Runnin’ down a dream in Vail |

Runnin’ down a dream in Vail

vail daily
Vail Daily/Dominique Taylor

VAIL – Two Vail Valley women have brought a new meaning to running the rat race.

Vail Mountain dispatchers Katie Chadwell Portz and Holly Bybliw have installed a treadmill desk in their office, where they answer e-mails, take phone calls and man a portable radio – all while walking 1.5 mph.

“Even just walking on it for an hour, you burn a bunch of calories and you just feel 100 times better,” Bybliw said.

For both women, the sedentary lifestyle came as a shock to the system after several years of working on Vail Mountain. They had been accustomed to getting fresh air and exercise at their seasonal jobs operating chair lifts and, for Chadwell Portz, working as a Yellow Jacket.

Both were attracted to the security of a full-time desk job as dispatchers, but being fastened to a chair for 10 hours per day, four days per week started to take it toll on their bodies.

“In the wintertime, we literally can’t leave our desks,” Bybliw said. “Our phones are ringing, our radios are going off, it’s crazy hectic, so we are sitting for 10 hours a day. It sounds dumb but at the end of the day, Katie and I felt miserable, headaches, stomach problems.”

“No energy,” Chadwell Portz added. “Not sleeping at night.”

While both 20-something women swear by outdoor activities, from snowboarding to hiking to mountain biking, they were having trouble getting motivated to exercise after working a 10-hour shift.

So they set out to bring some physical activity into their daily routines.

“We tried everything,” Chadwell Portz said. “It’s awkward to be on the phone doing squats.”

About two years ago, the women bought an elliptical machine for the office but the bouncing and hand lever motions made it all but impossible to work simultaneously. Instead, they hopped on for a few minutes during breaks in the action, which didn’t amount to much exercise.

Then, about a year ago, the women saw an episode of “Good Morning America” featuring a Mayo Clinic doctor who invented a treadmill desk. To Chadwell Portz and Bybliw, the treadmill station sounded like the perfect solution to their deskbound dilemma.

“We both love our jobs more than anything, so it was like ‘How can we make it even more amazing?” Bybliw said.

And so, Chadwell Portz turned to her new husband, Ryan Portz, for help with an unusual honey-do task.

Using a treadmill the women bought for $100 from departing skiing instructors, Portz set out to make his wife’s dream of walking while working come true.

He affixed a plywood desktop to the front of the treadmill, near the control panel, and built a shelf at eye level to hold the women’s computer monitor.

The women have found they can do all their normal tasks while walking, thanks to a computer keyboard on the desk, a phone within reach of the treadmill and a portable radio resting in a cupholder.

Since they started using the treadmill desk about two months ago, Portz and Bybliw said their whole work world has changed.

They not only feel better during the day, their energy has spiked after they leave the office.

“I get off work and I’m like, ‘OK, let’s go to the grocery, let’s go for a walk,’ whereas if I’m sitting all day, I’m just dragging. I want to go home and go to bed,” Chadwell Portz said.

Looking ahead to the winter, the dispatchers plan to keep statistics on how many miles they walk, how many calories they burn and whether they lose weight.

They’re so excited about their experiment in workplace wellness, they recommend the treadmill desk to anyone else with a job suited to it.

“It’s amazing for us,” Bybliw said. “If people have the space to do it, I would 100 percent recommend it.”

Sarah Mausolf can be reached at (970) 748-2928 or

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