Surrendering to the Siren's song of the treadmill

I have to admit it, I am weak. I hang my head and must declare myself unworthy of my running toga. All because I couldn't stay strong strong. Because I couldn't resist.

I finally gave in to the call of the treadmill...

I had sworn off running on a treadmill because I realized it was slowly driving me insane. I was pushing myself too hard, obsessing over numbers, not at all enjoying myself, and worst of all... making myself a slave to The Machines.

I have been running outside and loving it. I change up my route whenever I want to see something new (rather than staring at the sweaty back of the person on the treadmill in front of me... yuck!). The are no annoying red numbers glowing up at me and screaming for me to go faster or burn more calories. I am relaxed, I am at peace, I am free from the influence of the Masters of the Robot Apocalypse.

As happens every Winter, however, I've started to get lazy. I've been snacking more and running less... much less. Blaming the bitterly cold temperatures has been the perfect excuse for not running (it really has been the weather at times, but more often it has been laziness or my hatred of running rearing its ugly head). This has been incredibly stupid of me because I worked so hard to lose 50 lbs and was probably on my way to a new career as a male model (gotta throw some jokes in here, right?). To be honest, I'm extremely mad at myself and disappointed that I did not maintain my running regimen.

The Girl Who Can Always Motivate Me has been urging me to drop the treadmill ban and go back to the gym. I usually cannot resist her, but I've been able to hold my ground on this matter. Somehow, I made running on a treadmill a line in the sand that I refused to cross. Have I ever bothered to mention that I can be incredibly stubborn at time?

I ran outside three times last week and the temperature at the time of those runs was: 7, 11, and 26 degrees. For that last run, I was tempted to put on shorts because it just seemed like a Spring day compared to earlier in the week. Then my big brain got to churning out the Deep Thoughts, and I realized that the combined temperatures of those three days would still be about 30 degrees colder than the comfort controlled confines of my gym.

They'd also recently renovated my gym, more than doubling its size and adding all new machines. I was able to convince myself that these new machines might not be evil, mind controlling, generators of stress. I also reminded myself that running outside in the Winter means getting up at 5:15, hitting the road when it's still pitch black, and dealing with temperatures that are always going to be below freezing if not in the single digits.

I told the warning voices in my head to go for a run, packed my gym bag, and made the executive decision to hit the gym after work. It did look glorious. Everything was brand new. It was bright. And warm. There was neither ice, nor snow for as far as my eyes could see. I could do this. I had made the right choice. The Robot Apocalypse was not going to begin on this night in the Bangor Planet Fitness.

Of course, I was wrong. I had barely broken a sweat when I felt the Machines grab hold of my mind. The numbers began to float through my mind. I covered the display with my towel, and pretended I was running outside, but it didn't work. My brain became obsessed with doing calculations. I was fixated on burning 600 calories. Every thirty seconds, I'd push aside the towel and look at the numbers. I'd urge the machine faster, determined to burn twenty calories a minute.

Sweat poured off me. I was afraid to use my towel to wipe my face, though, because that would give me a clear view of all the numbers. I would see that they weren't approaching 600 quickly enough, and I'd nudge the speed button even higher.

I burned my 600 calories, but I did not enjoy myself. I didn't feel the satisfaction that floods me when I finish an outdoor run. Rather, it felt as if I'd just checked off a chore on my to do list.

The Machines had won. They had me under their control again. I was just another mindless drone generating sweat. I was helping to fuel the Robot Apocalypse.

That's when it hit me... exercise is work. It's supposed to suck at times. There's supposed to be pain. I need to push myself when I don't want to be pushed. That's what running is about. If it were fun, more people would do it, and the world would be a skinnier, healthier place.

Runners are warriors. We can't always run outside, but rather than quit, we hop on a treadmill and keep up the fight. The Machines don't control us... we control them. Runners tell The Machines to go faster. Runners decide how long to run and at what incline. When The Machine says it's time to cool down, runners ignore the message and tell The Machine to crank it up again. Runners tap in the orders and The Machines obey.

So I'm not going to feel bad about choosing warmth over frostbite. I'm not going to berate myself for using a Machine rather than hitting the open road. Yeah, I need to do something about my obsession with numbers, but you can't expect me to solve every problem with a single epiphany.

When the weather allows for it, I will run outside where I'm truly in a happy place. In the meantime, however, I'm going to stop beating up myself for choosing to run on a treadmill. Instead, I'm going to pat myself and my fellow runners on the back for continuing to burn those calories when it would be so much easier to just stay at home and burn another log on the fire.

Forget the opening of this article. I'm not weak. I am worthy of my running toga. I am a runner, and that makes me a bad ass.

Great job, runners. Keep up the good work, and let's show The Machines who's boss!

Credits - would like to thank the blog The Return of the Modern Philosopher ( for the authorization to reprint the article "Using My Inside Legs: Surrendering to the Siren's Song of the Treadmill" by Austin Hodgens.

Since September 7, 2007 - © Aerostato, Seattle - All Rights Reserved.

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