As I jogged leisurely down Tacoma Mall Boulevard at 18 mph, I felt like I'd just stepped out of the movie "Avatar."
It was as if my plodding 7-minute-mile body was inserted into a 7-foot-tall creature that cranked out mileage at a pace that would make Olympic athletes look slow.
The pounding of the pavement that usually wreaks havoc on my knees and back was replaced by a smooth, impact-free gait that seemed to spring me forward.
A couple of men leaving Hooters stared as I passed, and several motorists craned their necks to get a better look.
Apparently I looked as peculiar as I felt.
While what I was doing is designed to simulate running, it’s actually the next generation of elliptical trainer workouts. I was running on an ElliptiGo, a mobile version of the low-impact running simulators so popular in gyms.
This particular elliptical trainer sits on two wheels and has a handlebar with gear shifters for pedaling up hills.
Since their invention in the 1990s, elliptical trainers gave people a way to exercise when injuries kept them from running. And for just as long, they’ve been boring many of these runners to tears.
“You’re just sitting there, spinning your wheels,” said Sean McLendon, manager of Tacoma’s Fitness Outlet. “But you don’t have many options if you can’t take the impact. This lets you go outside and move around like a runner, only you go much faster.”
According to elliptigo.com, The Fitness Outlet is its only dealer in the South Sound. The company started carrying the devices late last year and has sold one.
“But I think they are going to be big,” McLendon said. “You get a great workout like you are running, but you travel around like you are on a bike.”
ElliptiGos sell for about $2,400, and for another $350 you can buy a trainer that allows you to ride the device in place like a traditional elliptical trainer. McLendon says a high-quality indoor elliptical trainer, his most popular seller, goes for that much or more.
Sharon Purviance of Lacey and her roommate, Tara Spears, might have been the first South Sound residents to buy ElliptiGos. Purviance bought a green one and Spears bought a black one online last summer after a test drive in Seattle.
Both have back problems that make long-distance running impossible, and spending too much time on their bikes is painful.
“We just fell in love with them,” Purviance said. “They’re so much fun. It’s just a great alternative to cycling all the time.”
The ElliptiGo was invented by former triathlete Bryan Tate and mechanical engineer Brent Teal. Tate hatched the idea when his body could no longer handle the impact of running.
However, he wasn’t the first with this idea. In 2003, Pasco brothers Walt and Steve Krul built a similar device called the WitFit. In 2005, when The News Tribune covered the launch of their devices, the WitFits were being promoted as the world’s only elliptical devices.
The Kruls were successful in getting a patent for the WitFit, but their business never seemed to prosper.
The biggest difference between the WitFit and the ElliptiGo is that the earlier device had four wheels instead of two and moving hand rods instead of bike handle bars.
Another device, the 3-wheeled StreetStrider, was invented by University of Alabama physiologist David Kraus in 2007.
Purviance hasn’t tried the predecessors, but says the ElliptiGo is easy to use.
I have to agree. It took virtually no time before I was moving and maneuvering quickly.
“And they are easy to take with you,” said Purviance, who lowers the handle bars and slides the contraption into the back of her Subaru Outback.
The only downside – aside from the hefty price tag – might be getting in a good workout without feeling like people are staring.
“I hear a lot of kids hollering ‘Cool scooter,’ ” Purviance said. “We get lots of interesting looks because it is so bizarre. But that’s OK, I love it.”
SAVE YOUR SOLES
Some local running and outdoor stores are doing a good job making sure you don’t have to throw your old shoes away.
South Sound Running in Tacoma has a bin for used shoes. The shoes are then donated to Western Washington homeless shelters. The Olympia store does not collect shoes but directs people to local churches and charities where they can donate shoes.
Alpine Experience in Olympia collects old shoes and ships them to Nike, where they are recycled.
Fleet Feet Sports in Bonney Lake accepts shoes and ships them to Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that distributes the shoes to needy people around the world. You can also donate shoes of all kinds to Soles4Souls. Visit soles4souls.com for more information.
SHEROX TRIS FEDERAL WAY
Federal Way’s annual women’s triathlon is joining the SheRox series with the goal of raising money and awareness for ovarian cancer research. The race, entering its eighth year, was previously part of the U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series.
This year’s triathlon is July 9-10 and includes a half-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and a 4.1-mile run. The race will have a survivor wave for women who have recovered or are in treatment for ovarian cancer. There is also a buddy wave for people running in memory of ovarian cancer victims.
The entry fee will be $75 for individuals. Fees increase on April 30. Visit sheroxtri.com for more information.
Craig Hill’s fitness column runs on Sundays in The News Tribune and The Olympian.