photo-3There was a time when I felt that I wasn’t a “real” runner. I was very slow and I ran on a treadmill and my future ex-husband was fond of telling me how that wasn’t “real” running. He had a variety of reasons, but it boiled down to, “Everyone is faster on a treadmill,” so obviously treadmill running is super easy. As he was a naturally gifted runner and I was overweight and ran a very self-conscious 12-minute mile, I drank his Kool-Aid. If people asked me if I ran, I didn’t always answer in the affirmative and if I did, I always qualified with, “But I’m very slow and run on a treadmill,” as if that were some mark of shame.

Well, a divorce and 55 lbs later I am here to tell you that treadmills are awesome. Let me rephrase that, they are fucking awesome. They might not be for everyone (what is?), but using a treadmill has helped me lose weight, get cardiovascularly healthy, and run a sub 9-minute mile. So yeah, fucking awesome.

Here’s what running on a treadmill does for me:

1) It keeps me running 4 days a week. Some days I can only run at 5:30 am or late at night. I’m not the kind of girl who feels safe running by herself in the dark. Going to the gym relieves me of that worry, otherwise if I only ran outside in the winter I would only get in 2 runs a week (Saturday and Sundays). And if I still lived in Winnipeg (where the daytime high was -17 F last week), it would be the treadmill or no run, because in my mind there is some weather that is just to inclement for running.

2) It allows me to see my pace in real-time. While I do run with an app that tells me my pace every mile, I have to wait 9 minutes or so to know I’m going as fast as I think because I have pace confusion disorder (PCD). Some days I think, “Girl, you are tearing the road up,” only to hear from MapMyRun that I’m running at a 9:55 pace and other times I’ll think, “Are you slow today or what?” and I’ve just done a mile in 8:50. Knowing my pace in real-time helps my legs “learn” what the pace feels like.

3) It gives me inspiration. If I head to the gym with a plan to run a 9:30 pace and the guy or girl beside me is clipping along at an 8 minute mile and making it look effortless I tend to up my game and start out faster and keep pushing myself throughout the run. Hey, if they can do it, so can I!

4) It helps me work on my form. When I run on a treadmill I tend to engage my core a little bit more because I’m glancing up at the television or at myself in the mirror (not in a self-obsessed way, but in a “How’s my form?” kind of way). Also, when there’s a mirror I tend to focus more on my arms, which also helps me to run faster. When I run outside I have a tendency to look down and neglect my arms, two things that definitely affect my pace.

5) It helps me push myself at the end of my run. No matter what pace I do or how exhausted I am, I make a point of ending strong when I’m on the treadmill. I make the last minute on the treadmill the fastest. No matter what. Outside, given my pace confusion disorder, I find it much harder to really push myself at the end. My internal dialogue during the last minute goes something like this: Am I running fast enough? It feels fast, but maybe it isn’t. Oooh, I bet this is really fast, so I probably don’t need to go faster. IS a minute up yet? Pushing myself at the end of my run on a treadmill helps me understand that I always have fuel in the tank and that I can almost always do more than I thought I could.

6) If I run at the gym, I also work on my arms or my abs after my run. Trust me when I say the secret to running faster is strong arms and a strong core. When I’m slowing down during a run or feeling exhausted, I check my form (see #4 above) and almost always find that my arms are doing less than they should or that my posture sucks.

Whether you burn 100 calories running around your neighborhood or at the gym, you’ve burned 100 calories.

Whether you run on trails, the road, a track, or a treadmill you’re a runner.

Whether you run a 12 minute mile or a 7 minute mile, you’re a runner.

Whether you weigh 300 lbs or 120 lbs, as long as you’re out there trying, then you’re a runner.

How you get your run in doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that you do run, that you keep trying to push yourself to do better, and that you encourage others along the way.

And you know, a treadmill helps me do that.

Pretty fucking awesome.


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  1. Treadmill help me so much. easier to run and not wasting my time at all. Everyday running on treadmill 30 minutes make me fresh and motivated

  2. Hi Dr Jen. I have been following your posts for awhile as the variety of topics is fascinating and I keep the ones that have special meaning for me. Today was a celebration…my first 5K after two years away due to injury and indifference. Made a new year resolution to run again at least twice a week, hence this treadmill post was helpful. Well fast forward to today…I was hoping to get in at under 36 minutes…did it in 33:54!!! Under 11 min per mile after a two year layoff! I couldn’t be happier if I won the freaking Boston Marathon! And your sentence here that said whether you run 12 min per mile or 7 min per mile was a great motivator. Thank you for this and all you other fantastic posts.

  3. Your ex-husband sounds like a moron. I’ve known world-class endurance runners and cyclists and every one of them owns a treadmill or a trainer. Being able to train every day, regardless of weather is a huge advantage. One of the nice things about riding or running on trainer or a set of rollers is that, if you realize you’ve pushed yourself too hard, you can stop. Great way to prevent overtraining.

  4. I agree with Kyla: I am not faster on the treadmill. In fact for me, it feels like a lot more effort on the treadmill for a given pace, compared to running on the road. I also agree with you Jen: whatever it takes to keep you running. You are a *real* runner!

  5. I am so with you! I used to hate running on a treadmill with a burning passion, but a number of midwest winters later (I do not run outside below about 30/40F) I love treadmills for (a) keeping running in cold/inclement weather and (b) sometimes it’s just easier than running outside. I don’t have to think, I can set the time, the speed and tune into music, think about nothing and just run.
    Also one of my issues is that I tend to run too hard outside. Treadmills make me moderate my run to a constant, sometimes slower, pace.

  6. I’m absolutely a treadmill fan (rain, snow and heat can’t interfere with my workout there). I am a person who got significantly faster running on the treadmill – I think it motivates me to go faster because I’m constantly aware of my speed … and changing up how fast I’m going helps me go farther usually, too 🙂 Keep it up!

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