Running on Empty

A sexy pair of legs moseys its way down a soft, vacuumed carpet, around a bend, and through a long, narrow aisle.

Suddenly, these shapely stems, which are encased in bright spandex, dissolve into a jungle of many others, instantly blending into the vibrant surroundings like chameleons. The long row of gams seems endless. They're shaking, they're baking, they're working like jackhammers - together in harmony ? as if they were all drilling for oil.

The machines drown out the booming disco racket from the overhead speakers. All you hear, aside from the constant hum of machinery, is metal on metal, minus the smear of grease.

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

The stunning blonde attached to these legs peers down at a dark screen. At first, it looks like she's about to indulge in a game of Pac-Man or Donkey Kong, but in actuality, her ensuing fun is of a much different variety. This woman is about to work out.

After punching in a few keys as if it were tax time, her hips slowly begin to grind, and just like that, the fun has begun.

Needless to say, the year is 1999 and what once was accomplished with such basic simplicity has now entered the world of hi-tech devices and advanced microchips.

To a new patron, who just wandered through the door, it all seems a bit pretentious as he peers over the motoring array of Stairmasters, steppers, treadmills, and stationary bikes.

The observer smirks and chuckles, knowing well that, not so long ago, for the goal at hand, two legs and an old pair of Nikes were all that was required.

However, the art of running seems a forgotten trade, not just for the random observer, but for the fitness public in general. For the mainstream crowd looking to foil the flab (and perhaps partake in the social aspects), a nice, honest jog through the park loses out to a sweat-session on the stairs any corporate day of the week.

Yet, one fact remains, the same fact that has survived both the tests of time and the endless evolution of technology. Nothing will whip you into shape faster and more effectively than a good, primitive run.

Aside from the fresh air that expands your lung capacity, something you can't get at an indoor gym, running continues to stand as the leader in conditioning, fat burning, and keeping your heart rate up. Just compare the three miles down Main Street with the same distance on the rubbery conveyor belt of a treadmill. The difference in the way you feel is astounding.

But one such concept factoring in the demise of running is the belief that it is a muscle man's worst enemy. Reports that running will chisel away on that hard-earned beef have been relentless. Thus, the running fad has come to heel a bit, almost seemingly limited to the hard-core crowd.

The experts say that the ideal method, however, to avoiding such a tragedy is to jog lightly for the first twenty minutes and then upgrade to a more vigorous pace thereafter. After the twenty-minute segment, the body generally kicks into the fat-burning business as opposed to the muscle-consuming business. Remaining at a steady, moderate pace (say 70 percent), and ditching any hopes of becoming the next Jesse Owens would seem the most logical approach, especially for new runners.

Besides, doesn't a nice stroll along a quiet country road amid the birds and the tress sound somewhat appealing? Doesn't it beat gaping at the sweat-drenched back of the guy on the Stairmaster in front of you?

If this is you, then perhaps it's finally time to leave those noisy treadmills and squeaky stationary bikes behind ? far enough behind to choke on your dust.

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