Karen Lowen is a 52-year-old mother-of-two from Malvern in Worcestershire, England. She has a husband named Graham, who is 47, and they share children Thomas, 28, and Emmy, 23. Lowen used to work as a tax accountant; now, however, she runs an accounting software company called Dod-dle.
When Lowen was 48, though, she was battling thyroid issues, and so her doctor advised that she add cardio to her fitness regime. In December 2013, then, she purchased a $45-a-month membership at the Malvern Splash Leisure Complex gym. At that time, however, Lowen probably didn’t expect to eventually be kicked out of the facility.
Cardio is exercise that raises your heart rate, and the treadmill is one of the most popular pieces of equipment for this purpose. Most people use the machine by walking or running, either on a flat surface or an incline. And while Lowen started to use the treadmill in this manner, she eventually discovered a much more enjoyable way to work out on the device.
So, in February 2014 Lowen began to dance on the treadmill instead of jogging or running. She realized that she had more fun this way and still got her heart rate up in the process. And she’s not the only person who is a fan of the unusual workout.
OK Go arguably popularized dancing on the equipment with their music video for the song “Here It Goes Again,” which debuted on YouTube in 2006. The clip showed the rock band performing an elaborately choreographed routine on eight treadmills and was shot in just one take. And the video has proved immensely popular, with more than 52 million views to date on YouTube; it was even awarded a Grammy.
The treadmill dancing movement is bigger in the U.S. than in the U.K., where Lowen lives. But Lowen explained to SWNS in 2014 that this came naturally to her, as she has a lot of experience with dancing. She started doing ballet when she was five years old, for instance; she also began ballroom and Latin routines as an adult.
And when Lowen is dancing on the treadmill, she typically performs salsa, disco and Latin moves. “I found it quite easy and fun,” she told SWNS. “I just danced to whatever was on at the gym.” She continued, “I varied the speed of the treadmill and did different dances depending on what the song was. It never occurred to me I was doing anything outrageously different.”
So on March 28, 2014, Lowen went to the gym and began to dance on the treadmill as usual. But, before long, a staff member had approached her. And Lowen was taken aback when she was informed that she couldn’t use the machine in that way.
Lowen explained to SWNS, “I was told I wasn’t walking or running in a prescribed manner. She said because of health and safety, I was posing a risk to myself and others.” The mom of two added, “I didn’t think there’s any chance of me hurting myself. It’s not as if I was swinging from the handlebars. It’s health and safety gone mad.”
Indeed, Lowen has said that she has never tried any dangerous moves during her treadmill dancing. “It’s really just a combination of walking and running,” she told the Worcester News in 2014. “The riskiest I’ve ever done is to go sideways. I’ve never turned fully around.”
Lowen was further invited to dance in the studio next to the gym; she would not, however, be allowed to continue her moves on the treadmill. But Lowen argued that she wasn’t interested in using any other equipment. “I was quite shocked, because I would have thought running was a far more dangerous activity, and I certainly wasn’t doing anything that energetic,” she told SWNS.
And at that moment, Lowen was asked to leave. “[The gym employee] said ‘I will walk down with you’ – the inference to me was that I was being escorted out. There was half a dozen people in there, and it was awful and embarrassing,” she shared.
However, Everyone Active – the company that manages Malvern Splash gym – explained that it was simply following health and safety protocol. “The primary concern is the safety of our customers whilst they are using our facilities,” a spokesperson said to SWNS. “In this particular instance, we felt that the maneuver being performed by Mrs. Lowen on the treadmill was putting her at risk of injury, so we offered her alternative space in which to perform her activities.”
The statement continued, “After declining this offer, we had no choice but to ask Mrs. Lowen to stop engaging in this activity while on the treadmill. We always try to accommodate the different activities that our members want to perform in our leisure center but feel that, on this occasion, the activity was putting the member at risk of injury and so had to intervene.”
And Lowen’s actions have also caused a debate among online commenters. “Next time, just run on it like a normal person. I don’t know why all these people at the gym gotta reinvent the equipment all the time,” one YouTube user wrote. Another called her dancing “pointless and stupid” and said that it would distract them from their training if they saw her doing that in the gym.
Lowen responded, however, “I’m quite a private person, and usually I go to the gym early in the morning when there aren’t many people around. I do it because I enjoy it and it keeps me going back. I’m sorry if I would put you off what you enjoy doing, though.” And she has also received messages of support. One person wrote, for example, “Go on girl, do yo thang, thizzle! They are just jealous cause they can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. DO YOU!”
Before being removed from the fitness center, Lowen had been exercising there three times a week. After the incident, though, she decided that she wasn’t going back and so canceled her membership at Malvern Splash. In fact, Lowen admitted that she thought her days of working out at the gym were over for good.
However, instead of giving up, Lowen decided to check out another local facility at The Malvern Spa hotel. Before enrolling, though, she wanted to make sure that her treadmill dancing would be permitted and so arranged a meeting with the gym manager. And Lowen was pleased to hear that her unique form of exercise was given the stamp of approval.
Lowen told SWNS, “I went to The Malvern Spa to ask them about it, and they said it sounds amazing, we would be more than happy. They invited me to do a demo, and they loved it and said it’s fine for me to do at their gym.” Lowen added, “They welcomed me with open arms. So a happy ending – eventually!”