The Treadmill in the Basement

It is a place where I can set goals, but not be hardheaded about them. It is a place where I can learn to pace myself. It is a place where I can try out different strategies on different occasions without fear of consequences. It is a place where I can discover my limits, and learn to accept them. It is a place where I can find ways to become better and better at listening to my body, and adjusting accordingly. It is a place where the changing numbers on a display can keep my mind occupied even as I consume the miles. It is a place where the relationship between the rhythms of the run and the information on the changing display in front of me can be studied and analyzed in so many different ways, endlessly, and the algebraic constructs inherent of these analyses can reveal patterns that can be tracked, patterns that prevent boredom and also create continuity and motivation in the mind. It is a place where nobody else sets my pace but myself. It is a place where one can learn lessons pertinent to life in general.

My treadmill is about 12 years old at this point. The green patches of oxidation on the metal – from the sweat that can pour off the body when the machine is in use – will attest to its age. Some would consider the machine broken. The buttons on the arms have not worked for many years. Their physical connection to the main electronics in the body of the machine is likely broken. I am also pretty certain that the machine is not calibrated properly any more. I have confirmed that it still keeps time properly, but I suspect that the rest of the numbers are estimates – based on a calibration of the expected speed of the motor for different input settings, followed by some physics and math, including calculations based on the application of Newton’s laws of Motion. (Based on my experience, I do also feel inclined to diverge into a criticism of the electronics and the software in this machine, but that is probably not wise.) More recently, I have been using a GPS wristwatch that also has an accelerometer while running on the treadmill in order to get the statistics for the run. The device has its own method, and algorithms, for keeping track of speed and distance. Neither of these devices, treadmill or accelerometer, is measuring either parameter directly. Fortunately, both the devices provide numbers whose differences are within my tolerance range. As I might have hinted at earlier in the blog, I can be flexible about these things.

I have been using the treadmill extensively so far this winter. This year, while running on the machine, I have become even more sensitive to the pains and aches that come with age. I have had to adjust. My muscles need more time to warm up. They also seem to need more time to recover after exercise. I have not yet reached the speeds that I used to run at even a year or two ago, speeds that were significant to me, but would have been considered laughable by some others even of my own age. One could separately argue that I am not doing myself any good by just using a treadmill, and pushing myself on the machine, and that my exercise approach needs to be more varied and holistic. Truth of the matter is that I came into my current routine only because of necessity. This was what I needed to do in 2008. I feel that I can still change and adjust if needed – as my body informs me. That is what my experience on the treadmill so far tells me.

Some day the machine will stop working. Mechanical parts that are in motion for long periods of time do tend to wear out. I hope the failure mode will not be catastrophic when this happens. Perhaps I should keep a fire extinguisher close by!