Talk About The Weather! (Treadmill Tips for Rough Days)

No matter where you live, weather is always a topic for small talk. Here in Vermont, especially in the winter, the weather seems to come up in every conversation. It’s common practice to grumble about road conditions and icy sidewalks. Cars not starting and those who allow their cars to idle. The cost of heating oil or the price for a cord of wood. Drafty windows and doors that need to be replaced and the talk of energy audits keeps the conversation going. Those who really are having their patience tested have frozen pipes, or even worse, burst pipes. These conditions not only test our patience, but also our hardiness. As we emerge on the other side of these weather obstacles, we have material to reminisce about in later years whether during small talk or storytelling.

As soon as a meteorologist used the phrase “bomb cyclone” recently, I knew that it was going to be the topic of conversation at everywhere from the Korner Quick to my workplace. In all honesty, I had no idea what a bomb cyclone was, my guess was some sort of highly sophisticated terrorist attack, but I learned that a bomb cyclone occurs when everything comes together just right, or in my mind comes together in the wrong way! I wasn’t overly focused on how “bombogenesis” works, but rather my focus was on the weather it was going to deliver. The entire state was slated for a large, rapidly intensifying storm of heavy snow, ice, strong wind, and extreme cold.

Before the bomb cyclone arrived, I was cursing it for seemingly selfish reasons. This storm was going to make my life harder, and more specifically, my training. As the system moved closer and closer, my definition of cold was redefined. Temperatures dropped lower and lower and settled in around 20 to 40 degrees below zero… Fahrenheit! With layer upon layer, outdoors running became a fine balance of staying safe. Everything seemed to need to be doubled: two jackets, two pairs of gloves, two pairs of pants, and two neck warmers. If I kept moving, my body was warm enough, but just a few minutes into an outdoor run, my eyes froze shut. I literally couldn’t see, but it was still clear that some days on the treadmill were in order.

Typically, I do not mind the treadmill. It has been a method for me to run without worrying about weather, traffic, daylight, and other outdoor factors. So for several days during the intense weather stint, I completed my prescribed workouts ranging from one hour to 2.5 hours on the mill. Then overnight something happened, and I went from enjoying the treadmill to having the thought of it make me feel sick. Even just five minutes became a struggle. I was resenting the weather and, sadly, running as well.

One day while procrastinating my run, I decided I need to go out for coffee. Apparently the barista, who I see more often than I should, read my body language like a book. Like others, we talked about the weather and then she asked me what was really going on. I told her that I was having a hard time getting myself to even begin my run. She reminded me that it was not the physical that was standing in my way, but rather the mental. As she pulled expresso shot after expresso shot, she made eye contact with me and shared the word “monotony.”

As I added soy milk to my cup, I knew she was right. The monotonous nature of treadmill running was the issue and I needed to find a way to break the tedious repetition. I cupped my hands around the mug so to soak up all the warmth and racked my brain for solutions. I recalled articles I had read in the past, conversations with fellow runners, and things I had tried years ago in order to create ways to once again like the treadmill by varying my runs, for my mind and/or body. Knowing that we all at some point experience severe weather and/or natural disasters, I thought I would share some ways to help others get through their time on the treadmill.

With technology such as cell phones, iPads, and other devices, streaming television shows is an easy solution to keeping your mind occupied on the treadmill. Have two hours on the treadmill and a show you really like? Binge watch four 30-minute episodes. It is much easier to wrap your mind around the idea of four episodes of a good show rather than thinking about running for two hours. Still not enough to keep your mind occupied? Treat the commercial breaks like a fartlek by increasing your speed and/or incline.

Play a game of cards. Take a deck of cards and have each number represent the incline on the treadmill. After a proper warm-up, pick a card and increase your incline for two minutes to an angle that corresponds with the number on the card you selected. For example, you pick a four of spades (suit doesn’t matter) and you increase your incline to 4% and adjust your speed if needed to the point where you are working hard, yet keeping good form and not in danger of being spit off the back end of the treadmill. After your two minutes at incline is up, return to 0% or 1% for a one-minute recovery. Once again, draw a card and this time work that incline for two minutes before returning back down for recovery. Continue this for as long as you would like, being sure to leave enough time during your workout for a proper cool-down.

