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

Aliza Lapierre writes about how to make treadmill running fun… or at least tolerable when it is necessary.

By on January 17, 2018 | Comments

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

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Aliza Lapierre
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.