Running in China…On a Treadmill

How I wish with all my heart that every run here looked like the one above.

Sadly, they don’t.

When we lived in D.C. I ran at least 5 days a week, creeping out from under the warm and snuggly arm of my handsome sleepy man to wrestle into sport bras and spandax and creep outside into the sunrise.

Even during those awful weeks of 15 hour days at work, when I couldn’t remember when my last real meal was or how I was possibly supposed to get through the next phase of the project, I still made it outside every morning for my date with the pavement.

Sometimes I only had time for 25 minutes, sometimes it was even less, but that time was beautiful. I’d take a jog through the National Zoo or run down Mt. Pleasant St, enjoying the solitude and the funny little things I could bring home to tell Chris about on our way to work.

Like the time a baby deer jumped out in front of me at the zoo.  Or the time I saw the most luscious snow falling by the predawn light of the streetlight.

Nowadays, the sites I see are more likely to be commercials on the Armed Forces Network and the inclines I find myself running up are the result of buttons I’ve pushed rather than routes I’ve chosen.

I hate treadmills.  I generally dislike being indoors when I have the opportunity to be outside.

But this is a place where clouds are rarely the puffy harmless creatures that they were in D.C.  There are days when I think I would do just about anything to see a truly clear sky and breathe clean air.

But for now, that’s not an option and I’d like to think that by running on a treadmill at the Consulate, I’m preserving my lungs for better days and better runs.

The ability to force one’s self to run on a treadmill everyday, like a caged gerbil with a toy wheel, is actually a skill I think.  A test of will.

It’s a skill I don’t think I’ll ever quite master, but now I have a secret weapon and that is actually the reason for this post:


I download new and old episodes of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and “This American Life” and “Culturetopia” and others, then while away the minutes on the treadmill catching up on American news and culture.

Sometimes it’s a shockingly efficient way of gathering interesting tidbits and news to share over dinner.

Other times those shows make me laugh so hard I have to grip the handrails to stay upright.  I’d like to consider those moments a new kind of cardio burst routine.

I don’t think you can beat the endorphine combination of running and laughing at the same time.

And that will be what keeps me running through these next 2 years I think.  It’s a strategy that I’m going to be recommending to everyone I know.

Because sometimes exercising simply isn’t about the exercise, it’s about the indulgences you allow yourself for doing it.

And until I can indulge in a long run under clean, clear skies again, I’ll be bribing myself however I can to keep getting on that darn treadmill.

How do you keep yourself motivated to keep going to the gym when you can’t get outside?  What is your exercise related indulgence? (gossip magazines, a certain TV channel?)  Any suggestions for new podcasts I should try?  “Wait Wait Don’tTell Me” only airs once a week…


6 thoughts on “Running in China…On a Treadmill

  1. Running on a treadmill is the worst…on the flip side, this post made me pretty excited to start running in DC when I move there next week!

    check out “The Moth” podcast 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for the podcast tip and Oh Sarah, you are going to LOVE running in DC. It never gets too cold to run, there are SO many beautiful options. Running on the mall at sunrise is like no other run you can possibly have. Put on some of Cat Steven’s “Peace Train” and watch the sun come up as you jog around. There is nothing like it. Rock Creek Park is also wonderful as are the canals in Georgetown. We used to love running the canals, then heading up the street for a brunch at Clydes or Pain Quotidian. You will love DC. Where are you living?

  3. I know exactly what you mean when you say you miss running under clear skys.

    I made the mistake of trying to head out on a few runs in Xi’an and ended up coughing my guts up! Beijing wasn’t too bad but I still manly opted for running on treadmills.


  4. Thanks for the awesome suggestions of places to run. I haven’t been able to run much this summer, as I have been traveling in Central America, so I am really looking forward to getting back into a routine as I train for the NYC Marathon later this fall.

    I’m not sure yet where I will be living. I am moving there in about a week, but will be staying with a friend’s family while I look for an apt. I will probably be searching mostly in DC and Arlington, something that is convenient to GWU.

    Also, thought of another podcast for you that covers a variety of topics: RadioLab (

  5. what a great post..I will be showing this to my husband who will hopefully be quitting his job to follow me around the world and loves talk radio. I know he will love running/walking in DC, too.

  6. Thanks Bfiles! Hope you get into the October A-100 class!! D.C. is definitely a great running town, I miss it tremendously, but uckily, China has enough perks to make up for the running thing…most of the time 🙂

    Sarah, you are a podcast genius, thank you! You are totally making my runs better already. Definitely live in D.C. if you can, though Arlington isn’t bad either-Chris and I used to spend a fair amount of time there. As long as you are close to a metro station, both are good.

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