What the treadmill has taught me

  • What The Treadmill Has Taught Me

    By Orrin Hargrave


    I started BFL having never set foot on a treadmill. I had lifted weights in the past and been involved in sports and martial arts but “I’m not a runner” I always told myself – a lie I all too readily believed. It is amazing the excuses one can come up with to avoid cardio. However, when I decided to take the BFL challenge I wanted to face and overcome many obstacles, obstacles I put in my own way then pretended I couldn’t do anything about them. One of those things being the treadmill.


    Don’t worry I am not going to write about those first awkward, klutzy, moments or the fear of being flung backwards into a row of ellipticals. Nor am I going to discuss the increase in cardio and endurance or the benefits of training in a fasted state and fat burning. Though all those physical things happened, and continue to happen, the greatest changes took place in the mind.


    The first thing the treadmill taught me was exactly what a true 10 is.


    In my opinion, when people say (and I include myself) ‘I hit all my 10s’ they more often then not, have not. Now don’t get all ruffled. I am not being disparaging or minimizing the effort we all put forth in the gym. The discrepancy between what we think is a 10 and a true 10 happens because there is a gap between what we perceive we can do and what we can actually do. What we think is a 10 is probably more like a 9. Now don’t get me wrong a 9 is good – really good – but just because we are out of breath, or sweating or our legs are burning doesn’t mean we have hit a 10. A 10 is not physical it is 100% mental. A 10 is when you push through all the lies and excuses that flood the thinking with reasons why you should stop - “You’ve run more than enough today.” “you have already set a new personal best.” “stop now and just lower your calorie intake today, it will be fine”. A 10 is when you ignore the screams and cries begging you to stop. A 10 is when you run, not with your legs, but with your mind. I admit it is hard to explain and in order to truly be understood must be experienced. But I truly believe each and every one of us is capable of so much more that we think we can do. It all has to do with our mind.


    Once I was running on the treadmill and thought I was near done. I truly felt I had nothing left. Suddenly my shoe came untied. I continued running, not thinking of how far I still had to go, but instead thought about my shoelace. All of the sudden I was running and ran further that ever. It was in that moment I realized how the mind can seriously impact training either negatively or positively. Personally I am not an advocate for distracting the mind in order to run further. I believe in training the mind to focus and persevere, but this experience taught me a valuable lesson and showed me how the mind, when misused or simply not used, can get in the way and seriously hinder forward progress.


    Having old habits and thoughts regarding weight training I often thought I was lifting to a 10. I wasn’t. The 10s I have experienced on the treadmill have taught me how to hit 10s when I am weight training. Bill Phillips called these moments High Points and that is what they are – points. A brief moment when you shatter all limitations and transcend all you thought possible. This is a true 10.


    The second thing the treadmill has taught me is the importance of focusing on intervals.


    During my first challenge I made, to me, rapid progress on the treadmill. Granted from my starting position there was nowhere to go but forward. By the end of my first challenge I was running 2.5 miles in 20 minutes. For me that is good and I was very proud and happy. Then I read the Body for Life Champions book. I really enjoyed Mark Unger’s story. His goal was to run 3 miles in 20 minutes by the end of his challenge (I think he did it in 18 minutes!) I thought this would be a good goal for me. I started watching how far I ran in 20 minutes. At first I hit 2.64 miles in 20 minutes then over the next two weeks I progressively ran less and less. I didn’t understand what was happening. Then it hit me: I was focusing on the total distance and not the intervals. Up until that point I had been focusing my entire concentration on each minute one minute at a time. When I got away from that and was thinking about the end result I would look at the time and say ‘man I had better hurry up if I want to run 3 miles’. It just didn’t work. My mind was everywhere except the moment, the mind/body connection was not there and my breathing was out of control. I felt hurried and behind. I didn’t have a hope. I needed to get back to focusing on one minute at a time and give each minute my total concentration.


    This realization has not only got me back on track on the treadmill but opened my eyes to how this applies to the BFL challenge as a whole and indeed to the rest of life. Yes I have specific goals for the 12 week time frame but I will only get there one day at a time. Everybody, including myself, wants the kind of results we see in the amazing before and after pictures. It doesn’t happen in one big rush. It happens one day at a time, one moment at a time, one decision at a time. That is why it is so important to train your mind to focus on the moment and give your best, your absolute all, one ‘interval’ at a time. 

