Treadmill and all its gory glory

The constant thud underneath your feet. The constrained space. The monotony of going nowhere fast. Running on a treadmill can certainly feel like torture, but did you know it was originally used for that very purpose? In the words of Conor Heffernan, know the bitter tale of a treadmill.

It feels like hours have gone by, but it’s only been eleven minutes, and you wonder, “Why am I torturing myself? This thing has got to be considered a cruel and unusual punishment.”

Actually, that’s exactly what it is, or was. You see, in the 1800s, treadmills were created to punish English prisoners. At the time, the English prison system was abysmally bad. Execution and deportation were often the punishments of choice, and those who were locked away faced hours of solitude in filthy cells.

So, social movements led by religious groups, philanthropies, and celebrities, like Charles Dickens, sought to change these dire conditions and help reform the prisoners. When their movement succeeded, entire prisons were remodeled and new forms of rehabilitation, such as the treadmill, were introduced.

Here’s how the original version, invented in 1818 by English engineer Sir William Cubitt, worked. Prisoners stepped on 24 spokes of a large paddle wheel. As the wheel turned, the prisoner was forced to keep stepping up or risk falling off, similar to modern stepper machines.

Meanwhile, the rotation made gears pump out water, crush grain, or power mills, which is where the name “treadmill” originated. These devices were seen as a fantastic way of whipping prisoners into shape, and that added benefit of powering mills helped to rebuild a British economy decimated by the Napoleonic Wars. It was a win for all concerned, except the prisoners. It’s estimated that, on average, prisoners spent six or so hours a day on treadmills, the equivalent of climbing 5,000 to 14,000 feet. 14,000 feet is roughly Mount Everest’s halfway point.

Imagine doing that five days a week with little food. Cubitt’s idea quickly spread across the British Empire and America. Within a decade of its creation, over 50 English prisons boasted a treadmill, and America, a similar amount. Unsurprisingly, the exertion combined with poor nutrition saw many prisoners suffer breakdowns and injuries, not that prison guards seemed to care. In 1824, New York prison guard James Hardie credited the device with taming his more boisterous inmates, writing that the “monotonous steadiness, and not its severity…constitutes its terror,” a quote many still agree with.

And treadmills lasted in England until the late 19th century, when they were banned for being excessively cruel under the Prison’s Act of 1898. But of course the torture device returned with a vengeance, this time targeting the unsuspecting public. In 1911, a treadmill patent was registered in the U.S., and by 1952, the forerunner for today’s modern treadmill had been created.

When the jogging craze hit the U.S. in the 1970s, the treadmill was thrust back into the limelight as an easy and convenient way to improve aerobic fitness, and lose unwanted pounds, which, to be fair, it’s pretty good at doing. And the machine has maintained its popularity since. So the next time you voluntarily subject yourself to what was once a cruel and unusual punishment, just be glad you can control when you’ll hop off.


Put your dumbbells to work at home

You do not need a gym to workout. Two dumbbells, motivation, and a will to do it is what you need to pump up those muscles.

Bodybuilders swear by dumbbells and they can’t do without them. Now, it is important to know the significance of dumbbell moves before you actually get to know the moves.

You use those sophisticated machines at the gym but aren’t inching even closer to what you have in mind, it is because you aren’t working the muscles that matter.

Dumbbell exercises will tone up and work muscles that matter and remember that strength training is more effective in melting fat than cardio alone as it burns calories for upto 24 hours after you have ended a session of strength training.

Let us get started.

  1. Dumbbell standing biceps curl

Don’t fret, it is not as tough as it sounds. Simply stand with feet hip-width apart and do not arch your back. Keep the toes parallel. With palms facing up, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Curl the dumbbell up with elbows in front of your ribs and squeeze biceps hard as you do a rep. Remember, not to move the body while doing this exercise.

  1. Dumbbell glute bridge

Hold a dumbbell on your lap as you lay on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat. Now, press your hips up with your weight into your heels and create a straight line between upper back and knees and squeeze your butt as you do a rep. Pause for a second and repeat after coming back. Do not arch your back.

  1. Dumbbell floor press

Bend knees after lying down and feet flat. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and raise your arms over shoulders and lower the dumbbells until the elbows touch the floor and keep repeating.

  1. Dumbbell lying triceps overhead extensions

Keep your feet flat as you lay on your back and knees bent. Now, hold a dumbbell in each hand and raise your arms over your shoulders in a straight line. Lower the weights until the elbows are touching the floor and repeat. Squeeze the triceps as you do this move. Try using a weight that is difficult to move with control to get maximum impact and don’t let elbows flare.

  1. Dumbbell bent over row

Stand straight with toes parallel and feet hip-width apart. Hang your arms straight and hold a dumbbell in each hand and place hands underneath shoulders. Slightly bend at hips and push them back and lower them paralleling the torso with the floor. Do not move the torso back and start rowing the dumbbells up squeezing elbows up and back towards the body. Do not lift your head as you do this.

  1. Dumbbell bent-over reverse fly

Stand with toes parallel and feet hip-width apart. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, put hands underneath shoulders as you hang them straight. Slightly bend at knees, push the hips back, and lower until the torso is parallel to floor. Now, lift the dumbbells out to the sides with palms facing each other and squeeze the shoulder blades at the top of the rep. Come back to the starting position and repeat.

  1. Dumbbell reverse lunge

Get into a lunge and hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms at your sides and palms facing each other. Lower your hips and bend the knees until an inch over the ground. Do not touch the ground with the knee. Return to standing position and repeat.