How Far Do I Need To Run To Start Burning Off My Psychoses?

608-06158491Last week, I received an email from a running website called Worldwide Running, asking permission to republish one of my blog posts on their site.  It was this one (The Jogging Dead), which I found a little odd since it’s about how a man tried to decapitate me while I was jogging because he thought I was a Zombie.  I allowed them to use it, though, because I’m all about getting my writing out there to other Modern Philosophers.

The woman who runs the site then asked if I had any other running articles, so I sent her this one (Running with Forrest), which is about the times I’ve gone running with Forrest Gump.  She liked that one, too, and put it on the site.

Friday, she asked me if I would be interested in writing an article based on an idea from her staff.  Apparently, they have a theory that after awhile, running on a treadmill is bad for your mental health.  That sounded right up my alley, and I’m always up for a challenge, so I took the assignment.  She just told me they were going to publish the article, and I wanted to share it.  Here it is…

straightjacketJennifer asked me to write an article that addressed the darker side of running…the shadowy world that no one wants to talk about because if we did, people would stop exercising, and the world would became a scary, lazy, ridiculously obese circle of Hell.  Granted, a good portion of our country is like that already, but I’m talking about the entire planet looking like the first seating at the all you can eat Sunday buffet at Denny’s.

I lost 50lbs last year, and most of that was because of the time I put in on the treadmill.  I became a slave to that device, doing its bidding, pushing myself to extremes, and generating enough sweat to drown a tiny New England town.

The truth of the matter is: I hate treadmills.  I think of them as a cross between my Evil Step Mother and a Marine Drill Sargent.  Because of this hatred, and because I value my sanity, I now run exclusively outdoors.  That might not sound like a big deal to some of you, but I live in Maine, which has been scientifically proven to be the coldest place on Earth.  The fact that I’d much rather bundle up and run outside in single degree temperatures, instead of putting on shorts and a tee shirt and running in climate controlled comfort should tell you how much I hate those infernal machines!

The truth of the matter is that running on treadmills is very bad for your mental health.  Now I’m a writer, not a psychiatrist, but I did work in a mental hospital for five years.  I think that makes me something of an expert on the subject, so you’d better listen to me, or I will increase the dose of the medications I’ve secretly applied to this article.

When I started out at the gym, I was out of shape, overweight, and had the lung capacity of a chipmunk.  However, I was completely sane and had never had a single thought about exercise machines trying to control my mind.

Six months later, I was running six miles a day, looking damn good in my running shorts, and completely under the influence of every treadmill in the place.  How did this stunning transformation take place?  Well, clearly the good stuff happened because I was eating better and running almost every day.  My mental health crumbled, however, because I couldn’t let the machines win.

I am the perfect example of why running on a treadmill is detrimental to your mental health.  I am obsessed with numbers and have a mind that never slows down.  From the second I hit the start button, my brain is doing calculations to determine how fast I need to go to cover six miles in under an hour or to burn 1000 calories.  I would try not to look at the display in an attempt to put my mind at ease, but instead, I would just crane my neck to look at the displays of the treadmills of the people running around me.  I’d memorize where the second hand had to be on the big clock on the gym wall to signify I’d run a full minute, and then crunch the numbers to guess how far I’d run in that time.

When I finally slid away my towel to look at the numbers on my machine, I’d be devastated if my math was wrong and I hadn’t run as far or burned as many calories as I thought I’d had.  The punishment for that was to set the pace even faster, crank up the music on my MP3 player, and push myself to run at a rate my body wasn’t ready to handle.

All because the machines made me feel like I was a failure.  Here I was, running six miles at a 9:00 mile pace, and I wasn’t happy with myself.  I saw other people in the gym going faster than I was, and that convinced me that I wasn’t good enough.  I was sweating so much that the gym had to assign one employee to stand behind my machine to constantly mop up my mess, but I was sure I wasn’t putting in the maximum effort.

