I'm not sure what made me think of this story today, but I was musing about exercise, and about how my cabin fever has reached such a ridiculous intensity that I am more than willing to ignore the arctic cold and walk outside. I suppose this led me to the fact that I haven't been to the gym lately. So there you go, in this way I was confronted with my somewhat storied relationship with treadmills.
When I lived in New Jersey I belonged to a gym I really liked. Mostly because it wasn't a neon-mirrored singles-bar with juice, freeweights, and fake tans; there were people there of all ages, shapes and sizes and everyone was cool with that. Not that everyone was cool. I shared my time there with a man who apparently lived by the less well-known credo 'exercise like no one is horrified', He wore these skin tight, gray cottony shorts that are apparently meant to be worn UNDER another pair of shorts to minimize junk jiggle, not worn by themselves so we could all watch his barely restrained mantools dance in the mirror. We're talking ballet-inappropriate frontage.
Captain Grapesmuggler might have been ignorable if he didn't have one other problem. He sweated profusely the entire time he ran. This may not have bothered the rest of us if the treadmills weren't so close together. Or so close to the mirror. Or if he didn't run a HARD EIGHT MILES every time he came in. At least he was polite enough to swab his bodily spin art off the mirror and the 'mill when he was done. Still, no one wanted to be next to him and absorb the flingback.
One day I walked out of the locker room to be confronted with a worst case scenario. There were six treadmills. Four people occupied the ones from the right hand side, there was an empty buffer treadmill, and Captain G was swinging, sweating, and flailing away at the other end. I got four sympatheic glances in the mirror as I took my place in the splatter zone.
Because a back room was being renovated, the 'mills, as well as a row of exercise bikes and rowing machines, were located on the periphery of a room that had an aerobics class in the middle. It was a bit of a tight squeeze but it was temporary so no one really minded. I got my music on, ramped up my speed, and hung a (mostly ineffective) towel on the left side of the treadmill, all in an attempt to block out what was happening on that side and focus on my own workout. I was successful for a while. About thirty minutes along the familar BAM BAM BAM of the Captain sprinting full-out began to overwhelm both the aerobics instructor behind me and the Metallica in my headphones. Unconsciously I moved over just a bit to my right. What happened next happened very fast.
Apparently, my foot came down 80% on the actual treadmill belt and 20% on the grippy footrest on the side. 20% of grippy footrest is apparently just enough to bring your foot to a complete and sudden stop, which is, apparently, enough to make you fall down. In the split second before I fell I calmly reasoned that the belt would not move if I was sitting on it, and even if it did, it would do so gently. This was incorrect. You see, a treadmill set at 4 miles per hour moves at 4 miles per hour whether you are on your feet or collapsed in a heap. I was not gently moved to the end of the belt like a bag of apples at the grocery store. I was violently ejected into the back row of the aerobics class, where I took a lady out like I was shooting bottles at a carnival.
I hear stories about people being in a fugue state, where they literally disconnect from life as they know it and function in a separate reality. I think I know what that is like. I had nasty rugburn, I had the wind knocked out of me, but a voice from my past spoke up, my twelve-year-old gym class self. She said, "If you go in the locker room now, they'll laugh at you." I agreed. I got up, helped the aerobics lady restack her step (I'd have a pretty bruise from landing on that, a few days later), and I GOT BACK ON THE TREADMILL. And I went another half hour. I don't know if I earned the respect of my fellow exercisers, but I can tell you that the Captain was undeterred, through it all he pounded on his noisy, sweaty, vaguely obscene road to imaginary victory.