What does a heavy duty treadmill mat have to do with John F. Kennedy? In “The Soft American,” his December 1960 Sports Illustrated article, JFK called America’s children “soft.” By doing so, he issued a challenge intended to shape them up. This expectation, along with America’s longtime work ethic, has indirectly sparked a need for heavy-duty treadmill mats in American health clubs, and home gyms. This demand certainly isn’t something that would have been forecasted in 1960! After the first commercial treadmills hit American stores in 1968, rubber mats for treadmills had to be sturdy enough to keep noise and vibration down in ordinary homes. Before 1968, rubber companies would have wasted little time thinking about how to produce mats for treadmills at all, much less thicker and more absorbing ones.
As President of the United States, John F. Kennedy was determined to reinvigorate American citizens and improve their physical wellbeing. He was the first President to publicly and forcefully acknowledge the problem. In the above article, he states that “the physical well-being of the citizen is an important foundation for the vigor and vitality of all the activities of the nation, is as old as Western civilization itself. But it is a knowledge which today, in America, we are in danger of forgetting.”
Kennedy saw main problem as a lack of physical education, the absence of active children across the country. Since then, many of these children—including yours truly—have taken the suggestion to heart. We have been pounding away at our exercise equipment hard enough to require heavy-duty treadmill mats.
20th-century America grew on the backs of hard-working, productive employees. The advent of modern jobs meant that average people spent more time away from home and spent less time eating home-cooked meals. The Fast Food craze and the invention of the American drive-through led the collective American diet down a slippery slope. “The Soft American” was the title of this 1960 article, but it seems even more appropriate for 21st-century citizens. As the United States has grown, American jobs have become more service-based. This means even less physical activity at the workplace.
As a result, the focus of American labor is no longer fields or factory floors. As a result exercise then became a requirement for those who spend their days sitting in chairs and staring at computer screens. As work has begun to tend toward the “white collar,” exercise in America has become more “blue collar.” No pain, no gain!
JFK’s worries are still true today—in fact, they are even truer. In 1960, our kids had no access to tablets, PCs, video games, or Nintendos. Television had limited programming. Play dates weren’t a requirement before kids went out to play with the neighbors.
Working in the rubber flooring business, we have seen an increase in the need for thicker, more shock absorbing mats. Perhaps the houses are getting older and more prone to sound; maybe more people are using treadmills to work out and are placing them on 2nd and 3rd floors. Regardless, heavy-duty treadmill mats help to insulate fitness equipment and allow fitness-hungry people to get active!
The American fitness revolution is partly due to necessity and partly due to the physiology of its citizens. Getting on a treadmill and wearing out rubber mats for treadmills is a time-honored American tradition. For some people, afternoon forays into gyms have completely replaced happy hour. No longer are bars the place to meet your mate, rather it is the local gym that is the hot spot.
The ability to work hard has always been a venerated character trait. In gyms and workout areas, it is no different. We need those hour-long treadmill runs to erase the stress and frustration of the days we spend at the office. I know I certainly do! The rubber belt goes around and around, absorbing every bit of my anger and emotional exhaustion. Ultimately, heavy-duty treadmill mats not only absorb vibration and muffle noisy treadmills—they also absorb the shock and frustration of our daily lives.