Treadmill Mindgames


I can handle running in the cold, but ice and wind add a combination that forces me to run on what was once the dreaded treadmill. Dreaded because I’m always fearful of wiping out while changing a song (especially when iTunes decides to go into maximum shuffle mode right in the middle of a carefully and exquisitely crafted playlist designed for warmup, followed by intensity, followed by epic crescendos, followed by warmdown), and I can never run with a comfortable stride. Nor can I “relax”, something that is rare to do while running inside or out, but can happen at least occasionally when I’m not fearing that I’m going to step on the front of the machine. This is why I can’t watch sports while running on the treadmill, because I go flying off on every exciting play.

But now the treadmill is only once dreaded. I’ve not only made peace with it, I’ve become fascinated by it. In fact, whereas I once was only able to run on a treadmill if I never stared at the moving stop watch in front of me, now I stare at it the whole time, every .01 of a mile. Running on the treadmill is a constant mindgame, my brain versus my body. Because all the controls to slow down or even stop are right in front of me and it’s so easy to stop that I find it equally easy to speed up instead of slow down. It’s all about playing games with myself. I tell myself, ‘just another quarter mile; finish the mile I started.’ Then I tell myself, ‘speed up to get through this quarter mile–just speed up for 10 seconds.’ Then, 10 seconds becomes 20 and maybe even 30. While doing this, my finger will be poised just above the slow down button, ready to move at a moments notice. But what’s great is that, exactly because my finger is poised to slow things down, I don’t. I run faster just a bit longer than expected. Sometimes a lot faster and a lot longer. I’d never do this outside, I’d just panic about running too fast or too long and either stop or never start in the first place.

Of course, this makes no sense. Outside, I’m not on a machine. I’m in total control all the time. Only on a treadmill do I even have to think about hitting a button to slow down. And yet, it’s the treadmill that I feel in greater control and am better able to trick myself. Ridiculous? Probably. Insane? Most certainly. In fact, I say this to myself throughout the run. ‘Run just another quarter mile. Fuck you–you said that last time and this is a trick. No it’s not–this time I promise its just a quarter mile. (After quarter mile has been run) What’s one more quarter mile?’

This hardly works all the time, but it works more often than my rational side of the brain would like to believe. Is it because the treadmill moves forward that I find myself ‘pushed’ to do things I otherwise wouldn’t? Is it easier to go when it’s easier to stop? There’s something real happening here, and I have to say it is as exhilarating as it is stupid. I love these moments in life when I know I’m being completely irrational and yet benefiting from all the irrationality because somewhere in my head, I can’t totally convince myself I’m being irrational.

No, its not 4:20, and I’m in neither Washington nor Colorado, or even California, and I don’t see a triple rainbow.


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