How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Treadmill

We broke up. It just wasn’t working out. Actually, I just wasn’t working out. And that’s what I told the guy—five-foot-nine, boy band hair, and a name like Bodi or Gavin or Ty—as I submitted my official cancellation notice. 

“I’m sorry you’d like to cancel your gym membership,” he said, loyal to institutional canon. “Is there something we could have done to make you stay?” 

“No,” I said, determined not to let his pleas sway my resolve to terminate our monthly, no long-term contract, zero enrollment fee relationship. I knew the truth. He didn’t love me. He didn’t care about me, my hopes, my dreams, my passions, my PRs. He was using me for my membership dues. I was a number to him—$34.99 a month, to be exact. Nothing more. Nothing less.  

“It’s not you… it’s me.” 

I felt guilty. Almost. Sure, he accepted the announcement with little more than a nod and a token apology, but I was using him, too. For his treadmills. Commercial grade. Twelve-miles-per-hour max speed. Fifteen-percent incline. Three-percent decline. A four-point-five-horsepower motor and an extended belt, sixty inches long, twenty-two inches wide. 

It had been a wild ride. Actually, it had been boring and monotonous. But what did I expect? I was in a relationship with a treadmill. It wasn’t going anywhere. 

“I don’t do the gym,” I explained further. I don’t know why I felt the need to defend myself. “I’m a runner. I run. I wish I lifted weights.” I couldn’t stop. “I need to. I don’t have any arm muscles,” I laughed with nervous self-deprecation. Maybe if I belittled my fitness he’d let me off the hook easily. “I have no upper body strength.” 

My palms were sweaty. My left eye began to twitch. Bodi or Gavin or Ty scrolled through my gym visit history. 

“Let’s see here…” he said, hovering his cursor over a screen that I believe was still operating MS-DOS. “You came here once in June… and before that…” 

I was shaking. 

“…your last visit was in February.” 

Yes, that means those two runs cost me $210. Each

His eyes. That look. It was… concession. He grabbed a sheet of paper from a locked file cabinet beneath the premium whey protein powder with caffeine and spirulina. Victory

“Okay. You’ll have access to the gym for the next sixty days,” he said as I signed my name on the termination sheet. 

“Uh… So when will you stop charging me?” 

“At the end of next month. It’s a one-month advance.” 

Why is it that you always have to let these people down easily? Is it a “seven stages of grief” thing? This! This is a cut right to the heart. We didn’t even see it coming! We didn’t know anything was wrong! To ease our pain, we’re going to continue charging you our relationship fees for the next X number of months, per the contract you signed during the honeymoon. By that time, we should be able to recover from this blow. 

I didn’t argue, even though sixty days of direct-withdrawal donations sounded excessive for a no-long-term commitment contract.  Plus, it gave me sixty days of backup to my backup. That’s what the treadmill was, after all. A backup in case winter weather—namely, black ice—made outdoor running too great of a risk. 

That night, I sat in front of my laptop, credit card in hand, and bought my very own treadmill. Yes, you read that correctly. I. Bought. A. Treadmill. No, it wasn’t a rebound fling. It was the deliberate culmination of three weeks of strenuous research, including pages upon pages of online reviews, a subscription to the hometreadmillreviewgoddess, and the archived yearly treadmill reports published by Runner’s World dating back to 2006. 

I now believe that the treadmill world is shockingly binary. A treadmill is either a divine gift to runners or the shoddy product of a Fascist regime. There is no middle ground. Furthermore, there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who can assemble a treadmill with ease and a good friend, and those who would have better luck splitting an atom. The latter seem to enjoy, to an inordinate degree, leaving rambling, unpunctuated narratives in the comment section of the hometreadmillreviewgoddess. 

“Thank you for calling NordicTrack!” said the voice—obviously belonging to a surfer or snowboarder—on the other end of the line, “How may I help you?” 

“Yes. I’d like to order a treadmill—the 2450.” 

“Great. My name is Colton.” 

Of course it is. 

For reasons I can’t recall, I had to call Colton back before I made my final purchase. (It may have been a case of cold feet.) At any rate, when I called back, ten minutes after our original conversation, Colton wasn’t there. 

“Yeah, uh, Colton isn’t here,” another surfer informed me, “but I can help you. My name is Ky.” 

Of course it is. 

I couldn’t help but picture the NordicTrack headquarters nestled in the mountains in Colorado, where the only employment requirements are shaggy hair and the ability to chug Red Bull. I imagined Ky snapping the buckles on his boots as he helped me set up payment and delivery options. At one point, I believe, he said my credit score was rad. Still, I made the purchase. 

On Monday afternoon, my shiny new NordicTrack 2450 arrived. Ecstatic about the white-glove delivery and set-up I had purchased for no small fee, I released my nervous energy by engaging in a rather hostile game of doubles table tennis with my brother Joe, his best friend Drew, and our cousin Will. Note: when you play ping-pong with a bunch of college-aged boys, someone is going to take a ball to the face. Or a paddle. (I’m okay, by the way.) 

An hour after the delivery guys arrived, I stood on my new 2450, hands on the safety rails, legs straddling the belt, heart racing even though I wasn’t running. I blasted the volume on my television—A Few Good Men… score!—and hit start. This was it. 

And it was lovely. 

I ran six miles while Tom Cruise and Demi Moore took down Jack Nicholson. (Kevin Bacon was there, too.) The miles flew by. I hated myself for it, but I enjoyed it. A treadmill run. I. Enjoyed. A. Treadmill. Run. 

I almost can’t handle it. 

The purchase of my treadmill, while tragic, probably saved a few runs. And its existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible, will save runs. Deep down in places I don’t talk about at parties, I wanted that treadmill. I needed that treadmill. 

Did I order it? 

You’re goshdarn right I did.

Amy L. Marxkors

Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story.  Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.

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