It’s Just a Number

It’s just number. It’s what we tell ourselves when we see a number we don’t like. The number by itself doesn’t tell the full story. The number doesn’t represent us. It doesn’t represent our true worth.

I stare at the number and mind-numbingly repeat to myself, “It’s just a number. It’s just a number. It’s just a number.”

But somewhere, deep inside me, it’s more than just a number. I think the number is me. I know this is wrong, but I can’t help but feel otherwise.

Although I love our new treadmill, there’s a part of me that hates how slow it makes me feel. Because treadmills aren’t calibrated perfectly, treadmills vary in terms of perceived effort. When we lived in Hoboken, our condo building had a gym with four treadmills. There was one that we called the “magic treadmill” because the perceived effort was so much easier on that particular treadmill. We both favored that treadmill because if you were doing a hard workout, we were more likely to hit it on that treadmill than on the other ones. We weren’t the only ones who noticed because it was everyone’s favorite treadmill. Often times Ben and I had to reschedule our runs for another time because someone was already on the “magic treadmill” with the other treadmills left unused.

With all that love, the magic treadmill broke and was out of commission. So we switched over to the hardest treadmill to do our workouts. What I learned from Ben was that we shouldn’t worry about whether the treadmill was calibrated perfectly. He accepted that there were going to be differences among treadmills and the most important thing was that we pick one treadmill and show improvement on that treadmill.

We moved to Brooklyn and I became a member of Crunch Gym. It was difficult to find “my” treadmill because I couldn’t rely on having that one treadmill be free every time I went to the gym. Unlike our condo where the gym was literally down the hall from us, Crunch was significantly farther away, so I couldn’t go home and return a half hour later. So I had about five treadmills that I tried to use consistently (without great success). But still, I found some constancy and I did my favorite speed work of gradually increasing the distance of a goal 5K pace. Eventually I got up to running 1.8 miles at 8.5 mph.

We bought a treadmill last December. Eagerly I jumped on it to do my usual speed work.

Holy shoot.

Running is dang hard on that thing. To be more correct, doing my old speed work is too hard. As in impossible. I can’t even last a half mile. After much “experimenting,” I recently concluded that I have to reduce the speed and go back to the beginning. It’s now 8.3 mph and I start with a half mile. I’ll slowly up the distance until I reach 2.5 miles.

It’s just a number. What the treadmill tells me is not important. I know objectively I’m not slower because I’m consistently hitting race paces under less than ideal conditions where it used to be that I needed everything to be perfect in order for me to do that same pace. What matters is that I’m consistently demonstrating improvement on that treadmill. The actual number itself doesn’t matter.

The 8.3 mph treadmill runner that I am now is just as good/fast of a runner as the 8.5 mph treadmill runner of last year. It’s just a number.

I keep telling myself this. It’s just a number. It’s just a number. It’s just a number.

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16 thoughts on “It’s Just a Number

  1. I have experienced this as well. Garmin footpod when running on my treadmill improved things for me tremendously. I usually cover the display with a towel and use the numbers on my watch. Very accurate; and best of all consistent one ‘mill to the next 🙂

    • Oh, that footpod would be great for comparing across treadmills. My forerunner 10 is too simple to be compatible with the footpod (I looked on the website).

      It’s the top end of my speed, so I don’t last long on the treadmill. I just love doing speed work (or at least my idea of speed work) so much. I always feel so accomplished afterward. I never got this feeling after long runs for marathon training.

  2. Nope, you’re looking at the wrong thing. Yes it’s just a number but who the heck runs on the Dreadmill lol. Sorry I’m so anti-Dreadmill it’s insane lol.

  3. Treadmill running is HARD!! I don’t mind using one, but I do know that it is just physically harder for me than on running on the road and it def plays mind games with me. I swear, I feel like treadmill running is also my mental training because that’s when I employ all of my motivation techniques, lol!

    • It’s funny, but I find the short intervals and the easy runs easier to do on the treadmill than out on the road, and everything in between to be harder on the treadmill. Absolutely treadmill running is also mental training. I spend a lot of time talking myself out of talking myself out of running. LOL!

  4. I definitely had a favorite treadmill at the gym. There are two gyms on campus and I would go to the further one just because they had my favorite treadmill. Running on other ones just isn’t the same. I think that’s kind of why I switched to outdoor running. It’s just so much easier to adjust my pace outside.

    • Depending on the type of run, I favor either the treadmill or the road. Two years ago, I did almost all of my speed work and surprisingly tempo runs as well on the treadmill when I was marathon training. Now that I have this harder treadmill I can’t do any tempo runs on it at all. I’m still trying to figure out how to work with it, but I love it for speed work.

  5. I was just discussing this with a trainer who claimed running on a treadmill is so much easier and faster than outside. I so beg to differ. No two treadmills are alike. And those hard ones are TERRIBLE. I always tell my runners to never focus on their times on treadmills. Just run by feel because that is all you can do. Easier said than done, for sure!

  6. So much wisdom! You’re right that treadmill times don’t *mean* anything and consistency/ improvement are key. I’m a treadmill runner only when it’s absolutely necessary – but it’s seriously great for mental toughness.

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