It’s getting to be that time of the year. This is absolutely my favorite time for running outside! The air is crisp and clear; the sun is still shining into the evening after dinner; and trails in my area are blanketed with a soft layer of leaves. In a few short weeks, though, the scales will tip and everything will change. The temperature will drop another 15 degrees, it’ll be dark before I’m home from work, and the first rains will come, turning the leaves into a slippery mass congealed amongst the puddles and mud. For many of us, fall turning to winter marks our return to the gym and the treadmills.
I have always used the treadmill, and have come to terms with its bad points. I willingly put up with the occasional boredom and heel pain because only the treadmill is available after the kids go to sleep. Only the treadmill sits patiently in my garage as I take to the streets and trails during fair weather. Only the treadmill lets me know (however inflated it may be) the number of calories I’m burning during a run.
Whether you’re working up to a run as a beginner, or you’re returning to the gym after the race season is over, there are a few tips to keep in mind when hitting the treadmill.
- They’re here to help. Ask the staff how to use the treadmill at your gym. Any employee can show you the basics, and most gym treadmills have a lot of added functionality that you’ll want to become familiar with. There are programmed routines as well as manual settings. Some will also track your heart rate and calories burned. It’s tempting to just punch buttons until it rolls, but it’s also easy to hurt yourself. It’s their job, and it only takes a minute!
- Use the spray . Most gyms provide small cloths and spray bottles of disinfectant. Use them! Whether or not you’ve left a pool of sweat behind, take a few moments to wipe down the hand bars and console of the treadmill. Gyms are notorious for spreading germs during cold and flu season, and nobody wants to contribute to that mess.
- Easy on the spray! Yes, wipe down your treadmill, but find a balance. Treadmills are usually clustered together in a herd, and the fumes from the disinfectant are extremely disruptive to people running near you. May I suggest that you spritz the cloth away from the equipment, and then use the wet cloth to wipe down your workspace? I noticed that my gym now provides pre-moistened towelettes, which resolves the issue entirely.
- Safety First. Most gym treadmills have a safety stop that clips to your clothing with a cord. Use it, please! If you slip or slide off, the cord pulls the emergency stop button and immediately halts the rotation of the belt. Just make sure you clip it on at the bottom edge of your shirt or perhaps to the pocket of your shorts/sweats. It’s a real momentum killer when your arm or hand accidentally crosses the cord and yanks it out in the middle of your run.
- Eyes on the road It doesn’t really matter what your reason is, it is in absolute poor taste to monitor somebody else’s console readout. If somebody is birddogging your run, just lay a small towel over your readout. They’ll take a hint.
- Obey the time limits Very busy gyms, or even less busy gyms during peak hours, will often limit treadmill usage to 30 minutes. Make sure you inform yourself about your gym’s policy. Is there a sign up sheet? If you’re waiting for a treadmill to open, don’t hover. Do some sit-ups or pushups while you’re waiting. I know I’ve been tempted to stick like glue, in case somebody tries to line jump, but the one or two times it has happened I just smile and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I was already waiting!” It’s always been an honest mistake and they have happily waited their turn. Same goes for me when I realize too late that somebody was waiting in front of me.
- Buy a lock . It’s tempting to stash a gym bag near the treadmills, but really, the best place to stow your gear is the locker room. Putting your bag away is only an extra 40 seconds on to your evening, and it’s just polite to keep the gym area clear of personal belongings. If all you’re toting is a set of car keys and a bottle of water, this doesn’t apply to you. Anything that fits securely into the cups on the treadmill console is fair.
- An armband helps! I run with music. Period. For years I used to lay my iPod in one of the water cup slots on the treadmills at home and in the gym. I can’t tell you how many times my arm has caught on the headphones and ripped my player out of it’s snug little home. (See #4) This is particularly dangerous, as the only response to slamming an expensive piece of equipment onto the ground is to immediately hop about, trying to retrieve it, often while the belt is still clipping along. I invested $25 in an armband holder for my Mini, and I’ve never looked back. The headphone wires are clear of danger, and I never have to worry about jostling or dropping my player.
- Change clothes. You’ve already made a trip to the gym, and after pounding out a few miles, it’s quite natural to do some weights or core work as long as you’re there. You know what’s really nice? After a run, either walk it off outside in the cool air or, better yet, make a quick trip to the locker room so you can towel off and change clothes. There’s really nothing grosser than coming up to a piece of equipment after somebody has left their sweaty butt patch behind. Everyone at the gym knows who That Guy is, and believe me, you don’t want to be That Guy. Make a reasonable attempt to cool down and dry off, and then refer to #2.
There’s got to be a number ten! What is it? What would you add? Add your number ten in the comments.