A show of hands, please: Who thinks running on the treadmill is boring? (Okay, put your hand down, I can’t actually see you.)
But what is a runner to do? Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate. Or it’s too dark or too early or too late to run outside. Or we can only get in a run when our children are napping.
Last month, I had to run on the treadmill quite a bit (read: icy snow). I’d watched everything I had to watch on TV. I was BORED. I looked up running videos on the Internet because I wondered if there was anything pretty to look at while I ran — like scenery. I didn’t find much, but I did find Outside Interactive, a company that makes something called the “virtual runner” and pre-paced DVDs specifically for running on treadmills!
They had some preview videos on their website, www.outsideinteractive.net, so I checked out the Hopkinton to Boston 26.2 trailer. Then I ran in Central Park. This is great! I immediately contacted Outside Interactive, and was very excited when they sent me a product to try.
They sent me the Falmouth Road Race 7-mile course on a pre-paced DVD.
Here’s what Outside Interactive says about their pre-paced DVDs ($19.95; the Boston one is $39.95 and includes a bonus DVD featuring Bill Rodgers):
“Outside Interactive Pre-Paced DVDs offer an exciting new approach to treadmill running. A growing library of famous race courses, trails and popular running routes are all shot in wide-screen from a runner’s perspective allowing you to see a course as if you were actually running it. Dolby Digital Sound also captured the natural sounds while the video was being filmed.
How the pre-paced DVDs work, according to Outside Interactive:
“Pre-Paced DVDs are designed to work WITH the existing hardware you already own. No special treadmill required! You simply install the DVD into your DVD player, PC or Laptop. A series of options will appear in your menu. You will first be asked to select the speed or pace at which you would like the video to play. The current options are 7:00/mile (8.5 mph), 8:00/mile (7.5 mph), 9:00/mile (6.66 mph) or 10:00/mile (6 mph) These speeds are merely a point of reference to add to the realism of your desired pace. The audio component contains natural sounds captured when footage was shot, which are not affected by speed change. A mute option can be enabled if you wish to listen to your own music. You also have the option of starting anywhere along a given route by selecting a mile marker so a course can be broken up and covered over several runs.”
I put the DVD in my laptop and secured my laptop to my treadmill with our SurfShelf.
Then I chose my pace: 9-minute mile. Next, I decided if I wanted to run with natural sounds or with my own music.
I chose to run with the natural sounds. On the next screen, I could choose to run a portion of the course — I didn’t have to run start to finish if I didn’t feel up to 7 miles on the treadmill (which I didn’t, but I chose to start at the beginning of the course for the sake of the review).
Once I selected, “Start,” the screen counted down so I could get my speed up to pace. Note: I chose to run about a 9:30 pace.
I was off…running in the sunshine along an oceanside road listening to waves crash. I glanced out my window. The ice-crusted snow
shivered shimmered in the near-dark evening. I quickly redirected my gaze at the computer in front of me. Ahhhh.
I also ran through quaint towns and along tree-lined roads. Occasionally, a car rolled by. It was like real road running — just on the treadmill.
The video is nicely done — there’s no bouncing or anything that could potentially make you dizzy. And running at a 9:30 pace even though the video was moving at a 9-minute pace, didn’t seem to make any difference.
Having the route in front of me didn’t make me compeletely forget that I was running on a treadmill, but it was a nice change of pace from the usual junk TV I watch while running indoors. It was a lot more relaxing.
I haven’t run the complete course yet, but that’s because the weather got nicer and I was able to get back to running outdoors. But I’m glad I haven’t run the whole thing yet. That way, I’ll have something new to look at next time I run on the treadmill.
In addition to the pre-paced DVDs, Outside Interactive also has something called Virtual Runner software ($199.95; videos sold separately). Here’s what they said it is:
“Virtual Runner is an exciting new video software product developed by Outside Interactive Visual Software Solutions. It consists of software, a special footpod, USB Receiver “stick” and High Definition videos all shot from a runner’s vantage point. An optional Heart Rate Monitor is also available. Virtual Runner is designed to work WITH the existing hardware you already own. No special treadmill required! You simply install Virtual Runner on your PC or Laptop along with selected videos. You then attach the included footpod to your shoelace and plug in the USB stick to your PC or Laptop. Next, you select which video or videos wish to view and start the program. After a brief countdown, your video begins to play on your monitor or HDTV (if connected.) As you run, the footpod transmits your pace to the USB receiver. This data is read by the Virtual Runner Software, which adjusts the speed of the video based on this data. If you run faster, the video will speed up. If you slow down, the video will slow down. The audio component contains natural sounds captured when footage was shot, which are not affected by speed change. A mute option can be enabled if you wish to listen to your own music. You also have the option of starting anywhere along a given route by selecting a mile marker so a course can be broken up and covered over several runs.”
Sounds pretty cool!
Here are the other courses they have:
- Hopkinton to Boston 26.2 Mile Run
- Central Park 10K Run
- Charles River 7-Mile Run
- The TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race
- The Falmouth Road Race Course (7 Miles)
- To come: Exotic Destination Runs
What do you do with yourself when you are on the treadmill? Would you rather A) poke your eyes out with a butter knife or B) stare at nothing while running on the treadmill?