I have lived all over the country, but nowhere has running and jogging been so popular as here in “Track Town USA.” Even before the physical limitations I now have, my favorite way to express my feeling about running was to say “The only way you will see me run is if I am being chased by someone with a gun.” Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who jog or run It’s just not for me. In previous columns I have explained my back surgery, neuropathy in my legs and the implanted neurostimulator that relieves the numbness pain in my legs.
I also have proprioception which means that my brain doesn’t know exactly where my feet are at any given time. The doctors have told me that I shouldn’t run or jog and that I shouldn’t walk on uneven surfaces like the Amazon jogging path or even uneven sidewalks. (I can still mow my lawn, but I have to watch every step that I take. If I walk where it isn’t flat and even I can easily lose my balance and fall flat on my face. I was clumsy enough all of my life anyway, but this makes it even easier for me to fall down. I can’t ride a bicycle outside for similar reasons and only a recumbent bicycle would keep my back properly supported. To me that also rules out a stationary bicycle for exercise. Even an elliptical machine would require the sense of balance to stand and keep my feet on it. I wouldn’t be able to do that safely.
Well, what does that leave for me to do to get the leg exercise that I need? The answer is simple, a treadmill solves the problem. I purchased one years ago because there were too many times when work would interfere with my getting to the gym to walk on one of their treadmills. Having one at home meant I could walk whenever I had the free time without having to take the time to drive to and from the gym. I now walk on my treadmill twice a day for 30 minutes or more each time, besides doing other exercises. While walking one day this past week a thought came to me. Where did treadmills come from and who came up with the idea to use them for exercise? That’s what I will answer for you now.
According to TreadmillReviews.com “the term treadmill was once used interchangeably with treadwheel. You might have heard of a treadwheel before.” “..these were used as power sources.” The way it worked was like walking up stairs which made the wheel spin producing energy, lifting water and many other ingenious tasks. Some treadmills were made like what we call a hamster wheel” where someone walked inside the wheel to make it turn.
Other treadmill type machines used a horizontal bar that was pushed by people or pulled by animals to grind wheat and perform different tasks.
The ancient Romans used their heads and developed a treadwheel crane that was used to construct buildings. Something akin to today’s treadmills was also developed. It was a sloped platform with people walking on it.
According to Mental_floss.com “In 1818 an English civil engineer named Sir William Cubitt devised a machine called the “tread-wheel” to reform stubborn and idle convicts. Prisoners would step on the 24 spokes of a large paddle wheel, climbing it like a modern StairMaster. As the spokes turned, the gears were used to pump water or crush grain (Hence the eventual name treadmill. In grueling eight-hour shifts, prisoners would climb the equivalent of 7,200 feet.”
New York prison guard James Hardie, back in 1824, credited the treadmill with taming New York’s worst inmates. Hardie said “It was the treadmill’s monotonous steadiness, and not its severity, which constitutes its terror.”
William Staub is considered to be the inventor of the modern treadmill to be used for exercise. Staub was influenced by a health guru named Kenneth Cooper who coined the term aerobics and espoused the theory that running a mile in eight minutes four or five times a week would result in “good fitness.”
Now there are many companies making a variety of technically advanced treadmills that have computer chips in them and can be programmed for all sorts of runs or jogs that can change elevation, tension and the speed of the treadmill. I’ll stick with just walking with mine. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
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