I told myself that the key to running was something of a Jedi mind trick.  I’d just convince myself I was someplace else, find a way to stop my mind from crunching the numbers, and I’d be at the six mile mark in no time.  To accomplish this, I’d focus my attention on other people in the gym.  I’d watch some guy struggle to bench press a ridiculous amount of weight and make up stories about why he was trying so hard to prove himself.  I’d chuckle at the lady who was using the shoulder machine incorrectly but acting like she was really getting a good burn.   I’d cringe at the imagined monosyllabic conversations that took place when I saw a pack of muscle heads approach a gaggle of tan girls by the free weights.

The thing was, the tricks, while highly amusing, never worked.  I’d always look down at the display, see I’d only killed a few minutes and gone a portion of the mile, and go back to driving myself crazy with mental calculations and seeing how fast I could go without falling off the treadmill.

I have a high IQ, I went to an excellent University, and yet I was convinced that the treadmills didn’t approve of me and wanted me to go faster.  It was insane.

running outsideThat was when I came to my senses and started to run outside.  When I run outdoors, I set the stopwatch on my cell phone and then slip it into my pocket.  I turn on the music, pick a route, and then just run.  I set whatever pace is comfortable, I have no idea how far I’ve gone, or how many calories I’ve burned.  I’m no longer obsessing over numbers and running in place.  Having my surroundings change and knowing that I have to eventually get back to my house gives my run a new sense of purpose.

My mind gets lost in the music.  My body determines its rhythm.  I still sweat like a wildebeest with a glandular condition trapped in a sauna, but the difference is I’m happy now.  There’s no stress.  The madness is slowly starting to burn off.

runner boyI kind of enjoy running now.  (That picture of me on the left was taken this summer after a long, stress-free outdoor run!)

So be forewarned.  The treadmills are not our friends.  They are machines looking to control us and break us to make us soft for the impending Robot Apocalypse.

If you want to keep yourself sane and your soul free, try running unplugged.  Choose the path less traveled by and make it your own.

The machines will be mad, but your mind won’t be.

What do you think, Modern Philosophers?  Have I inspired you to put on your workout toga, lace up your sneakers, and go for a run?  Do you agree that the treadmills are out to control us?  Do you prefer running outdoors to indoors?  Do you plan to get into shape before the Robot Apocalypse starts?

Hope you enjoyed my sharing this little writing assignment with you…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Humor, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to How Far Do I Need To Run To Start Burning Off My Psychoses?

  1. susielindau says:

    The only way I run on our treadmill is if I am so exhausted mentally, I don’t know what I am doing. I just find myself huffing and puffing with no recollection of how I got there!
    Congrats on your freelance!

  2. I’ve mostly stuck to treadmill running at this point, but can see your concerns re: machines taking over. I will break away from the machine when I do my 5k. My hubby assures me that I will, in fact, find it easier & that my competitive nature will kick in, being surrounded by other participants & will find my time will improve. Wish me luck as I step out into this great unknown. I hope you are all right.

  3. gatesitter says:

    Great post and I agree whole heartedly. As I have comment before I dislike machines, I beat my cake batter with a spoon, sew with needle and thimble, and exercise outdoors. I firmly believe a 20 minute walk in fresh air does more for me than an hour on a treadmill. 🙂

  4. Gardengirl says:

    I totally agree! Although I walk instead of run, I am constantly watching the screen and adjusting the speed. I much prefer to walk outside, especially in a robot apocalypse. Rain fries their circuits and they sizzle very nicely, but they can’t catch me.

  5. Combat Babe says:

    I don’t mind treadmills. I don’t run on them, I warm up to do weights and sometimes a little cardio. I am on the thing 30 mins tops. I use outside as my main cardio exercise. I don’t run there either because I was born with terrible knee joints so I “power” walk. I do about 4 miles a day so far and I have honestly only been exercising for about a month, treadmills recently introduced.

    Mental health wise, I am doing well so far. A month ago Anxiety was a 10, now it’s about a 3. Great read. 🙂

  6. Ashana M says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard from anyone else that kind of commitment to doing mental calculations to get exercise done. I don’t do treadmills, but I think you explain very nicely why I really shouldn’t.

    And, yes, I enjoyed this very much.

  7. filbio says:

    First off – congrats on the weight loss! That is a great accomplishment.

    Secondly – I feel the same as you regarding running and treadmills. They are truly evil machines. I hate running too but do it any way. I must or I’d be 300 pounds with all I eat and drink!

