Running Unplugged

Today I ran outside for the first time in a while. Lately, nearly all of my runs have been done on the treadmill, either when Sweet Pea is napping or after she goes to sleep for the night. I used to enjoy the quiet solitude of running outside, listening only to the sound of my feet striking the ground as the sun begins to shine on the Flatirons, but I could hardly remember how that feels, since I’ve grown accustomed to watching Mad Men on the iPad during my runs. Neither the iPad nor the little fan in the treadmill console are adequate replacements for outdoor scenery or actual wind resistance, but they do the trick when there’s no other option.

About the wind resistance- if you run on a treadmill, at what incline do you set your treadmill to compensate for the lack of wind resistance and the fact that the treadmill is doing a bit of the work for you? I customarily set the incline to .5%, per the instructions of my old coach, but I wonder if I should increase it. I can run a lot faster at a lower effort level on the treadmill than I can outside. Although I want so badly to believe the paces I see on the treadmill are real, and that I could re-create similar workouts at similar paces outside, it’s an illusion, just like new clothes never look as good as they did in the soft lighting and skinny mirrors of the fitting room.

After a 15 minute warm up, my workout was 2:30 at 5k pace effort, followed by 2:30 easy jogging, which I repeated eight times. Total run distance was 5.87 miles. I know a real runner (read: Type A personality) would have ran around the block once more to get to an even 6.0. You can decide for yourself whether I am a Real Runner, but this morning I was a Real Wife and Mother and I had to get home so Dan could leave. Sweet Pea is getting bigger all the time but she’s still not quite big enough to stay home alone.

My pace for the 5k efforts hovered around 8:00/mile, although I felt it should have been closer to 7:30/mile. I know I could have done this on the treadmill. I also know I could have done this pre-pregnancy. Was I expecting too much, to think I could take a nine month hiatus from running (I stopped a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, in about July, then came back to it six weeks post-partum, in April), and then get to or close to my previous level of fitness over a period of four months? The obvious answer to why I can’t run as fast as I used to would be that I am carrying around extra weight, and I know you are too polite to ask how much I weigh, so to clear things up, I weigh the same as I used to.

What have been your experiences, both as far as returning to fitness after having a baby, and treadmill workouts? How long till I am in good shape again? How should I set my treadmill? And what should I watch on the iPad once I get through all the seasons on Netflix?

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