Sunday, September 23, 2018
Human Interest

Treadmill made exercise — and insularity — easier

William Staub, an engineer who brought to American gyms and households the exercise treadmill, subsequently cutting the amount of usable floor space in thousands of guest rooms and garages across the country, died at his home in Clifton, N.J., last week. He was 96, and his son said he was treadmill devotee until the end.

Mr. Staub, the story goes, had read a book called Aerobics in 1968 that promoted the health benefits of daily exercise. The book mentioned a treadmill, which at the time was a costly device and typically available only in doctors' offices. Mr. Staub developed a low-cost version, the PaceMaster.

By that point, America had abandoned walking altogether. Six million years of bipedal human locomotion had come to an end in a cul de sac surrounded by two-car garages.

This was the adolescence of the sit-down culture, the new television in the new house in the new car-centric subdivision, the drive-in and drive-thru, the golf cart and riding lawn mower.

Cities, and suburbs especially, had taken on a more open design, with wider streets and vast parking lots and timed traffic lights meant to move motorists quickly, and the pedestrian was left clinging to the edge of this dangerous new world.

And our view of the walker changed. What was commonplace became eccentric. If you walked, it meant you didn't have means to ride.

"If you want to be snickered at by the neighbors and snubbed by the PTA, just go out and take a walk," wrote Jeanne O'Neill in The American Home. "Or try to. Actually, you won't get very far. Somebody you know, or somebody you don't, will drive up and insist upon giving you a ride."

Into this world came Mr. Staub's treadmill, permitting the miracle of walking without walking somewhere. His product perfectly suited a society that seemed content to satisfy all its needs in the air-conditioned indoors.

Walking could be a private endeavor with a twist of the blinds. The action was what was important, not the environment, not the chance community encounters and opportunities for natural observation. Walking, heretofore a philosophical activity that inspired the greatest minds, had become a bare form of exercise, a way to stay fit.

And if the angle was right, you could even watch the television.

Hopeful spouses bought them for Christmas and adult children bought them for aging parents. See, you can walk miles without ever leaving the house!

The problem with the treadmill was, of course, the very thing that made it seem appealing: It was a stationary, soulless, solitary device, a human hamster wheel, a symbol of the suburbs.

So it wound up under the bed or behind the couch, waiting for the next garage sale or until the cousins came over at Thanksgiving and launched each other into the wall. Some sat unused for years, so long they disappeared into their surroundings, where they still hide.

We still use them, of course, especially at gyms, where banks of treadmills are fitted with flat-screen televisions, monitors measure heart rates and the push of a button can give us a steep incline. We walk through the hills and valleys without ever seeing the hills and valleys. If we can find a parking space, we can walk blissfully to nowhere.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Ben Montgomery can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8650.

Comments
Colombia-based body shapewear boutique, Sexy Skinz opens second location in South Tampa

Colombia-based body shapewear boutique, Sexy Skinz opens second location in South Tampa

After listening to the needs of men and women desiring and personally desiring to look slimmer without having to exercise, Colombia native, Elizabeth Muñoz spent years designing top-of-the-line body shapewear at her undergarment shop in Colombia...
Published: 09/21/18
I was hospitalized for my eating disorder. Here's what Netflix shows get right and wrong about it.

I was hospitalized for my eating disorder. Here's what Netflix shows get right and wrong about it.

It took me a year and a half to watch Netflix’s To the Bone. The movie, which debuted in January 2017, portrays Ellen, a 20-year-old woman battling anorexia nervosa, and her experience being in and out of various treatment programs. When it w...
Published: 09/20/18
Updated: 09/21/18
'Game of Thrones,' 'Mrs. Maisel' and a proposal highlight Emmy Awards

'Game of Thrones,' 'Mrs. Maisel' and a proposal highlight Emmy Awards

LOS ANGELES — Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel became the first streaming series to win top Emmy comedy honors and HBO's Game of Thrones recaptured the best drama series award Monday at a ceremony that largely slighted its most ethnically di...
Published: 09/18/18
Lens on Pasco wildlife: Park supervisor shares encounters with his pictures

Lens on Pasco wildlife: Park supervisor shares encounters with his pictures

NEW PORT RICHEY — For Mark Berlinger, getting the best shot is a matter of serendipity. Being in the right place. Looking up at the right time. Hearing a rustle and following a notion to take the lens cap off your camera and shoot.Often, the right pl...
Published: 09/13/18
New Miss America glad she didn’t have to don swimsuit to win

New Miss America glad she didn’t have to don swimsuit to win

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The first woman to win the Miss America crown without having to don a swimsuit says she’s glad she didn’t have to. Nia Imani Franklin, who won the title Sunday night in Atlantic City while competing as Miss New York, said the ch...
Published: 09/10/18
Judy Garland’s stolen ruby slippers from ‘Wizard of Oz’ are found

Judy Garland’s stolen ruby slippers from ‘Wizard of Oz’ are found

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal authorities say they have recovered a pair of sequined ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz that were stolen from a museum in her northern Minnesota hometown 13 years ago. The slippers were taken from the Judy ...
Updated one month ago
Local Loudmouth Lip Attire founder makes a colorful statement, and you can, too

Local Loudmouth Lip Attire founder makes a colorful statement, and you can, too

TAMPAAmber Parker loves to stand out in a crowd.And with a vivacious personality and a funky personal style, the petite 32-year-old certainly makes a bold impression.So it’s only fitting that her makeup line, Loudmouth Lip Attire, features vibrant an...
Updated one month ago
‘What the hell did you do to my daughter?’ He was accused of a crime he swore he never committed; she believed her 4-year-old

‘What the hell did you do to my daughter?’ He was accused of a crime he swore he never committed; she believed her 4-year-old

ST. PETERSBURGOn the evening of the accusation, before the police came, Austin Holcomb walked to his neighbors’ house to get his son.The boy, who was almost 4, had been playing there all afternoon.The neighbors’ house was a wreck. That Saturday, they...
Updated one month ago
Zephyrhills High rallys to support ‘the greatest kid,’ who’s in a fight for his life

Zephyrhills High rallys to support ‘the greatest kid,’ who’s in a fight for his life

ZEPHYRHILLS There was a swelling of Bulldog Pride as students, many donning orange and black school colors and "I Run For Zack" T-shirts, flocked to the gymnasium for the afternoon pep rally at Zephyrhills High. • The marching band played rousing...
Updated one month ago