Taking a fall in stride

This column is for the guy whose pants rip when he bends over. This is for the girl whose top slips off unnoticed on the water slide. This is for anybody who has ever walked out of a public restroom with toilet paper stuck to their shoe.

This column is an attempt to turn a negative into a positive.

I have a sad and painful history of falling. In sixth grade, I attempted to jump a hurdle in gym class by jumping over headfirst. In high school, I fell down half a flight of stairs. And I’m not going to mention the trampoline. All in all, I’m pretty much a walking episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.

So when I fell off the treadmill last weekend I wasn’t that surprised.

Not being overly familiar with the machines, I climbed onto the treadmill with a small amount of uncertainty. I wasn’t scared, just mindful how horrible a fall could be. I’ve seen the videos of people falling on TV. It’s not pleasant. But I wasn’t expecting to go down. I just knew it was possible because I know I’m a clumsy idiot and things like that happen to clumsy idiots.

I was jogging along briskly at 7.5 mph, nearing a quarter mile. Sweat fell from my forehead as I chatted with my girlfriend, who was running beside me.

“You look funny when you run,” she kept saying.

Looking back, the signs of a fall were there. For instance, I kept losing my balance. More than once, I was mere inches from the edge of the rolling rubber. I was never in the center. I was either near the back of the machine or right at the front edge of it. I had to slow down and speed up, slow down and speed up. I never really felt comfortable.

“Something about this treadmill,” I kept thinking. “There’s something about this treadmill.”

Suddenly, my right foot slipped off the tread, which caused my left leg to begin to pull back like I was doing a split. I can remember thinking that I had a bad feeling about this. I then immediately crashed to the ground and my chin thudded on the rolling rubber, bouncing my head upward.


Then, instead of just rolling off and ending this ordeal, I attempted to fight the treadmill by hanging on. This, of course, allowed the rolling rubber to wreak havoc on my knees and shins. Imagine rubbing sandpaper up and down your leg at 7.5 mph. That’s how it felt.Double owie.

By this point, I was helpless but still clinging on. I must have looked pitiful. I pulled myself up and jabbed at the stop button, which, I would later learn, needs to be pressed twice to make the machine stop. That’s just dumb.

Still flailing, my body began to twist as I struggled to hold on. Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the situation quickly went from bad to terribly, terribly worse. Because my grip was slipping, my body began to sink lower toward the moving track. As a result, the rolling rubber sucked my shorts down to my ankles, leaving me dangling, in my boxer briefs, for the entire cardio room to see.

Triple owie.

With my shorts nearly off, I let go of the bars in an attempt to pull them up and reclaim the little dignity I had left. I rolled off the machine, stood up and thought to myself, “What the hell just happened?”

My girlfriend, by now, was crying — from laughter. She said she was too shocked to help, and later added that I looked “sad and pathetic” during my battle with the treadmill.


With the whole room staring at me, I looked down and saw the damage. A quarter-sized patch of bright-red blood sat on each knee and my left shin was raw, ripped by the teeth of the treadmill.

“I’m sticking to the bike from now on,” I thought as I walked out of the gym with sore, bleeding knees, a headache and a microscopic self-esteem.

I hope sharing this experience comforts my fellow clumsy brothers and sisters. After all, this column is for anyone who trips on the sidewalk; for armpit stains, huge whiteheads and unfortunately timed flatulence. May the sting of embarrassment be lessened.

John Calkins is a juniormajoring in journalism.oraclecalkins@yahoo.com