What To Watch While Treadmilling

Thank God there are TVs attached to treadmills. Because this winter, I watched a lot of TV.  Hours.

What separates animals from humans? Humans put TVs on their treadmills.

What separates animals from humans? Humans put TVs on their treadmills.

Now I’m an expert on what you should and should not watch when treadmilling.

 Me? I’m a fan of public television. There’s virtually no downside to clicking over to PBS because you can care for your body and your mind. That’s how I learned about Margaret Garner, the enslaved African-American woman who killed her daughter to keep her from enduring a life of slavery. (She served as Toni Morrison’s inspiration for her Nobel Prize winning novel Beloved.) I ran an extra mile that day because I was so riveted by Henry Louis Gates’ narration of the series African American Lives. Learning and running—how can you turn your back on that? Are you a monster? 

I’ll admit the subject matter was a little heavy and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Fair enough. That doesn’t mean PBS won’t work for you. My fastest run of the entire winter was the morning I watched Rick Bayless’ Mexico– One Plate at A Time. I don’t know what got into me: was it the garlic he dry roasted in a pan? Was it his ropy arms and that boyish enthusiasm for mole? I don’t know, but I was blazing that day and learned how to make guajillo chile sauce to boot.

 Still, not everyone wants to better her mind or lust after a Top Chef Master with zero body fat. That’s okay. I did some vetting for you too. I got some good mileage out of Say Yes To The Dress, though I prefer the New York version to the Atlanta one. In Atlanta, I found the southernness of it all a little oppressive—it was too polite and too eye-rolly. Too many cheerleading squads. Give me a little sassy borough thing any day.  Speaking of reality shows, I loved the one about Britney Spears getting ready for the opening of her show in Vegas. I did a good four-miler when I watched Little People- Big World and saw when Jen Arnold and her husband adopted their daughter from India, but never watched it again when I heard she had cancer. I don’t want to get attached. I’m fragile.


In all those weeks, I’ve never once flipped through without finding Shahs of Sunset or some version of the Real Housewives, so if you’re into that, you’re lucky. Someday someone will have to explain the allure of that to me.


Reruns are plentiful as well. I logged a few miles to old Friends episodes, which stand the test of time for me (though the test is open book and graded on a curve), but Seinfeld isn’t holding up for me. It’s too quirky, precious and Jerry’s hair is so fucking distracting I almost fell on the machine. Not. Good.


I watched a few Sex and The City episodes, which alternatively bored me and grossed me out. How many times per episode did Samantha have to remind the girls that she really, really loved sex? Tiresome.


On Saturday afternoons I stumbled across an old movie that kept my attention. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off and Working Girl both made me forget about my shin splints. One particularly hard-to-motivate day, I found Juno and watched the last hour. That final scene with Paulie holding Juno in the hospital? Me = bawling and running.   So healing.


Remember four paragraphs above where I was professing my love for PBS and the documentary series there? Confession: During the pledge drive they kept showing some doctor hawking his 10–day detox. It was so boring I turned it to the static station and watch salt and pepper dance on my screen. Also? I watched a lot, I mean a whole lot, of TMZ. Don’t judge—it’s on when I run after picking up the kids. Um, so is Extra, that show where Joan Rivers makes fun of people, and The Talk.

Just keeping it real.


The only thing (besides Detox Diet Doctor) that I had trouble running to were the news channels. The talking heads and the crawl and the beating me over the with the breaking “news” was too much for me.  One entire run I watched the Governor Christie bridge situation unfold, but there was nothing new to say in 60 minutes.  They say news is now entertainment; I beg to differ.


So what do you recommend for treadmill entertainment? What should I avoid?


13 thoughts on “What To Watch While Treadmilling

  1. Right on with PBS! Pledge drives are so frustrating though. I know PBS and NPR and all those good things need the money, but I don’t feel like watching/listening to it, gosh darn it!

    I used to ellipticize to Bizarre Foods, which I liked because it was about food but also frequently unappetizing, so I wasn’t dying to get off the machine and get a snack. These days I like to stationary bike to podcasts like Democracy Now’s daily news or Freakonomics, and I just cover up the time display. I can’t stand commercials, and I never know what’s on TV anymore anyway.

    I agree that the NYC Say Yes to the Dress wins on the sass front, but I have to say I enjoy Monty’s reactions to some of the families on the Atlanta one!

  2. I love tread mill running to stuff on netflix. I can only watch the next episode of house of cards / orange is the new black / some random show I’m in love with *if* I’m exercising. I agree with you about shahs of sunset and the real housewives (who are neither real, nor housewives) I just… can’t.

  3. i don’t watch anything treadmilling because i don’t treadmill. and if i happen on an elliptial or something like it, i read on my kindle. i look at machines at the gym now as time to catch up on reading. 🙂

  4. My go-to if I’m forced onto a treadmill are West Wing re-runs. Since you can’t usually find that little bit of glorious on the gym TVs I’ve been known to hook up my iPad (and my mom’s Netflix account) and log my miles while Josh, CJ, Toby and the gang are walking and talking and solving all of the world’s problems, one oval office meeting at a time.

  5. I didn’t treadmill once this winter! I can’t say I logged the most miles ever, but every last one was outside & I deemed it enough to buy some new spring shoes. I only fell on the ice once (after run, coffee in hand). I’m happy to be back down to one layer of (warm) pants, but still kind of pissy that I had to start in gloves last weekend. I’m not that good at watching anything and running. I get kind of motion-sickish, but I am very good at laundry + TV which is how I catch up on all my shows guilt-free.

  6. You must be very fit by now! 🙂 I haven’t tried it, but I think ‘Game of Thrones’ would be good. I think that show could keep me exercising for hours!

  7. Is this a treadmill at home, or a treadmill at the gym? I can’t remember what you specified– a treadmill at home would offer more options, naturally…

  8. Friends will never get old for me. I’ve seen every episode multiple times and sometimes I still find myself laughing out loud. The episode where Joey is trying to teach Ross how to talk dirty and Chandler walks in? Still probably one of my favorite comedic moments on TV. It gets me every time. And yeah, I can’t do the news.

  9. I also agree on Friends holding up while Seinfeld is no longer funny. I also agree on New York vs Atlanta on say yes to the dress. I think the show you are referring to is actually The Little Couple. I recently started watching Arrested Development. You are inspiring me to get back to exercising. I have been slacking over the winter, and spring will eventually come to Ohio. A girl can dream.

  10. The news is definitely not treadmill entertainment, unless being worried revs you up to go that extra mile. Personally, I can only listen to music or watch funny movies!

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