Before you begin your run or during your warm-up, determine a ladder workout to do during your run. Decide on one that takes into account the total duration of your run and your current fitness. Typically, I do these intervals around my 5k pace and I find them to be not only fun, but also a great way to add several miles of fast running without being intimidated by the idea of doing a speed workout. Also, since you start with the shorter distances first, it feels achievable and then by the time you work your way to the harder durations, you are halfway done with the ladder. An example of a ladder I like to do is as follows:

  • 400 meters (at 5k pace) followed by 400 meters recovery
  • 800m (5k pace) followed by 400m recovery
  • 1,200m (5k pace) followed by 400m recovery
  • 1,600m (5k pace) followed by 400m recovery
  • 1,200m (5k pace) followed by 400m recovery
  • 800m (5k pace) followed by 400m recovery
  • 400m (5k pace) followed by 400m recovery

I, then, follow my ladders up with some conversational-paced miles to cool down. Also, if I am feeling super peppy and like I am up for a challenge, I do the above at incline and, instead of running based on pace, I run based off of effort.

Standing in line at the coffee shop today, people were no longer talking about the bomb cyclone and cold temperatures, but rather conversation has shifted to the January thaw we are experiencing. I know that the warmer weather provides respite from the bone-chilling cold, yet this too causes problems. As I giggled to myself, I pledged to keep running fun and interesting no matter whether it is on the treadmill or outside.

Call for Comments

Do you have a technique or trick to make time go faster on the treadmill? Please share what has worked for you on beating boredom on the treadmill in the comments section below.

Aliza Lapierre bomb cyclone 1

All photos: Lee Krohn

Aliza Lapierre bomb cyclone 2

Aliza Lapierre bomb cyclone 3

Aliza Lapierre

finds peace and a sense of belonging while trail running. Her passion began by exploring the trails in her home state of Vermont and has been regenerated by exploration across the world. She continually works to redefine her perceived boundaries, while trying to inspire others to explore their capabilities as well.

There are 8 comments

  1. Drew

    Interesting article, and a situation that I experienced myself about five or six years ago, but for different reasons.

    The weather in the UK isn’t ever that bad, and to be honest I’m happy running outside in any conditions (Yaktraks are my friend when it gets really icy/snowy) but for a long time I was a single parent with too young children and wasn’t happy leaving them. As a result I bought a treadmill and did my daily run and sometimes my long weekend run on that.

    My feelings about it were similar to yours. Yes, it was possible to watch a film/tv, listen to the radio, listen to audiobooks (a personal favourite as music always ends up ruining your rhythm) but ultimately it’s better to try and add some element to the run itself that makes it more interesting. I used to do interesting incline pyramids and such like, although I found doing a sort of ‘bingo’ where a particular event on the thing I was watching/listening to meant I had to slow down/speed up/change the incline.

    Luckily my kids are older now. Although I’ve been off running for nearly a year with an achilles problem, so I’m still not running outside!

  2. Paul

    Please use article titles that provide better insight into the article content. That this was an article about treadmill running was impossible to discern from the title.

    I use a TM at a gym with a built in TV. The TV provides ample distraction and so does the people watching. I’ll also mix up the pace and elevation for some variety. I used to do some stepper and TM workouts, maybe 30 minutes stepper plus 45 minutes treadmill just to mix things up and reduce impact, but I don’t do those any more. Another option is to insert a 15-20 minute strength workout in the middle of a run, maybe 4 miles, strength, 4 miles.

  3. Robert

    Like everyone else in the country we’ve had the arctic type weather which has put me on the treadmill a couple times. I listen to music the entire run. Doing sets at different inclines based on mileage or time seems to help me get through my dreadmill sessions. Then of course keeping the time/mileage covered with a towel always helps, as long as you don’t peek at it.

    I like the deck of card idea!

  4. Andy

    Not coincidental that this article and David Roche’s article about treadhill workouts appeared in TrailRunner online a day or two apart. So I took it as a sign and forced myself to the gym last night and did a ladder hill workout while blasting tunes. Yup, worked up a good sweat without the need for microspikes and an outfit that conjures images of the Michelin man. But, IMHO, the dreadmill still sucks :(

  5. Gzrrnnr

    As a runner in Colorado, the long training runs (25-30 miles) were done in -20 temps and snow with a dust mask over the face and many layers of clothing and goretex. Never did the long runs in a blizzard though. The principle was “there is no such thing as bad weather – it is just not having the right equipment”. Treadmills appear to have changed that thinking. Now I live in San Diego – what is a treadmill? The biggest decision is long sleeve or short sleeve shirt.

  6. Stephen

    What I really like about the treadmill: You can set a pace or incline to your liking. You can have all your fluids handy. You can really let your mind float, by not having to watch for cars, rock/roots. I did 19 on it yesterday with no music/tv. Just me and the Mill. It was Not Boring!

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