Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Running Down a Dream

My treadmill is broken, and the Sears repair people can't even come look at it for over a week. Of course it had to break in fucking February too, when half the time it's too wet or icy outside to walk places, let alone run. I have no other suitable cardio equipment,.and I can't stay inside all day and not get any exercise, I'm getting incredibly antsy. For the past six months I've been running basically every day, and I've reached the point where I need those runs to dump some energy and clear my head. On Sunday we had moderately decent weather, so I bought a pair of track pants, and I tried running outside.

The first thing you need to understand: I don't run outside. Ever. I've had a treadmill since high school, and I've always used it exclusively. I actually ran my first treadmill literally into pieces. I've never been the most coordinated person, and though I've never actually watched myself run, I imagine I'm not the most elegant. On my treadmill at home, I don't need to worry about how I look, because nobody can see me. Outside, I become acutely self-aware whenever I encounter anyone of how I must look. I shouldn't care, but I do.

I also like that the treadmill keeps pace for me, and it stops me from slowing down when I get tired, and forces me to actively admit defeat by pushing a button. I like that it tracks "distance" and displays it on the screen in front of me. I like that it's climate controlled, and that it has a nice holder for my water bottle, and that if I get desperate the bathroom is right around the corner. I like that it's flat, smooth ground, and I never have to wait to cross a road. It's easy and comfortable.

Unfortunately, I don't have a choice right now. I could get a short-term gym pass, but then I'm running in front of people anyway, probably lots of people, and I'm paying for the privilege. That ain't happening. My only alternative is to run outside.

I actually found a nice quiet stretch of road, followed by a lengthy stretch along the lakefront which was relatively quiet (it's cold and windy in February), and ended through the Rouge Valley (also sparsely populated in February). In the hour I was running, I passed maybe two dozen people which, spaced across 11 km, wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared. I liked the route itself, except that the valley was totally snowed over and icy, and I had to slow down a lot to keep from falling and killing myself, which would have been less than ideal.

I made use of the RunKeeper Android app's live tracking. I already use RunKeeper almost as a log of my runs, copying the data from the treadmill display when I'm done, but I'd never used it live before. It tracked my distance (and mapped it for me afterward) as well as my speed and elevation. What I really liked was that every five minutes it would, through my headphones, tell me how long I'd been running, how far I'd gotten, and what my pace was. It's not as easily accessible as the treadmill, but it's a heck of a lot better than nothing.

I found myself feeling this run a lot more than I expected the next day. I imagine there are a few reasons for that. I normally run 8 km per day and within a half hour or so I'm fully recovered, but as I wasn't sure when I'd be able to get back out, I dumped everything I had into this one. I also hadn't run in a few days. I'm not sure if you can lose tolerance that fast, but if you can then that probably didn't help.

I also know that running outside wears your body differently than a treadmill. Running up and down hills and on rough terrain will do that. Also, running through the valley I was keeping my body very tense as I tried my best not to slip and fall on the ice. I don't know how much that contributed to the impact, but I'm sure it was substantial.

In general, I hated the experience much less than I expected. In fact, I might even say that I didn't hate it at all. I'll still go back to running on the treadmill when it's working again -- it's just too easy and convenient not to use -- but I won't avoid running outside. I'd like to head back out again tomorrow (I feel the antsy-ness building again), but looking out my window right now I'm not sure if that'll happen. Slush seems to be falling directly from the sky at the moment, on top of the foot or so of slush already sitting on the ground. Not ideal running conditions.

Back to dreaming of summer, or maybe just working treadmills, I suppose.

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