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The End of Treadmill Time


Fri, Apr 13th, 2001
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Monday, April 9, 2001

It must be spring, or at least the calendar tells us it must be. The first cardinal of the season finally found our bird feeder, just in time to begin discovering his naturally provided foods as they are exposed from under the snow cover. Something tells me he wont be back. Bluejays that have bullied their way around the feeder all winter are suddenly too good for it and have quit bothering our precious sparrows. Just the other morning, there must have been a hundred red wing blackbirds under the deck eating the spilled millet that the more fussy birds kicked out of the feeder during this long cold winter.

Kacie, the Domineering Dalmatian, knows it is spring, too. This morning she was uncommonly whiny for a Sunday with the family at home. I think she knew that if she sounded pathetic enough I would get the idea that she wanted to go for an extended walk. She was right. I thought that it was her turn for some attention. She isnt a cold weather dog so, except for a couple of short romps in the snow, she has not been for a good walk for five months. That is a long wait for anybody and it is an eternity for an energetic Dalmatian. It was time to take her out and see how she managed the long down time.

I admit to being a bit anxious to hit the road to see how I managed the down time, too. I spent far too much of the winter hunched over a computer keyboard and sitting in a car than is good for me. Not that I havent tried to do better. Over the years, my wife and I have tried several different tools to help motivate us to exercise during the winter months. We started off with an exercise bike. This was a relatively inexpensive mistake in fitness paraphernalia. The idea seems simple enough. All we had to do was sit there and watch television or read a book while our legs whirred along on autopilot melting away excess pounds and stress. A problem soon became evident. After a week of exer-cycling, our backsides were so bruised we couldnt stand to look at the thing, much less sit on it. The saddle on the exercise bike must have been designed for a race of super-narrow or super-padded humans. After a few more tries over the course of several months, the exercise bike was done racking up miles and became a full-time clothes rack.

Our next try at a tool to take the drudgery out of winter fitness was a ski machine. This was a bit more challenging and interesting to operate than the bike. It took some technique to operate because you have to move your arms and legs in a skiing rhythm to make the machine work as designed. I suppose that in a way it was as fun as trying to sweat intentionally can be. But, its main drawback was its biggest strength. It was too effective at making us work. At one point, after recovering from straining my back at snow shoveling, I came back to the ski machine and strained my back doing that. After the novelty of the ski machine wore off, it was retired to service as, of course, a clothes rack. Its main advantage over the exercise bike was that, with its many appendages, it held more clothes and had a flat place on it for storing boxes.

The ski machine has given way to a computerized treadmill. We got this machine last fall and used it fairly diligently all winter. It has many features that tend to make it more foolproof than the other exercise devices. The treadmill is programmed to deal out just a little more abuse than one would normally choose for oneself. If we want to feel totally in control, we can set it to proceed at our own slothful pace. It flashes red lights at us constantly and beeps politely when it is getting ready to change speeds. It has a computerized readout to tell us how far we have gone and how fast. Most importantly, it has a timer that keeps a second-by-second accounting of how much time is left until we can quit and go do something fun. In a way, it was counting down the seconds until we could leave it in peace and get outside again.

My walk with Kacie proved that the treadmill has been good for me during the winter. I came back from a two-mile walk feeling like I could have gone farther. I did notice that two miles on the treadmill is easier than two miles on the road. There is no wind resistance in our basement and, although our township road is spongy from the frost, it is still harder underfoot than the treadmill. I can feel the shin splints setting in already. On the positive side, Kacie and I both thought that the scenery was a lot more interesting outdoors. I enjoyed watching the birds and she enjoyed straining at the end of her leash trying to catch them. We are looking forward to a lot more "blue-sky" time over the next seven months until it is treadmill time again.

By Wayne Pike

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