By Christopher Cudworth
It’s cold out there
Runners and cyclists facing the cold winter months must make a decision on how to keep up their training. You can train outside, bundling up to fight the elements, which for runners often means waterproof shoes with good tread for traction as well as complementary layers of clothing, gloves and hats.
For cyclists, winter can be doubly challenging because the effects of cold are exaggerated by the wind chill generated while riding. It can be much harder to keep hands, feet and face warm.
Then there’s the danger of sliding out on ice, or riding on slushy days. Road cycling can become impossible, and the mountain bike is the only alternative. Still, many people do it. Myself included.
Yet many millions more opt to go indoors with their training, using treadmills and bike trainers to put in miles while the winter winds blow.
It makes sense. If you can stand it. Even at work.
Going nowhere fast
The treadmills now available to runners are sophisticated enough to make running indoors both practical and even desirable to risking life and limb outdoors. Some runners put in whole marathons on the treadmill.
The symbolism of such an act deserves a moment of contemplation. Just think about that: Running 26 miles without going anywhere. Really, it takes a special sort of discipline to do that.
The whole earth is a treadmill
Or is it just a matter of perspective. After all, I’ve run 50,000 miles in my lifetime, and it hasn’t really taken me anywhere other than up a few mountainsides. That was cool, but I might as well consider that the entire earth is a form of treadmill. It’s spinning round and round beneath my little feet. You can’t really tell that the earth is round when you’re running or riding. In fact, often it seems so flat here in Illinois that you have to play mind games to keep the runs and rides interesting.
Welcome to the treadmill of life
So we’re all on a treadmill whether we like it or not. We’re all pedaling and spinning on a bike trainer of sorts because the world keeps passing under our feet. It’s like the Pink Floyd song says;
“You run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking, and racing around to come up behind you again…”
Feeling elliptical about indoor training
I guess I congratulate people who can jump on the treadmill or bike trainer and happily put in miles of training to keep the fat away and keep fitness up during the winter months. There’s an elliptical trainer in our basement that has gone largely unused for years in our household. But this winter may be different. There is cold weather predicted here in the Chicago area, and keeping up fitness might be a challenge at times. Plus the elliptical is a perfect way to maintain the rehabilitation of my shoulder after the bike crash.
I also own a couple bike trainers. And lots of bikes. So there may be no excuse for not saddling up somehow this winter.
Health clubs and other torture chambers
There’s always a health club too. But those places can be difficult to find when darkness falls and you don’t feel like getting out of the house after a long day at work.
The bike club to which I belong offers bike training session on sophisticated training machines that track your watts and mileage and let you compete with other riders. The cost is 10 sessions for $250, and the camaraderie is well documented in the club’s Yahoo group discussions. So perhaps that’s an option as well.
An allegorical fall from grace
Maybe I’m just a little gun shy when it comes to training indoors. Years ago at the local health club I was clipping along on a treadmill, showing off at 6:00 pace with my feet thumping the belt and sweat pouring off my face. At that moment a beautiful young woman
showed up at the side of the treadmill and asked, “Are you almost done? I’m signed up at 2:30…”
Distracted by her appearance, I missed a step and plunged to the belt with my shoulder, which struck the back cylinder, and the humming belt shot me off the back of the treadmill into the wall behind. My feet punctured the drywall and I lay there stunned. Then I got up, told the young lady she could have the machine now, and drove home.
Not too far to fall
The symbolism was just too rich. All of life’s a treadmill, you see, and a pretty woman or a handsome man can be a major distraction to the mission at hand.
The moral of the story is this: It’s best to be careful no matter where you train. In there. Out there. On the treadmill. Or on the bike trainer. I mean, both can be precarious if you’re not careful.