How NOT to use a treadmill

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In September 2007, I had the opportunity to take part in a Health and Fitness Challenge sponsored by my employer. The rules were simple: Join a local gym for three months at a bargain basement price and at the conclusion whoever made the greatest improvements would be reimbursed the entry fee. I was game. I was approaching my mid-30s and disliked that medication was necessary to control my high cholesterol.

From the get go, my goal was to run a 5K. I was never athletic and coordination is not one of my strengths but how difficult is it to place one foot in front of the other? I started slowly-very slowly. Thank God I was never an aspiring Olympian in my youth because I would have been repulsed by my complete lack of strength and endurance. However, in time I started to improve my speed and distance with each run. I successfully completed my first 5K on April 20, 2008 finishing smack dab in the middle of the pack and I was certain I would be bringing up the rear.

It’s true what every seasoned runner says that the adrenaline rush will make you WANT to run. I couldn’t wait to run my next race; I was surfing the web everyday for races that were within decent driving distance just so I could get that next race under my belt. I had been doing most of my runs outside during the summer months but on those nights that I either could not get childcare or it was just too hot and humid, I would trudge off to the gym and the treadmill.

Ah, the treadmill. Runners loathe, love or simply put up with this ingenius fusion of the most basic human functions and machinery. I just decided I would rather log my miles in the confines of air conditioned comfort rather than melt like a popsicle. A half mile into my run, I was getting into my grooove but I have to have the fan “just right:” I make the move I have so many times before by leaving the belt running and hop off to adjust the fan behind me. As I return to the treadmill to chase dreams of the track scholarship I was never awarded, I place my right foot on the belt and the rest is stars and birds chirping. My foot gave way underneath me and I went flying into the machine behind me. Prior to making my acrobatic leave of the treadmill, I did a major faceplant and knew what had happened. I had broken my nose and the blood running down my face was proof. Running can cause injury; a foot fracture, torn ligaments, snapped Achille’s tendon but a broken nose?

It’s a shame there weren’t cameras to capture this moment because it had to have been terrific fodder for “America’s Funniest Home Videos”. The staff ran across the room with a look of shear panic on their faces. I’m sure they were calculating the cost of a lawsuit and trying how to best explain to the gym owner just what happened that night. Going to court was the furthest thing from my mind. “Your honor, I believe I am entitled to $1 million for my pain and suffering because I completely lack any common sense whatsoever”. Having long accepted the fact that I will never be a dancer due to being just a smidge clumsy, this injury really came as no surprise.

What was the lesson in all of this? Just because the woman on the treadmill in front of me can jump off and back on her machine with the grace of gazelle does not mean that this is a safe or sensible maneuver. Please heed the warnings posted in the gym and be grateful there wasn’t a camera and a YouTube enthusiast present.


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