, Salem, MA

January 10, 2014

On The Run: The habits of highly effective treadmill runners

By Jay Kumar

---- — $ID/[None]0000LightBlueAfter a mild fall, local runners have had to deal with serious weather conditions this winter: At times there has been heavy snow, pounding rain and, in recent days, bitter cold and ice.

Some hardy souls are continuing to run outside, but many others opt for the safer, if less interesting, choice of the treadmill.

Personally, I can’t stand treadmills. They’re deadly dull and can be mind-numbing, but they’re absolutely invaluable when you want to get a run in without having to worry about slipping or getting hit by a car. Most of us don’t have our own treadmills at home, so it’s off to the gym, where in the New Year’s crush it’s often difficult to find an empty machine.

But eventually, you find one. Here are some tips to help you maximize the experience:

Choose the right machine. Nowadays, most treadmills are situated in front of televisions, which can be good or bad. It’s good because TV can distract you from the fact you’re running on a treadmill. I once ran 18 miles on a treadmill armed with only a Walkman (if you don’t know what that is, ask your parents) and one cassette (again, ask your parents … Hey, it was a long time ago). I honestly don’t know how I did it; I was supposed to do an 18-mile long run as part of my Boston Marathon training and I didn’t feel like running three hours in a torrential rainstorm. Having a TV to watch would have been a godsend.

But if you get stuck in front of a set that’s tuned to programming you don’t particularly care for, it can make the run fairly difficult. One Saturday morning, I was stuck watching the psychedelic nightmare of a children’s show “The Doodlebops” for several miles before a gym staff member rescued me (if you’ve never seen it, consider yourself lucky).

Don’t look at how fast the person next to you is running. If you’re like me, you can get competitive at times. I have to admit that sometimes when I’m on a treadmill and somebody is running at a decent pace next to me, I look over to see how fast he or she is going. Don’t do that. Because if the person is going faster than you are, you might find yourself running harder and/or increasing the speed on your treadmill. Sometimes this is a good way to challenge yourself, but it can also throw off your pace. And if the person busts you as you check out his or her speed, it can also be embarrassing.

Never watch the clock. A treadmill run can seem to take forever if you’re constantly looking at the display to see how much time/how far you’ve gone. It’s like watching a pot of water boil; the entire experience drags on endlessly if you keep checking. I’d recommend covering up the display if you can, just to keep you from obsessing about when you’re getting off the treadmill. Of course, the clock is helpful when you’re doing speedwork and need to adjust the speed at certain points, but if you just want to run a certain distance, it’s best to just run without the distraction.

Pay attention. Distractions are all well and good, but always remember that when you’re on a treadmill, the ground is moving beneath you. So if you get really engrossed in the show you’re watching, decide to fiddle with your iPhone to change the music you’re listening to or try to take off your sweatshirt while still moving, odds are you’ll be sent flying in the other direction by said treaded mill. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens — I’ve seen it, and it’s usually hilarious for everyone else but the person who takes the fall.

Keep it to yourself. Music can be a great motivator for runners. Some people design playlists perfectly timed for speed, pace and cool down. But no matter how pumped up you get by your tunes, nobody wants to hear you singing along. Nobody. Air guitar solos are permitted, however.

Clean your mess. Running is a sweaty business; that’s a given. But there’s nothing worse than walking up to a treadmill or other exercise machine that is covered in the previous user’s sweaty mess. There are plenty of spray bottles and paper towel rolls available. Do your duty. Your fellow runners thank you in advance.

Regardless of whether you enjoy it, treadmill running is a steady alternative to the roads or trails. It may be a last resort, but at least you know you can count on the ol’ dreadmill until you can get back on the road again.

Starts and stops

Looking for a challenging mid-winter race? Check out the 40th annual 15K Great Stew Chase road race on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 10 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 177 Lynnfield St., Lynn. Visit for more information and to register.

Many local runners have participated in Reach the Beach Relay events over the years. This week, Reach the Beach announced that it is partnering with the Ragnar Relay Series. While the New Hampshire Reach the Beach event remains the same, RTB is merging its Massachusetts race (which had been scheduled for May 16-17) into the Ragnar Cape Cod relay (which will be held on May 9-10). It’s a smart move, since the RTB Massachusetts race never quite found its footing given its close proximity to the more established Ragnar race. Reach the Beach New Hampshire, which takes place every September, remains a very popular relay.


On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to

Upcoming races

Wednesday, Jan. 15: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail

Thursday, Jan. 16: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact

Sunday, Jan. 19: The Lazy Dog Classy 3 Mile Fun Run, Lazy Dog Sports Bar, 328 Broadway, Lynn, 11 a.m. Contact: Stephen martin (Lynn Classical track) at 1-617-852-7690 or

Wednesday, Jan. 22: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail

Thursday, Jan. 23: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact

Visit for more race listings.

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