Running along a beach, breathing in the sea air, listening to the caws of seagulls, and feeling the soft cushion of sand beneath our feet as we bounce, seemingly effortlessly, along. Most of us enjoy the chance to run at the beach but give it little to no real thought. Paul Toback gave it a lot of thought. He thought of how much more beneficial that soft cushion is on knees, ankles and backs. He thought about the treadmills with hard wooden decks—the same now as 60 years ago when they were introduced.
Of course, he would think about it. He is into running professionally as well as personally. He spent more than a decade with Bally Total Fitness, including as President, CEO and Chairman of the Board. He enlisted the expertise and experience of Steve Lenz, who, as VP of Engineering for Life Fitness, had devoted himself to designing exercise equipment that use safer and more natural and functional movements to achieve first-rate results.
The two retreated to their respective garages and proceeded to build a prototype out of wood, lawnmower tires and camping mattresses. Granted, a rather primitive version of the sleek molded plastic in “fashion” colors we now know, but still—Sproing, the world’s first soft-surface interval trainer, had arrived.
The machine offers a spongy, soft surface, somewhat like a trampoline, and is outfitted with resistance bands as well as a belt to keep your body in correct running position: leaning forward and landing on your forefoot instead of your heel with low impact. You can train harder, land softer and be unconcerned about falling or keeping up with the moving belt of a treadmill. A research study done by Benedictine University’s Department of Physiology showed that there is 50% less impact on the knees, 32% less on the ankles and 41% less on the back. Because the soft surface can be customized as to degree of cushioning and level of challenge, anyone of any age and any fitness level, from raw beginners to elite professional athletes, can get amazing results from short bursts of high-intensity exercise.
Sproing Fitness has developed the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that features intervals of both high-intensity cardiovascular exercise and strength and power exercises. A 45-minute class includes a 10-minute warm-up and 30 minutes of intense interval training—short bursts of high-intensity exercises that result in maximum fat burning, muscle toning and overall body conditioning. Those “short bursts” are for 20 seconds, by the way, and we can do almost anything for a measly 20 seconds, right?
To Paul and Steve, “running is a fundamental movement skill and part of our evolutionary right and heritage as human beings.” Everyone should be able to run without pain and take advantage of the mental and physical benefits of running as an ordinary part of life.
Right now, Sproing Fitness has available a commercial unit and a professional sports unit, but Paul and Steve are looking forward to an at-home version in the not-too-distant future. There is no reason to doubt that they will get there.