It was during the prolonged excessive heat of June and early July this year when I realized how much I hate running on treadmills. When it's 95 degrees and the humidity is so thick the air covers you like a heated blanked, running on a treadmill sounds like a perfect alternative to running outdoors. I thought so on such a day. However, after three miles of running in place while nature glowed beyond a glass-plate window, I suffered all the agony I could take. I was utterly bored but for the frightening thought of running in place for another three miles.
The worst thing about running on a treadmill is the nagging truth that, no matter how far I run on a treadmill, I'm not really running anywhere. While using a treadmill, I've tried thinking I'm on the Birkie or CAMBA trails or running over a forest floor within the Kettle Moraine. But this is like thinking of gourmet food while chewing on a stick. I wonder whether Satan greets all sinners with eternal treadmill workouts.
The alternative: Running in the heat
But what about running outside on a scorching day, especially when the schedule won't allow for a morning or evening run? There's a uniform approach to doing that. First, slather on 50-grade sun block everywhere, even on places covered by clothing. Second, wear sunglasses, a brimmed hat and carry water and energy gels and/or bars.
Two more things: Runners encountering high temps must expect to shorten the distance of their runs and accept that it's fine to walk now and then. It also helps to remember that a six-minute per mile pace on a treadmill is still far slower, geographically speaking, than a slow walk in the park.
Besides, a runner can acclimate to the heat over several weeks. I cannot see looking forward to, let alone acclimating to, running miles and miles within a two-foot by four-foot rectangle.
Bruce Steinberg's column appears in full in the August 2012 print edition of Silent Sports.