Recently, our treadmill rolled out its final mile. After 22 years of faithful service, the darn thing croaked.

After surgery to repair two herniated discs in the lower back area, the doctor recommended walking on a daily basis. Walking was part of this writer’s daily routine when we lived in the suburbs because the paved roads and sidewalks had a smooth surface.

The problem with walking in the country was the uneven terrain of rocky county roads. It was painful on the bottom of the feet even through shoes, and dangerous.

Unlike the city, the county’s definition of road cover is to spread Caliche (crushed rocks) on the country roads. The result is a lumpy and sharp surface, which is why we see runners along the highway rather than the backroads.

Aside from the rough road surface, some dogs in the country are unfriendly and territorial. They are not above taking a chunk out of a passerby’s legs as a warning.

We bought a simple treadmill for around $125. One could walk on the level surface or manually raise the slant a couple of notches. It was a simple design with no bells and whistles. Just plug it in, insert the key and walk or run.

The two downsides to using this simple contraption, no book rack and every time you needed to change the incline you had to stop, get off, lift the thing and slip the pin into the correct notch. All in all, it was too much stopping and pin changing to maintain a continuous workout. In the end, it was easier to keep it level and increase the speed.

Did you know it is mind-numbing for a multitasker to walk or run on a treadmill with nothing else to do?

The problem with watching television, the constant interruption of commercials breaks the concentration. The choice was between viewing Animal Planet reruns or buy the full eight seasons of Charmed on DVD. With the absence of ads, it was the perfect solution. Then the final episode had a glitch in it, and the lady did not know how the show ended.

When the lady of the manor found a rack she could hang over the top of the treadmill, she could read a book. Did you know running or even walking at a fast pace causes words on the page of the book to blend into a jumbled mess? Her solution was to use a Kindle. The print could be enlarged to allow for reading without getting her eyes crossed.

All was perfect, except for a small problem. If she hung the rack in the center, it jostled the dials and changed the setting to supersonic speed level. A most uncomfortable experience, unless you are the Bionic Woman.

The lady’s solution was to hang the rack on the left. She felt great accomplishment at the end of each workout session, but the price for tilting her head to the left was a permanent crick in her neck. The sacrifices we make to be physically fit.

Today’s treadmills are a far cry from the sturdy workhorse you turned on and used. Like every other upgraded product from cars to refrigerators, the modern treadmill is an electronic wonder. A joy to own and use unless the user is incompatible with advanced technology.

There are tables you can attach to the treadmill for your computer so you can work and workout at the same time. Klutzy people should not get such tables because the potential for accidents is astronomical and messy.

New treadmills have a rack for books or iPads. A place for drinks. Speakers for music, and a fan. A screen to connect to the Internet so you can sweat along with hundreds of other people, and suffer together.

Then comes the sticker shock. Instead of the reliable old $125.00 workhorse, the cost of new treadmills is in the four and five-figure range. Since the latest gadgets have built-in obsolescence, the ninety-day warranty is disturbing but no surprise.

“I just want a simple turn on and go machine,” the lady wails. And the world laughs.




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