People are often discouraged to hear that I start each workout with a run. But as hard as it is for me to admit, I actually used to hate running... and I truly mean hate. I would struggle just to name one single thing that was great about it. Plus, I was awful at it! I always landed among the slowest people of my class and finished the annual mile in no less than 11 minutes. I had no concept of controlling my breathing nor maintaining a pace. It was truly through treadmill training that I was finally able to breakthrough mentally and physically then go on to complete my first 5K.
Running rarely makes it to the top of our favorite activities because it can be difficult and daunting to start. I realized the root of my frustration came early on from being an athlete. At the onset of each sport season came two weeks of conditioning, which was all about getting your body in top shape as quickly as possible. Conditioning often included full court sprints, football field suicides, and laps around stadium stairs. To me it was absolute torture. People would vomit and collapse from exhaustion, but somehow it was just accepted as part of the process. It were those moments that made me look at running as a punishment rather than enjoyable. It's what you would do as an obligation and honestly nothing else.
However, as I stopped playing sports, I started to experience running without the urgency. The only timer I had to beat was my personal pace. There was no pressure to measure up to my teammates or any other person around me, so treadmill training provided the perfect space to do that. With treadmills I can set a pace and maintain it throughout my workout unlike free running. I can control the incline to mimic hills or be completely flat unlike running outside. I can contain myself in a space absent of distractions or extra obstacles such as wind or a scorching sun, yet still get the feedback that feels rewarding such as my average heart rate or total calories burned. Treadmill running allowed me to begin as small or basic as I felt comfortable with, but also gave me control over when and how I upped the challenge after each run.
After just three months of consistency, I was able to bring my mile time down to 8 minutes and even extend my daily runs from 1 mile to a complete 5K (3.11 miles). It was only then that I finally felt confident enough to try running outside again. At that point I had a good handle of how to track my time and re-pace myself to push through, but most importantly I knew with confidence that I could do a 5K, making the distance alone no longer a problem. That's when I took a step forward by signing myself up for my first 5K, The Color Run.
Because I was already treadmill training, I knew at exactly what pace and time I could complete a 5K non-stop. So to me completing The Color Run was 25% getting my muscles used to running in an outdoor environment and 75% mental endurance. One month later, I completely surprised myself by beating out my average 5K time and hitting my all-time fastest mile at 6:53min. If I continued with the attitude that running was punishment and tried to measure up to other people, I would have never known what I could achieve on my own. With treadmill training, I learned to embrace running in my own pace and time, which helped me reach the next level of my fitness goals.
If you are willing to give treadmills a try whether at your local gym or your personal gym at home, here are the core things I look for when I treadmill train:
1) Stability - Nothing throws my concentration off more than a treadmill that bounces to my run. Though running on the street is awful for your joints, there is something great about feeling something secure beneath you so you can remain on the balls of your feet rather than planting your full foot to stabilize.
2) Comfortable Track - Another component to stability is the terrain of the treadmill track. Make sure your treadmill isn't slick and instead has good friction that prevents your feet from sliding or slipping across the conveyor as it cycles through.
3) Workout Settings - Sometimes we have goals but don't know exactly how to get there. Many treadmills have preset programs to help you improve your running performance. The programs automatically adjust during your workout to achieve your goals based on time, pace, or heart rate. Make sure there is also a freestyle option for the days you need a little more flexibility.
4) Inclines - Inclines are your friend! This is incredibly important if you suffer from knee problems, are not quite ready to full on run, or are loyal to the elliptical workout. Treadmill inclines can allow you to intensify a speed walk for a full body burn without as much joint strain that can come with running.
5) Emergency Stop - Though you may never use this, I have seen one too many accident videos where people are going too fast on a treadmill and lose their footing. The emergency stop is critical for avoiding any major injuries due to slipping or tripping.
6) Heart Rate Monitor - This is my favorite feature of treadmills. There are times when I feel like I am giving my all and the heart rate monitor validates whether I am pushing towards my peak or if I have room to challenge myself more. Using this during any breaks of your run or right at the cool down can help you grade your workout.
7) Integrated Entertainment - Being able to connect and control the running playlist on your phone or iPod directly through the treadmill is so clutch. Catching up on the morning news to favorite shows through a personal TV screen, even better.
8) Statistics - Tracking your main statistics like distance, speed, pace, and calories burned during your run is the ultimate reward. Here you will see progress and changes to your physical endurance before anything else.
If you are working on building your own home gym, Reviews.com has a great guide on treadmills that may fit your needs. Read more at www.reviews.com/treadmills/
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