I am a lazy runner. I do not like speed work or hill work. I prefer to simply run distance at a comfortable pace. I have been like this for as long as I have been a runner, which seems to be at odds with the fact that I have run some pretty good times and was even all-conference twice in college cross country. However, my laziness is a relative sort of thing. Back in the day (that is, back when I ran 33 minute 10Ks and 16 minute 5Ks) my comfortable pace for my lazy distance running was 7:00 minutes per mile for 13-16 miles. Back then, I was a running machine: I could lock into that pace and keep it mile after mile.
While I am lazy by nature when it comes to running, I also love to compete. As such, I was willing to set aside my laziness during track and cross country seasons and endure speed work and hill work. After college, I settled back into my lazy distance ways, although I would engage in some social running, even if it involved visiting a track. I did, of course, keep racing and that seemed to work out well.
Sadly, it is no longer back in the day and my lazy ways have ceased to serve me well, mainly because my comfortable pace for 13+ miles is no longer 7 minutes. While I have tried using my GPS watch to force me to run harder, my natural laziness proved to be stronger: I’ll speed up for a mile, then I’ll start slacking until I catch myself.
Thanks to my summer unemployment (budget cuts at the university) I had plenty of extra time and started going to planned and supervised track work outs. Normally I loath doing that, but there are few races in the summer here in Florida, so I just told my lazy self that this was racing (I am, oddly enough, not lazy when I race). However, I am back to teaching again and have to return to my usual schedule, which means no evening workouts. However, these had helped me so much I wanted to keep working hard. As such, I needed a way to defeat my own laziness.
As I mentioned above, I had tried my GPS watch. But its beeps and data fields lacked the power needed to be a cruel master of my running. I needed something with the power to prevent my laziness. In my desperation, I turned to the much hated tread mill (or, as runners often call then, “dread mills.”
My girlfriend recently moved to Orlando, leaving behind her very nice Nordic Track treadmill at my house (along with 7.6 tons of other stuff from her apartment). While I normally scorn treadmills, I realized that the damn thing could force me to run at a certain pace. This would, I reasoned, force me to run fast and also help retrain me to running at a fixed pace. While the readouts for distance and pace are probably not dead on, they are probably pretty close. In any case, my Garmin watch provides accurate time and heart rate data so I would know how long I had been running and my effort.
So, I warmed up by running a few miles outside, then fired up the dread mill. The first time I tried it, I must have triggered some sort of per-programmed workout or death trap: the thing suddenly sped up to a much faster pace and activated the incline feature at the same time. That got my heart rate up pretty good before I could stop it. After re-setting the infernal thing, I was able to run a test 5K on it at a moderate 6:45 mile pace. That worked out pretty well, although the boredom almost killed me. I got some water and then did a five mile run outside. That helped me sweat out the shame of being on a treadmill.
I did find that although the treadmill has some big buttons for controlling the various settings (mainly speed and incline), working them while running was rather awkward and they did not always react when pushed. While I did see that it could be programmed, the actual process seemed to be pretty annoying and limited in its functionality. That is when I noticed the iFit slot (really just an SD card slot). I went online and found that cards could be used to load workouts. I did not want to make Jillian Michaels any richer and wanted to design my own workouts, so I did not buy any of the preloaded cards. I figured that the iFit files were pretty simply (just commands to adjust speed and incline) and found some free software to create my own files. The software is not fancy, but it gets the job done. Because of the way iFit works, it seems that workouts have to be programmed in one minute intervals (this can be exceeded, but is supposed to cause some minor problems). Fortunately, my workout cap on the dread mill is 3 miles of hard running and some rest jogging, which means I only need to program in a bit over 20 minutes. I did read that some SD cards do not work with the iFit readers (usually the ones that are larger than 1 GB). I tried a 32MB card that came with my digital camera and it worked fine. The actual files are very small, so unless you load the card with audio (you can link audio files to the workout, but I do not) a small card should suffice.