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Week 3: Me Versus the Treadmill
Test participants pick up testing equipment. I drove over to the test facility this morning for my first sweat session. I actually had butterflies in my stomach, but I always get a little nervous when I try something new.

Here is a minute-by-minute description of my session:

I enter the building that houses the ELS facility and walk slowly down the hall, trying to remember where the women’s restroom is so I can use it to change into my running clothes. We were taken on a facility tour during orientation, but I am directionally challenged, so it takes a few minutes for me to find the restroom.

Image above, right: Test participant and Marshall engineer Jay Perry, picks up his wrist watch heart monitor from Teddy Dutton, the test coordinator, while James Eldridge checks his watch back in after a workout. Image credit: NASA/MSFC

I locate it, change clothes, and then take my running shoes out of my bag. It’s obvious I’m not a treadmill runner. My shoes, once white, are brownish gray from running trails and dusty streets. But I know that I have to quickly become accustomed to running on a treadmill in the small module.

I put on the filthy shoes, tie them snugly, and tip out into the hall, looking right and left to see if there is anyone else around. There is no one in sight. I find my way to the door of the test bay area and pass my badge in front of the reader to gain entry. (They keyed my badge for me a few days ago.)

I walk around the corner to the module, and I see a man with a gray mustache sitting at a table next to the module. His name is Teddy Dutton, and his friendliness makes me feel less apprehensive. He helps me remember the steps I need to follow before I enter the module.

  1. Put a wrist watch heart monitor on my wrist.
  2. Get my bottle of Gatorade out of the refrigerator.
  3. Step on the scales and weigh, with bottle in hand.
  4. Sit at the computer and find my name on the screen. My name is not there. I guess they haven’t put me on the list yet. But Mr. Dutton tells me to choose a facetious name to use for now, so I choose the name Elvis Presley. No particular reason. I just find it amusing.
  5. Enter my weight on the computer.
  6. Pick up a t-shirt and towel.
  7. Wipe the soles of my shoes on the sticky mat.
  8. Enter the module.
Volunteer Dauna Coulter weighs in before exercising and again after working out to see how much moisture she produced for the water processor. Okay here I am. I look around the small metal room. It's like an exercise room set up in an RV. Somehow they fit a few treadmills, an elliptical machine, a stationary bike, and a stepper in here. There are three clothes lines strung along sides of the room. A few t-shirts, towels, and bath cloths are already hanging there.

A man who has just finished his session gives me a few pointers and leaves. I go into the little metal closet and change into the t-shirt.

I step onto one of the treadmills and push buttons at random for a while until the belt starts to move. (I do finally stumble upon the fact that if I just push "START" and then push the up and down arrows, I can make the belt move and adjust the speed.) That's as complicated as I want to get with it. For me to program this machine would take up my entire session.

Image at right: Coulter weighs in before exercising and again after working out to see how much moisture she has "donated" to the water processor. All participants do this each time they exercise in the module. Image credit: NASA/MSFC

I run on the treadmill for four miles. I discover I’m not crazy about treadmill running. It's a little boring. For variety, all there is to do is change the speed of the treadmill, so I do that a lot. The news is on the TV, but I don't have headphones and my eyes aren't good enough to read the closed-captioning. So I just continue to amuse myself by changing speeds on the treadmill, running slowly some, running fast some. Woopdedoo.

But I do sweat a lot, especially when I really get the treadmill rolling. I wipe my face on the t-shirt and towel as I run. I want to get credit for as much sweat as possible.

When I finish running, I wipe my legs down with the towel too. Then I hang the towel up on the designated clothesline, change into my own shirt again, and hang up the sweat soaked t-shirt, of which I am quite proud.

I leave the module and weigh out, holding what's left of my Gatorade. I have lost 1.2 lbs of moisture! I can't help but wonder how much drinking water that will make (scary thought).

I feel a sense of accomplishment. I want to be the best sweater of all!

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Dauna Coulter (Schafer Corporation)
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center