How Fast is Your Treadmill?

I work out at the YMCA about four to five days a week.  On one level, I work out because of health reasons.  On another level, I work out because it helps me deal with stress.


One day, I went into the room where the various cardio equipment was in use.  Some people were on the stationary bikes.  Others were using the Elliptical machines.  Still others were walking or running on treadmills.  I noticed one particular woman who was on a treadmill.  She appeared to be in her late 50’s and stood out from among all the others who were also on treadmills. She was walking on the treadmill with a backpack on her back.  The backpack was large with an internal frame.  It looked heavy!  She also stood out because she had the treadmill completely elevated in the front.  In other words, she had a full backpack on, walking uphill on this treadmill.


I saw this same woman at the YMCA for a number of days.  I assumed she was getting ready to climb a mountain.  All I know, she appeared to be carrying quite a load and was going uphill during most of her workout.


If there is an image that describes many of us, it would be that of a tired man or woman on a treadmill.  The treadmill that began rather slowly is now moving faster and faster.  The speed and the never ending daily grind has now become overwhelming.   The treadmill seems to go faster and faster as we race from one appointment to the next.  We go from one child’s piano lesson to the other child’s basketball practice.  On and on it goes.  Life becomes a blur punctuated by birth and death with a flurry of exhausting activity in between.  Cell phones ring.  E-mail piles up. 


Meanwhile, we wonder what happened to life.  If you are like many, you wonder how much longer you can hold on.

Meanwhile, the days, weeks, and months seem to pass so quickly.  Yet, there are those moments when you may step off the treadmill long enough to think, feel, or pray.  You think about some of the weight you are carrying in your "backpack." 

  • You think about the relationship with your daughter or son that isn’t happening. 
  • You contemplate the business failure that gnaws away at your sense of self-worth. 
  • You feel overwhelmed at the commitments you have made and wonder how you will ever get them all done. 


“Does anyone else feel like me?” you wonder.  After all, many people appear to have a smooth and easy life.  At least they appear to, anyway.  Getting off the treadmill (or at least slowing it down) is not simply a matter of scheduling or shifting priorities.  There are much greater issues at stake.  Getting off the treadmill has a lot more to do with who you are at the core of your being.

I  don’t think there are any quick-fixes to this one.  For me, dealing with this began with asking some hard questions.  You may or may not find some of these helpful

  • Why is it that Jesus seemed calm and not "stressed-out"?  Am I busier than he was?  What am I doing differently? 
  • Am I getting something out of being so busy?  Does it keep me from dealing with a part of my life that I would just as soon avoid dealing with?  Does my busyness make me feel as if I am accomplishing things that matter?  (Maybe I am–right now I am just raising the question)
  • How would I prefer to live?  Would this lifestyle keep me more focused on carrying out God’s mission?
  • Do I sometimes enjoy the adrenaline rush of "being on the run"? 
  • What if I were to place into my day a few moments of planned prayer and silence?  What if these moments were just 3-5 minutes?  Would this make a difference?


I would not for a moment suggest that in any way I understand your lifestyle or the pressure you are under.  I do think the questions above might be worth considering.  They might be a start in dealing with the treadmill.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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12 thoughts on “How Fast is Your Treadmill?

  1. Am I getting something out of being so busy? Does it keep me from dealing with a part of my life that I would just as soon avoid dealing with?
    Yes. And yes.

  2. At 53, I’m realizing (and I knew this intellectually all along) there are some “back packs” worth carrying and some best left on the ground.

  3. These are great questions. As a mom of nine children, I used to think life was busy with babies, toddlers and children. As they have gotten older and more involved with outside activities, our lives have become more complicated and busy. I long for simplicity. These are questions that I will be pondering as we travel through a season of restructuring.

  4. Jim,
    What I want to know is that woman had walking sticks, because if she did, she was a German getting ready for the Cinque Terra!

    Another good one, Jim.

    Have you read all of Lauren Winner yet? I’m keen to hear what you have to say. Kris thought highly of it (the book).

  5. Cynthia,
    I think many parents can relate to what you are saying about life becomeing complicated with outside activities. With 9 children, I can only imagine how complicate that must be at times.

  6. Scot,
    I didn’t see a walking stick but she probably should have had one!

    I have not read Lauren Winner yet. In fact, I read the first ten pages a number of weeks ago and was very impressed. I decided to hold the book until I could read it a little more slowly. I look forward to finishing it soon.


  7. Jim,

    We all have to find a way off the treadmill. Our means of escape may ask a great deal of us, though. We should be asking these kinds of escape questions in our churches. Better to go as a group than as individuals.

  8. Jim:

    Excessive stress seems to be an ever-present danger for far too many of us. Here’s some data that I use in one the training modules I put together for Delaware’s Medical Reserve Corps:

    Cumulative Effects of Daily Stress in the Workplace:
    • 46% of employees report high levels of work-related stress
    • 70% have experienced stress related illness
    • 25% report having multiple stress related illnesses
    (Source: The Wall Street Journal)

    In Japan, KAROSHI is a term meaning “sudden, premature death from work.” In recent studies the Japanese government found that:
    • 43% of salaried employees in Tokyo feared their jobs would lead to karoshi.
    • 40% felt constant fatigue, with greater than one-in-five often wanting to call in sick.
    • More than 85% just wanted more sleep.

    That last one has me pegged!

    Fabulous post! Thanks!!

  9. Jim,
    This is a penetrating comment, “Getting off the treadmill has a lot more to do with who you are at the core of your being.” It’s not so much about schedule as identity. Thanks for this good post.

  10. John,
    Thanks–As I think about this identity issue, I continue to ponder some of the posts you wrote in recent months about Jesus and his style of ministry.