An Oral History of the StairMaster

Thursday February 21, 2019 Written by Toby

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Over on Medium, Andy Wright has an oral history of the exercise machine everyone loves to hate: the StairMaster. Wright constructs the article from interviews with people involved with the abomination, who speak of its fascinating story firsthand (in between, we’re assuming, edited-out gasps for breath).

Anyone who’s ever struggled on the machine might find it frustrating to discover that the StairMaster’s own climb to success was relatively easy. It was an instant hit when it debuted in 1983, filling a niche in a cardio market dominated by treadmills and stationary bikes. The StairMaster really started to pick up speed with the release of the smaller, more affordable 4000 PT model in 1986. Soon enough, it was featured in movies and television shows, celebrities started spruiking it – Oprah called it her “new little friend” – and the “StairMaster butt” become a hot commodity.

There’s more to the story in Wright’s oral history, including an account of one firefighter climbing 106,377 steps – 56 Empire State Buildings – in 24 hours to raise money for charity. The article is only a 16-minute read, so may we recommend, while you peruse, seven cycles alternating between one minute of steady climbing and one minute of sprinting, followed by one minute of rest. That leaves one full minute to curse the machine.

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