Presence: How the treadmill became a quarantine best friend

Two racks of weights sit next to each other in a home gym
Doing online workout routines in home gyms has become a popular quarantine activity. (Stella Favaro • The Student Life)

Along with waves of emotional frustration, confusion, angst and minimal social interaction, the coronavirus pandemic swiftly closed doors to many healthy havens for physical performance and improvement, such as athletic league competitions, gyms and more.

Nowadays, the extent of human movement lies in walking from bedroom to living room, desk to kitchen and sometimes, when the California fires occasionally settle and the air quality clears, outside for a brisk venture in nature. 

To blow off steam and release myself from the common stagnancy — sitting, sitting and more sitting — of student life, I turned to gym chains like Orangetheory Fitness, which prides itself on offering inspiring and efficient workouts based on metabolic science. The empowering atmosphere for anyone determined to improve strength, endurance, speed or general passion for working out felt addictive and contagious in the best possible way. 

Despite differences in athletic level, humans encouraged each other to stretch the boundaries of what they perceived their bodies capable of and transcended their mental limits. I dabbled in weightlifting and HIIT training, all the while learning about improving nutrition and body composition in an amiable and exciting space.

After March, though, places like Orangetheory posed serious health risks with forced proximity in small spaces. It felt easy to slump, relax and match my movement to the strange pause and distorted pace of the pandemic-occupied world around me. But with just myself to offer entertainment over the next days, weeks and months to come, I experimented with health and fitness, dabbling in MadFit ab exercises, MYLEE Dance workouts, muscle toning, countless hours on the stationary bicycle and what soon became one of my loyal companions: the treadmill.

The treadmill found a place within my daily routine during the early stages of quarantine; to boost my mood and productivity throughout the day, I would do a three-mile or four-mile run. I buzzed through countless Apple Music playlists, nostalgic personal playlists and podcasts — The Daily with Michael Barbaro being a personal favorite — until I hit the desired mileage and the repetitive motion came to a pause. 

Sometimes I threw in outdoor runs, but in the recent weeks, with early morning classes and a deterioration in outdoor air quality, I’ve spiced up my connection with the treadmill, transforming it into a creative, clearing and confidence-boosting space to continue learning, knowing and testing the strength and power of my body.

Here, I offer treadmill-owning readers ways to challenge, experiment, delight and transcend the monotony of the machine in a few of my favorite ways. 

  1. HIIT is a program to improve fitness, physiological functions and cardiovascular disease risk factors. In segmented blocks of harder training mixed with moments to catch your breath, HIIT maximizes peak oxygen consumption, which is linked to body energy expenditure. HIIT maximizes excess post-exercise oxygen consumption — a higher value indicates increased metabolism — even after the end of a workout. 
  2. This treadmill workout is straight from Orangetheory and honestly made me lose track of time and myself. It throws in a few breaks, and the intervals are strategically placed to help you accumulate endurance. I hit speeds I hadn’t before with this workout.
  3. This workout from LiveStrong experiments with slight changes in incline while also varying pace. I also discovered many other variations on the basic treadmill workout through Pinterest.

My journey with spicing up the tread did not stop at these Pinterest HIIT workouts. I recently encountered a recommendation to try the Peloton, which is filled with sessions of instructor-guided workouts that also seize upon the benefits of HIIT while mimicking the camaraderie I found in Orangetheory. 

I downloaded the Peloton app and found, to my delight, that users can customize their runs based on length, class type, instructor, music and difficulty. The next morning I tried a class with Robin Arzón and fell in love with the style, contagious power and entertaining nature of her guidance. While vibing to J Balvin, we ran through a HIIT set filled with hills, incrementing between flat, 2 and 4 inclines while changing speed. I had loads of fun doing this and felt like Superwoman. Peloton running transformed my perception of tread from neutral and slightly positive to something I actively look forward to.

For readers without a treadmill, Peloton offers outdoor workouts, cycling, yoga, weightlifting and other avenues to explore and grow your physical and mental strength.

Shreya Kriti Kamra PO ’23 is TSL’s health columnist. Having adopted a newly sedentary lifestyle in quarantine, she traverses her home with a book bag.

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