I caved and joined a gym

23 Jan

I resisted for a while. “Why should I pay to run on a treadmill when running in London’s gorgeous parks is free?” I always thought. But the one thing I didn’t think about when I signed up for a half marathon in March is that my training would take place in January and February, the coldest months of the year. While London’s “cold” is nowhere near Midwest and East Coast America cold, I still didn’t want to do my long runs in 30-degree weather. That, and we are finally starting renovations on the master bedroom next week (something we’ve been talking about for more than 2 years now), and I don’t want to run and shower while the builder is here, and don’t want to run when it’s dark after he leaves.

So I joined a gym.

I chose the gym nearest to me, which also happens to be the cheapest. It’s cheap because it’s no frills — there’s no pool or sauna, there’s not even someone to check you in. When you sign up online they email you a code, and you type that code into a keypad before you enter the glass chamber that permits you entrance to The Gym. That wasn’t a Trumpsque bout of random capitalization syndrome, that’s its actual name — The Gym.

I made my first visit to The Gym yesterday as a bit of a trial run before my 8-mile long run today. I am in week 5 of the Hidgon Half Marathon plan, which means my long run this week needs to be 8 miles. I didn’t want to just hop on a treadmill and bang it out, I wanted to ease myself into treadmill running, so I thought I’d knock off the easy 3-mile run in this week’s plan. I successfully entered The Gym through the almost claustrophobic chamber and immediately hopped on the first treadmill I saw. I didn’t want to be seen wandering with that newbie look in my eyes, I wanted it to seem like I belonged there. I started walking as a warmup and put on my new favorite podcast to run to, My Favorite Murder. It got me through last week’s 7-mile long run, so I figured it would make these 3 miles blow by.

I didn’t want my walking time to affect my distance and pace measurements, so I started a new session when I was ready to run. I figured I’d start at a 10-min mile pace, then slowly increase and bang out these 3 miles in less than 30 minutes. I set the distance to miles and the pace to 6. I started running, allowing Karen and Georgia to regale me with the tale of Rebecca Zahau’s murder… except it wasn’t working.

I watched the boxing class happening in front of me. I watched the people walking by outside through the window. But mostly I just watched the numbers on the screen in front of me.

Has it really only been 2 minutes? I wondered.

Then my thoughts began to wander. I needed to pick up mushrooms at the store on my way home. Maybe I should get broccoli too. I wonder who convinced the sheriff that Rebecca Zahau’s death was a suicide when she was so clearly murdered? Why do people tamper with dead bodies instead of immediately calling the police? I bet broccoli would be good in my new air fryer. I bet it’s been at least 5 minutes now.

14 seconds had passed.

I had forgotten how mind-numbly boring treadmill running was. Outside it was so easy to escape into my podcast or music and Pokemon Go, but here I couldn’t stop obsessing over the time and distance. Which, by the way, I realized suddenly wasn’t adding up. 10 minutes had passed and I hadn’t run 1 mile yet — not even close. I slowly increased my speed of 6 to 8.5. It said my pace was 7 something. “I am really flying!” I thought. “Treadmill running is easier than I thought! Now the miles will really fly by!”

Except they didn’t. I was still running slower than a 10-min mile pace. I googled treadmill pace cheat sheets and couldn’t figure out why my numbers weren’t lining up. What unit of measurement was 6 or 8.5 if not mph? Just “speed”?

30 speed

I could think of only one reason why the distance wasn’t displaying correctly — the treadmill was broken! It was a cheap gym with cheap machines that were obviously not calibrated correctly. After the treadmill clock hit 30 minutes I started the cool down. I had probably run 3 miles even if the display didn’t show it. I hopped off and decided to explore downstairs, which I just discovered existed.

It was a lot more crowded than the upstairs, so I reasoned that was where the good machines were. I would do my 8 miles on a treadmill down here tomorrow.

The next day (today), I headed straight downstairs. I knew podcasts and music weren’t going to cut it for essentially an hour and 20 minutes of running in place, so I came armed with my iPad loaded with Netflix shows. I hopped on a treadmill that reeked slightly of body odor, so it had been used recently and at least wasn’t broken, and decided to do a little experiment. This thought occurred to me yesterday while I was running, but it didn’t seem right so I didn’t test it out. What if the distance was in miles, but the speed was actually in kilometers? So if I wanted to run 6 mph, I had to set the speed to 10 kmph. I tried it for 10 minutes, and sure enough my distance was 1 mile. Which meant that whole time I thought I was running fast yesterday, I was actually running really slowly. I knew it felt a little too easy, but I chalked it up to all my training. I settled in at 10 kmph, which is slower than I was hoping to run the half, yet still somehow felt strenuous. Man, I hate treadmill running. My iPad at least covered the screen so I couldn’t watch the time and miles tick by, even though I lifted it up to check every 5 or 2 minutes. I watched the first episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which I was hoping could become my new favorite running show, but I didn’t love the musical aspect of it (and I love Broadway and West End musicals, I know). It helped me kill 45 minutes though, and then I switched to The Great British Bake Off. I’m still deciding if watching a show about delicious desserts while you’re burning calories is the best or worst idea ever, but it helped distract me so I could power through. I ate Jelly Babies for fuel at miles 5 and 7 and pretended they were made of Victoria Sponge and not just cornstarch-dusted glucose. And I did it. I ran 8 miles on a treadmill!

The iPad definitely helped, but I still think treadmill running is the worst, especially on a treadmill that measures distance in miles and speed in kmph. Next week the long run on the schedule is only 6 miles, which I’ll be doing outdoors racing the London Winter Run. I run a 10K on Thanksgiving in Cincinnati every year, but I’ve never actually raced a 10K in London. I’m actually a little excited for it and pray the weather holds up. There’s no iPad and treadmill option for races!

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