Four ways to make the best of the treadmill

This has been a tough week. It’s cold AF in Chicago.

I started a part-time job a week ago at the running retailer Fleet Feet Chicago. Since then we had some sort of snow every day. Plows and salt are barely making a dent. Nothing is melting. The temperature hasn’t risen above freezing in well over a week. This morning it was minus 21. Yes, that’s Fahrenheit. And yes, that’s the actual temperature. The wind chill was said to be about -53.

And yet we run.

There was a Half Marathon on the Lakefront last weekend. The F^3 Lake Half Marathon. That would be “F***ing Freezing Frozen” Lake. It was in the single digits. I know several people that ran it. I did not. I’ve done most of my running on the treadmill since the biggest snow fall (about 6”) 10 days ago. I have all the gear to sustain myself in fairly cold conditions, but as I get older, I’m much more cautious about potential ice.

Today’s conditions make it virtually impossible to run outside. I heard rumors about people who wanted to go out to break some kind of personal record. That seems dangerous to me. Thankfully, I’m not seeing evidence of anyone following through on that idea. I ran in 9 degrees on at midnight on New Year’s in Central Park a year ago. That’s enough for me. This cold is just dangerous. It’s not worth the risk.

Since indoor tracks are pretty scarce, the treadmill is the answer. I know. The Dreadmill! The Hamster Wheel. Call it what you will, the treadmill is a necessary component for winter training for those of us in cold winter climates.  The treadmill also gives you control over pace and incline, perhaps providing a better workout than you’d get out on the trail or road, and even the track. Doing an interval or hill workout can also lessen the monotony.

I joined a gym in 2003 when I was training for the New Jersey Marathon during a particularly cold winter. That was my first experience on a treadmill. I bought a cheap one the following year that didn’t last long and have since relied on a gym memberships. Today and tomorrow, I’m glad my building has a small gym. Everything in Chicago is closed today – including gyms. So that is certainly a dilemma for some. “Run up and down the stairs,” I suggested to one friend on FaceBook.

Assuming you have access to a treadmill during this cold snap, how can you make the best of it?

Break it up: As I already noted, do an interval or hill workout. Here is a link to some basic workouts. If you are an experienced runner, you can use those ideas to create something more challenging for you.

Motivational playlist: create a playlist for the time you want to be running and make sure they’re high energy tunes that motivate you! I never listen to music except on the treadmill, so this is my go-to to make the treadmill run different and something that I almost look forward to. And sometimes when the right song comes up, my running transforms into interpretive dance and I’m completely reenergized!

Have a distraction: Find something that helps take your mind off the task, like watching a favorite show (or movie for longer run), pod cast, or book on tape. I downloaded something from Netflix for each of my treadmill long runs last winter.

Run with friends: Just like outdoor workouts, running alongside friends can help the miles pass quickly. Have a friend meet you at the gym and find treadmills next to one another and enjoy the time together as you would running together anywhere. The nice part about the treadmill? You can both go at your own pace and never lose one another!


Those of you who couldn’t get your workout in because your gym was closed today, may be thinking it’s time to invest in a treadmill of your own. I think most gym memberships offer an affordable alternative to having your own equipment (and the infrequent weather related closure is a minor inconvenience), but if you can afford a good one and have the right space for it, there is certainly something very convenient about having one right in your home. I came across this guide that could be helpful for those shopping treadmills this winter.

I’m happy to report that while I missed the blog last week, I’ve been super busy with my new job and networking, some business development tasks, and training a new group of Let Me Run coaches for the spring season. I also haven’t missed a workout in spite of the less than favorable conditions. My taper for the Surf City Half Marathon this coming weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. A little California Dreamin’ is probably the best way to survive the treadmill – and anything a Chicago winter can throw at me.

A warm(er) day on the Lake Front Trail. North Avenue Beach. Chicago, Illinois. January 2019.

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 10.21.38 AM

My Team Gilda Chicago Marathon Page

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.