  • I like and can feel and relate to focusing on the intervals and not the session as a whole. Breaking things down into manageable chunks we can achieve alot more will less stress and seemingly less effort.


    I am also on my second challenge and in my 4th week

    “"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out..." - Robert J. Collier”


  • Great read Orrin.

    I picked the treadmill for mostly the same reasons. I hated running, I have always hated running since P.E class in school. I have found in the last 2 weeks hitting the treadmill for cardio has been just an amazing feeling for myself. I can do it and feel you really hitting a 10! Min 17 through 19 especially it feels like my mind goes to a whole different place in that last set.

  • Thanks Orrin, I got a lot out of what you had to say.

    10's in exercise and nutrition = 10's in life

  • I wanted to bump this up. I am in week 4 of my second challenge and am having an awesome week. I wanted to share some of the things I have realized. I hope at least some of this can be an inspiration.


  • Well it sure did Orrin. I read this right before my last Cardio of week 2, which i just got home from doing.

    New high in each interval and overall 2.48 total distance! up .6 from my earlier sessions this week.

    The amazing thing is when I started 2 weeks ago before ever setting foot on the dreaded treadmill  I set 2.5miles as my end goal for the 12 weeks. I mean a 245lb almost pack a day smoker can't run 2.5 miles in 20 mins can he?

    Looks like he can.

    Thanks Orrin for the extra oophm to really hit it hard today.

  • Thanks for sharing Orrin. Love your writing style!

    Isaiah 43:18-19

  • BCbill - Way to go!! That is a great overall distance. Congratulations. I hope your gym has air conditioning, it has been so hot lately!

    nojo99 - Thanks for the compliment. I hope you are having a great day!


  • Totally with you on this Orin. Nice to hear someone else share tis too. It IS the mental thing and getting through that awful cr*p in the head that tells us we can't do it, we're too weak, we can't manage, we've done enough...THATS the challenge of this programme.

    I hit a huge wall this week with my u/b workout like i have never ever experienced before in the gym.

    I just detest side raises - so I put them into this weeks exercises becuase thats the only way to get round the fear, right?!

    Did my first sets on 3kg & 4kg, fine. Hard but ok. I went to do my 8 reps on 5kg and a great big block hit me. I wanted to cry and run away. I felt so much fear - exactly like when we went canyoning i just could not jump off the cliff. Utter terror.

    I knew that I had to get over this and not let it beat me. I've done that too often in my life and I wind up feeling like a failure and a let down.

    Instead of beating myself up and yelling at myself inside, I gently took a few deep breaths, looked myself right in the eyes in the mirror and told myself 'Just one rep at a time. You CAN do this hun, you CAN do this, everything's ok.' I did 9 - (8 plus one for luck!!)

    It's like something else takes over (spirit, higher power, whatever, to me it doesn't feel human!) and literally lifts you over these self made barriers. What a buzz! What a blessing xxx

  • Love this part:

    "Instead of beating myself up and yelling at myself inside, I gently took a few deep breaths, looked myself right in the eyes in the mirror and told myself 'Just one rep at a time. You CAN do this hun, you CAN do this"

    You hit it straight on! Breathe deeply, focus and believe. Each of us is capable of so much more.

    Thanks for sharing! It is encouraging to know there are others facing the same challenges and are

    breaking through those barriers!!

    I hope the rest of your day goes just as well!!!


  • The treadmill has taught me more than I could have imagined. Today, while doing my run, I purposed to beat my last distance of 2.09 Miles. I was hitting the 18th minute and getting ready to blast into hyper-drive when my mind told me, 'you're nuts, you cant do that, you'll fly off the treadmill, or puke or pass out. I cranked it up to 9.2 (which is still crazy fast for me) and told myself I could do it. I just stuck to it and fought through the negative thoughts. I beat my distance by a bit. The increase in distance was my personal best to date!

    So, I have learned that the roadblocks of the mind are just that, roadblocks of the mind. This can permeate into other aspects of life. fight past the limitations of your mind and self-imposed roadblocks!

  • B Mick,

    Great job! I am still trying to figure out why the mind constucts obstacles. I used to think it was human nature, that we were just wired that way, but I don' think that anymore. I think it has to do with conditioning; it is a learned behaviour. A learned behaviour we can change. For me, and it sounds like for you as well, the treadmill is teaching me a new way of thinking - a bigger way of thinking. We truly can do so much more than we believe we can.

    Keep up the good work and keep pushing a little further.

    All the best


  • outstanding!!  thank you!