Running has been my preferred method of exercise since I took it up eight years ago. The problem is that I live in a state that fully experiences all four seasons. My black toenails have all been the result of springtime runs in the rain. I have done mud runs and endurance runs in the punishing heat of summer. I zigzag around mountains of curbside leaves in the fall and, in those magical first weeks of winter, my evening runs are illuminated by Christmas lights.
Around the time that those lights disappear back inside the house, I do the same. Now, there is an abundance of cold weather gear for those runners who are willing to brave any dip in the mercury. If you have seen the latest issue of Runner’s World you know that I am referring to those maniacs with post-run snotsicles and frosty eyebrows. I’m not one of those people.
This time of year I rely on my gym membership to maintain the prior year’s running progress. The thing is, most of us runners are not gym rats. Gym rats are a different breed. They are the ones watching themselves lift weights in the mirror. In between sets they chat with the other gym rats, the trainers, the people at the front desk. They are at the gym when you arrive and they are still there when you leave. The gym is their happy place, their clubhouse. Sadly, I’m not one of these people either.
Going to the gym can get old fast for the rest of us. Especially those of us who spend the majority of our time there on a treadmill. There have been winters when I have allowed a two-day break from the gym to turn into a two-month break. This winter I have a determination bordering on obsession to maintain my pre-winter level of fitness.
With at least another month of frigid temperatures ahead of me, my sanity and my resolve are starting to slip. Below are some tips that have kept me going back to the gym so far.
You’re Not Outside Get it out of your head that you can simply move your outdoor run routine inside. You can’t. You will make yourself crazy if you try. There is no changing scenery. No matter how fast or how long you run, you never actually go anywhere. Plus, if the gym is busy you will make others crazy if you hog a treadmill for a long run.
Play Games Resolve to try a new piece of equipment each week. See how long you can go without looking at your mileage. Amuse yourself by making up nicknames for your fellow gym-goers. Secretly race someone on another treadmill. Whatever keeps you going back.
Cross-Train Spend fifteen minutes doing strength training before your run. If the free weights seem a little intimidating (and surrounded by gym rats), try the weight machines. They are geared more towards us amateurs and often include a little instructions diagram. Since they only work one way, it’s really hard (though not impossible) to mess up.
Make Like a Millennial Overcome the tedium of the treadmill by plugging in while you run. Put on some music. Listen to an audio book. Watch a video. This should go without saying, but be sure to use headphones. The person next to you may not like your favorite heavy metal love ballad or be interested in your YouTube guinea pig training videos.
Take a Break from the Treadmill If the miles that you are racking up on the treadmill are beginning to take their toll on your brain, try something else. The elliptical, stair climber, rowing machine, and stationary bike are all good alternatives to the treadmill on days when you’re just not feeling it. You can even mix them up, spending a certain amount of time on each one. Think of it as a mini triathlon.
Keep an Eye on the Weather Indian summer in February seem impossible? We just had one in the mid-Atlantic states. Everyone has their own comfort zone. Know yours and keep an eye on the upcoming weather. You may get an unexpected reprieve from the cold long enough to fit in an outdoor run or two.
For those of us who hate the sting of icy air on our face or the frosty burn in our lungs during a cold weather run, the treadmill will remain a necessary evil. I hope that I have given you some ideas to help you make your treadmill time more bearable. If you have any tips or tricks of your own, add them in the comments below. (My sanity may depend upon them.)