    Great post!


  8. ‘Fraid the long intro got me yawning…but what do I know? I write limericks! With all respect, that intro REMINDED me of a treadmill! Check out one of my latest: IS IT COLD ENOUGH FOR YA?

  9. Pingback: This Bloggier is sooo….. | downsizersandy

  10. I am not a runner, however I know exactly what you are saying about the treadmill control. The numbers would drive me crazy. I found myself covering them with a towel, but they were stronger than me and would taunt me until I peeked only to be disappointed to see i burned 1 calorie and moved a millimeter. Your Forrest Gump mentality for running is a wonderful alternative to all the mind control. If you feel better when you’re done….mission accomplished.
    Kudos on that weight loss! Your Girl is a smart cookie to continue to encourage you : )

  11. Hey moviewriternyu,
    Not sure what you think of blogging awards, but I’ve nominated you for THE VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD. If you choose to accept it, check out my latest blog “Seven Things You Don’t Know About Me.” Congratulations.

  12. wedelmom says:

    I am just not brave enough to exercise outside when the thermometer dips below 30 so I am a winter treadmill slave which, in Nebraska, can change daily, all year. Though I never crunch numbers in my head while on my treadmill because I’d fall off the dumb thing (math was never my strong suit) my solution for not watching the dumb numbers was to remove the batteries from the dumb thing. Of course I own it…..don’t recommend that at the local gym…..

    • I think the ones at the gym are controlled by a central brain back at Robot Central. They’re far too advanced to conquer with a simple removal of batteries. Supposed to be -35 tonight with the wind chill…no running for me!

      • wedelmom says:

        You are probably right. The central brain would know better than to leave a weak spot like that.
        I have a theory that when it is that cold you are actually burning enormous amounts of calories just staying warm.

      • Good theoyy. I might go with that until it warms up and I feel like running again. 🙂

  13. jrosenberry1 says:

    I don’t run unless something with fangs is running behind me OR something is about to detonate in the vicinity. But then, I’m an amputee- and not the Oscar Pistorius variety. But I do have a computerized prosthetic leg named Cuthbert and he’s quite friendly.

  14. jrosenberry1 says:

    You’re lucky! If it ever comes down to exploding and/or mauling things, I’d do better by 1) standing my ground; 2) taking my leg off; and 3) swinging my leg like mad in the hopes of either a) killing the mauling thing or b) putting out the flames. If that won’t take care of it, then I’d better bend over and kiss my keister goodbye. Oh well! Run a mile or two for me (indoors or out: your choice). 😉

  15. Good job getting published! That’s awesome, and very well deserved.

    Here in the Northwest, while it certainly isn’t the coldest place on Earth, it has dibs on being the wettest. I was exclusively treadmill running when I first started a few months ago (of note, was working 12 hour overnight shifts and the only way to retain my sanity and stay awake was to go down to the gym on my break at 2am to get my heart rate up and then stand under the shower). Then I got so… booorrred….! And like you, became obsessed with the numbers; while a watched pot never boils, the same is true about watched treadmill control number thingies… and… not boiling… Nevermind.

    Anyhow, have been running outside in the rain (did it today and blogged about it, in fact!) all winter and I really can’t go back to the treadmill. I do have a new numbers downfall though, and that is my run app on my smartphone: I’m training towards a distance goal, so I track my routes with it, which also tracks pace, calories burned, etc. And boy, am I competitive!! Anyway. Might have to start thinking about leaving the phone at home, now that I’m becoming a better judge of distance.

    Now done with my ramble; time to continue reading. Lovely and fun post, as always.

  16. irishcsred says:

    This is a super blog! I love your writing!

  17. Geo Sans says:

    Awesome !!!

    Treadmills are the assembly line

    that feature the latest style of idiocy

  18. Love this…Read it just before heading downstairs to my treadmill. I definitely prefer running outside, but when I can run and read a good book at the same time, I’m happy too. I used to be the runner you described, even ran a marathon, but I’m much more relaxed and run for enjoyment now.

  19. cateberlin says:

    I walk the dog along frozen seaside rocks (where runners never tread), and still get yelled at by every rare passer-by for not having her on a leash. I have other issues. Control and following the rules issues.

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