Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Treadmills hit 30,000 mile-mark

Treadmill users at the Coors Fitness Center have been going nowhere lately faster than ever.

In February, six of the center’s 18 commercial-grade Cybex treadmills logged 30,000 miles after only 19 months of service. Typically, it takes three to five years.

“You’re in rare air,” says Steve Suchanek, director of product management for Cybex, which manufactures the $9,000 treadmills. “It’s probably the highest (annual mileage) I’ve heard of from any university.”

That DU runners have been grinding out so many miles so quickly is no surprise to Stu Halsall, assistant vice chancellor for recreation at the Ritchie Center. He’s seen activity rise steadily every year since the Ritchie Center opened in 1999, with students accounting for 70 percent of the fitness center’s usage and everyone else the rest.

“We had 45,000 visits in January alone,” he says.

Still, hitting 30,000 miles was a bit of a surprise, even for Cybex representatives. They were so skeptical that DU runners had done so much so fast that they sent a technician to double-check the equipment.

“They had not seen this type of use in any fitness facility,” Halsall says.

The result was six brand new motors, belts, internal parts and an installer to rebuild the machines good as new — all under warranty.

Halsall attributes the elevated treadmill use to students’ concern for fitness and wellness, a situation first recognized in 2006 when Men’s Fitness magazine ranked DU the 22nd fittest college in the nation.

Since then, Halsall’s crews have worked hard to keep the machines rotated and repaired and to retire them when necessary.

“Our cardiovascular machines are nonstop,” he says.

Cybex’s Suchanek is equally amazed, noting that the only facilities that rival DU’s rapid treadmill pace are fitness centers open round the clock, such as those at military bases.

All this over a machine that was introduced in 1818 as punishment in British prisons. Termed a “treadwheel” or “everlasting staircase,” the first treadmills handled up to 40 convicts at once walking up steps attached to the exterior of a 16-foot hollow cylinder. Prisoners stepped lively for 15 minutes followed by five minutes rest, then went back on the treadmill in a pattern that lasted up to 10 hours a day.

Witnesses described the activity, which was banned in 1902, as “a source of great terror.”

At the Ritchie Center things are different. Halsall says treadmills and their elliptical cousins are the fitness center’s most popular cardiovascular equipment, and they continue to rack up miles — one foot at time.

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