Our very own ‘Father of Fitness’ Ken Heathcote recalls the time in 1970 when he brought back the first manual running machine from America he purchased from the late Leo Stern.

In 1970, Bill Stevenson and Ken flew to Los Angeles to look at the gyms min California. They looked at all the different bodybuilding gyms like Bill Pearls gym, Golds gym on Venice Beach & Vince Gironda’s gym on Ventura Boulevard.

Finally, they moved south to San Diego and visited Leo Stern in his world famous gym. Pearl had a great gym, a place that would be the first with innovations like selectorized stacked weights and this was where Ken and Bill saw one of the first commercial treadmills.

manual running machine 1972.jpg < The same self-powered treadmill brought back from America in 1970

This was nothing like a treadmill that you see around today.This was the first manual commercial treadmill and just like a factory conveyor belt. A series of rollers was covered by this leather belt and you had to fasten yourself at the front.

20161212_134426 < Ken and Bill with today’s equivalent

It cost Bill and Ken $500 (£350) to buy the treadmill and another £550 to ship it back across to Bolton where they ran Bolton Health Studio. If only they could have seen the culture with Incline Trainers and sophisticated treadmills with touch screen tech. The new self-powered treadmills are along way from the early models of the 1970s, now with a curved deck to make it easier on your knees and a smoother system, the basic idea is still there still after all these years.











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