a while.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It has been months since I did a decent weights workout, and this morning convinced me that I should reinstate it in my regular routine. I liked feeling the burn in my muscles, that sensation that allows you to visualize the cells in your muscles knitting together and getting stronger.

Regular weight training will make me a better runner.

It won’t hurt when I want to look pretty on my wedding day, either!

From Lab Rat To Sunrises

11 Jan

I went for a run on the treadmill this morning.  This meant getting up at five when I hadn’t had enough sleep, and schlepping off to the gym down the road.  Yes, I do have my own treadmill at home, but I never use it.  Not since the day my son James, then three years old, put his hand on the belt while it was moving and chalked up a very painful visit to the ER.  The thing is pretty much used as a coat hanger these days.

Anyway, when I got to the gym, I was momentarily stymied by the sight of someone using the treadmill I always like to use, the one right by the window.  What was this?  Twenty treadmills free, just begging to be used, and he has to pick my one?  The fact that I don’t actually own the treadmill and that he has just as much right to use it as I do did not matter to me in the least.

I couldn’t exactly push him off, though, so I reluctantly chose another treadmill, entered the settings for a hill workout, and started running.  In the beginning, I thought I was in trouble.  My muscles felt way too tight to be running hills, and I tired quickly.  It only took a couple of minutes for me to find my groove, though, and I completed the workout (4.7km in about 26 minutes).

I enjoyed the run as much as I could under the circumstances.  I am not fond of treadmill running.  It always makes me feel a bit like a hamster, or a lab rat. But sometimes, especially in the dead of winter, I don’t have a choice.  I don’t mind running in the cold or the snow, and I have the attire for it.  But when there is actual ice on the sidewalks, that is another matter entirely.  I will run in icy conditions during the day, when I can scope out every step before I take it.  Not at five in the morning, when it is far too dark for me to see the sidewalk ahead of me.

I am really looking forward to the Spring.  I look forward to the weather getting warmer, and I look forward to the sun rising a little earlier each day.  I don’t look forward to the downpours of rain that are always a part of Spring, but they too are there to usher in the warmer, lighter days.

I love the middle of summer.  When everyone else is swooning and whining about the heat, I am thriving.  Of course, everyone else can get back at me in the winter, when I turn into a pathetic crybaby about the cold.  What can I say?  Even though I am now a Canadian and proud of it, I am from Africa.  I am a child of the sun.

In the summer, it is too hot to run during the middle of the day, but the beauty is that it gets light shortly after five in the morning.  If I can get out at just the right time, I can go out in perfect weather, and run while I watch the sunrise.  Most of the world is asleep at that time; I feel as if Mother Nature is putting on a show just for me.

The treadmill is OK.  I can live with it – in fact, I may even benefit from it – once a week.  But there is no feeling in the world like running on the open road.

Be sure to check out my post today on World Mom’s Blog, where I talk about how I coped with George’s autism diagnosis.