I like to bring you meaty facts and helpful insights to the world of S&C but sometimes I like to take a sideways look at the world of fitness.
One of my favourite programmes to watch with my daughter is Horrible Histories. She’s currently fascinated by the “Vile Victorians” and she picked up a book from the library last week called The Gruesome Truth About The Victorians. We were sat reading it when we got to the section about punishments in Victorian times. It made me chuckle to see that punishment back in the Victorian era are considered to be perfectly acceptable forms of fitness training today!
Seriously – you can’t make this stuff up! In fact, in think I’m going to buy the rights to a new fitness sensation “Victorian Punishment PT” – DVD and instructor certifications will be available by Christmas!!
I watch people in the gym running on the treadmill and it looks like torture – why when we have perfectly good streets, paths, woodland walks etc would you decide to run on a treadmill (especially when the weather outside is decent). There’s probably a good reason why it looks like torture and we have the victorians to thank.
Get Off The Hamster Wheel!
Back in 1818, an English civil engineer named Sir William Cubitt devised a machine called the “tread-wheel” to reform stubborn and idle convicts (modern day members of the general population!). Prisoners would step on a large paddle wheel, as the wheel turned, the gears were used to pump water or crush grains (hence the eventual name treadmill.) Convicts would work all day and the hard work, combined with poor diets, often led to injury and illness (the parallels to modern recreational runners is striking!). There were no emergency stop buttons either. If you were too slow you were whipped, if you fell over you got crushed by the machinery! The treadmill was a favourite punishment due to the monotony and pointlessness of the task!
(The first JD Fitness Club to open it’s doors – not much has changed!)
(punishment far worse than turning the crank!)
Another favourite was “The Crank”, prisoners had to turn the crank 10,000 times each day! As with all good fitness coaches the warders would adjust the tension of the crank using a screw to make it harder! That’s why they prison officers are called “screws”.
And finally one of my favourite ‘pointless tasks’ the shot drill. Essentially prisoners had to lift an iron cannon ball to chest height, carry it a measured distance, then put it down and repeat the task with another one. What was the point? There wasn’t one – not disimilar to a lot of the activities that take place in big box gyms around the world.
(looks like an early morning bootcamp taking place in a local park near you!!!)
So the next time you see someone on a treadmill – remember, it wasn’t so long ago in history that it was being used as a punishment for prisoners! Stop performing pointless activities, get out there and train with a purpose!