Tales from the Treadmill.

The treadmill and me; well, we tight. Through dark mornings, late nights, snow outside or any other reason, I have little to complain about the treadmill. I mean, I even wrote a post defending it as a viable aid in the quest for running, and even more specifically, marathon training.


While I do have some allies in this adoration for what some think of as the human equivalent to a hamster wheel (see Colleen’s post here, Tina’s here and heck, about 95 percent of blog content from the amazing Emz) it definitely has its share of haters – but apparently, not in my condo complex!

See, we only have one treadmill at our community “fitness center.” I use quotations because it really is pretty small – one treadmill, one elliptical, two stationary bikes and a few weight machines. As one would guess, it is unstaffed, but has what I call unofficial hours of 5:30 AM to 10:30 PM (which are posted, and we signed an agreement for our key card that states we understand the operating hours). I have been politely asked to leave around 10:33 PM before, but I often arrive around 5:15 AM and have never encountered any opposition to that.


So, I ran 4 miles of intervals last night, and planned 6-7 easy for this morning. Woke up at 5 AM, and was down at the gym by 5:15, ready to run! I set the speed to 6.5 and the incline to 2, popped in my headphones and my Pandora station and took off!

Around 5:30ish, a man walked in. He was wearing technical clothing (shorts, tank) and was wearing Brooks PureFlow (we were kinda matchy). However, he also was carrying a Blender Bottle and gloves (like for weight lifting) and immediately walked toward the weight machines.

Since I’d only been going 15 minutes at that point, I assessed my options. There are no (written) rules about time limits on machines, but I for sure knew that I didn’t want to cut off my run before hitting six. But…what was the “right” thing to do?

I tried to think back at other gyms that I’ve seen with time limits for cardio equipment. 30 minutes, maybe? Okay, well then I could speed up my time a bit and hit 4 miles, then do 2 or 3 later. No…I have class tonight, I don’t really want to do a double…but…wait…he walked in at 5:30, so technically, he had no idea how long I had been on the treadmill at that point, I could have just stepped on it when he walked in, which would buy me until 6 AM.

Meanwhile, he lifted weights. I tried to zone out a little, and had a string of thoughts:

  • “This guy is ripped…and well, a guy…so if he really wanted to run, he could run outside.” (one of the reasons I run on the TM early AM is that I don’t really feel that safe running alone in the neighborhood)
  • “He hasn’t shown any interest in using the treadmill.” (I know that if I get there and someone else is on it, I [not so subtly, sometimes] look over and try to gauge the situation)
  • “Hey, didn’t I just read some PureFlow reviews yesterday about people who wear them for gym workouts, not running? Maybe this guy wrote one of those.”
  • “Hmm, I think he might run though…those shorts look like running shorts.”

Eventually, I had ticked off about 5 miles and was on track to hit 6 at that rate by a few minutes after 6 AM. Man in question had transitioned from the weight area to a mat across the room and was doing pushups, planks and other core exercises. He never looked over (like I know I do when I want to use the TM) but I still gave him the benefit of the doubt. I pushed out any doubts at that point, ending the run strong, and opting to cut out my usual walking cool-down…just in case.

The ticker hit 6.00 and I hit stop. I hopped off, grabbed the cleaning wipes and walked over to the water fountain.

About three full minutes later, the Man looked up, then started walking over. I commented on his shoes, and he said, “yes, aren’t they nice, so light!” with a slight African accent…okay, pretty sure this guy’s gonna run now.

He set his stuff down by the treadmill, then started up, as I waved and said, “have a good day.” He smiled and said, “you too!”

So, yes, he was gonna run.

I was glad that did the 6 (instead of 7) but also wondered if I would have done anything different in the situation…and with 7-9 on my schedule for tomorrow, should I have a plan of action in place for a similar occurrence? Are there unwritten laws of treadmill etiquette, and if so, is it my duty to obey them?

What would you do?


  1. I would have had the same exact train of thoughts, and wouldn’t have been able to help them. I may have paused the treadmill, gone over and asked him if he was planning on running and letting him know I would be on it for this many more minutes/miles (as a courtesy to him and/or my thoughts), so I could enjoy the workout instead of only thinking about whether or not I should be getting off the treadmill!
    The good thing is now you have spoken to him and know he does run and will want to in the future!

    I like this post, I think many people have experienced this before in tiny gyms either at apartment complexes or vacation gyms etc. Thanks for writing about it!I look forward to reading people’s responses.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Ashley! I agree, I am glad that I know now that he would be interested in running on the TM so I could establish a dialogue with him the next time I see him in the gym.

  2. I would have done the same thing, maybe asked if he was waiting and let him know how much longer you have? And since the place is so small, no need to stop the treadmill and walk over 🙂 I know at my old gym the time limit when people are waiting is 30 mins but a few times if I’ve only had one more mile and I ask them if it’s ok, they’ll let me continue for a few more mins.

  3. I would have thought the same things as you, but he seemed kind enough to let you finish your workout! In the future, I would say (especially to this guy) oh, I am running X miles because I don’t feel comfortable running outside, is that okay? Or do you need to share the treadmill. I think this is only really necessary for longer mileages. 🙂

    • Thanks, Kelly! Yeah, I was definitely lucky that this guy was nice. I know once there was this kid (a high schooler, I am guessing) that was doing this reallllly strange TM workout. He was wearing a weighted vest and doing these sprints that made him pant INCREDIBLY loudly. I had no idea how long he was there / how long he was going to take, so I walked over and asked him, politely.

      Imagine my surprise when he just stared at me! I have no idea if there was a language barrier or anything, but he just stared. I tried to ask again, “I was wondering how long you might use the TM?” and then he started laughing! It was incredibly bizarre!

      So, I grabbed my stuff and went to use the elliptical. Not 5 minutes passed, and he BOLTED OUT of the room!! Like, unplugged the machine and everything, leaving it all nasty and sweaty, too! I was so repulsed, I just called my workout a bust for the day!


    We have 3 treadmills in our “fitness center”, and have a 30 minute time-limit when people are waiting. I probably would have asked the guy, the way someone mentioned before, that you were uncomfortable running outside, and does he mind if you finish up x miles before turning it over to him. I’ve done that a few times, to varying results – one woman got MAD, so I hopped off, just to watch her leisurely walk while watching tv. Another dude told me it was no problem. YMMV.

  5. I think you handled it well. I agree, next time maybe mention how many miles you have planned if you see him come in. You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable that you’re using the equipment your complex provides, but niceness always makes thing better IMO. 🙂

  6. I tend to wait and see if someone asks me about it. If not, then I keep going. If someone said, hey are you going to be done shortly (or any variation of that question) then I might have shortened my run a little. This was something I encountered on a vacation, and that was the stance that I took! 🙂 Good luck!

  7. I agree with Shannon, letting him know how many miles you have left when you see him come in; what if he’s there and running by the time you get there – wouldn’t it be nice to know right away how much longer he’ll be. If he’s the only other person who comes in early to workout and use the treadmill then developing a good relationship right away is what’s going to be best for you guys.

    • I guess I was worried about looking like a dork if he had absolutely no interest in using the TM! haha. Thanks for your advice!!

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