Dispatches from NYC
Why Am I Being Kicked Off The Treadmill?
By Pauline Millard
Feb 8, 2008

I was in the gym at eleven yesterday morning. By New York City Sunday-morning standards, it was impressive that I was up and at ‘em without even being properly brunched. I hopped on a treadmill and started my 45-minute run.

Imagine my surprise when not five minutes into it I noticed that trainers were telling people who had been on treadmills for longer than 30 minutes to get off because there were others waiting. This was odd, especially since I had to wait a little bit for a machine to be free before I got on. I didn’t pout or shoot dirty looks at the people using them. I just flipped through my iTunes. Lines are a fact of life. There are lines at the post office, the DMV, the supermarket. What makes the gym any different? Sometimes the person ahead of you has business to attend to that may take a while. You deal with it.

Apparently this logic does not apply at the New York Sports Club on 15th Street and Irving Place. It got me thinking for the rest of my workout: What does a gym gain by asking people to get off the treadmills?

Kicking people off of machines is completely counter to what gyms are trying to promote. During this time of year they’re trying to get people to join so that in a few months time they will be better versions of themselves. That said, how does telling someone to get off a treadmill encourage them to push themselves? Following the gym’s party line, if you stick to your goals and come regularly, eventually you should be able to run for longer periods of time. It’s the nature of athletic conditioning. But if some bored staffer is going to tell you to get off, what’s the motivation to push for the extra mile?

And why is it only the treadmills that people are being booted off of? I’ve never seen a trainer ask someone to put down free weights that he might be hogging or ban someone else from abs class because he comes too often. I’ve never even seen someone get kicked off an elliptical machine or the stationary bikes. Why pick on the runners?

It’s also unhealthy to ask someone whose been running briskly for 30 minutes to stop suddenly. When the heart is racing the way it does when you get into a good pace, a person could, in theory, have a heart attack if he doesn't cool down properly. A few years ago I tore a gym manager a new one when one of his staff came by and pressed the “stop” button on my machine after I told him that I was in the middle of a run and wouldn’t get off.  I canceled my membership shortly thereafter.

I understand that the beginning of the year is rough on gyms. They have to cater to all the newbies and their New Year’s resolutions while keeping the veteran members happy. Kicking people off the treadmills, however, helps neither group, since it infuriates the people who may need to run more than 30 minutes. Most people can’t run for 30 minutes straight anyway, so I suggest that gyms stop enforcing their silly policies.

It’s bad enough already we’re at the gym, huffing and puffing and inhaling each other’s sweat and grime. If we need extra time on the machine, let us be. Chances are if we’re running that much, there’s a reason. We’re either in really good shape or we’re trying to sort out some mental conundrum that can only be solved through vigorous cardio vascular activity. Do not disturb.

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