Over a couple of draft beers at Upslope Brewing Company about five years ago, Ryan Ognibene and Brad Miles sketched an idea they knew would revolutionize how post-injury runners, active seniors, pregnant women and everyone in between could maximize their fitness potential. Brad, a former professional triathlete with a sales background, and Ryan, an endurance athlete who holds a degree in mechanical engineering, fused their expertise to create Lever, a body weight support system that attaches to a treadmill and removes up to 45 pounds of weight to alleviate stress on joints.
“At this time, no one was doing body weight support in this style,” Ryan says. “There is a 700-pound machine out there that uses air pressure and is prone to breaking down. We simplified it down to 8 pounds and designed it to be much more durable and accessible.”
In the spring of 2019, they crafted their first prototype from wooden dowels and flagpole holders they sourced from Home Depot. Just a few short months later, their now patented system went to market. Ryan and Brad have made subtle improvements over the years, but overall, the sleek, aluminum form remains the same. Its lightweight and compact design makes it extremely effective and easy to transport, whether on a plane or to a local gym for those without a treadmill at home. Each system is assembled in and shipped from Lever’s Boulder office. As of this month, Ryan and Brad have sold nearly 2,000 to clients locally and across the globe.
“We have customers all around the world, from Africa to Europe,” Ryan says. “Kenyan runners use it there for their marathon training.”
Although pro athletes are Lever’s core users, the system was created to benefit an array of people, including older customers with knee replacements who want to be able to walk without putting pressure on their lower extremities, and high school cross-country athletes striving to stay dynamic and agile as they train for races. “The system minimizes risk of injury if it’s used consistently,” Ryan adds. “You can use it every day to be proactive in staying healthy.”
Comfort plays a big role in Lever’s design as well—it allows for smooth and natural running movement. Brad and Ryan also custom designed breathable, fitted shorts that can be worn over the top of existing shorts or leggings, eliminating the need to change clothes in the bathroom at a public gym (and therefore saving time). The shorts seamlessly integrate into the system for enhanced functionality and range from sizes XS to XXXL.
With accessibility as a major focus, the original 10-pound Lever system starts at $999 and includes a pair of shorts. A newly released model ($1,449) that’s slightly more compact comes with shorts, a scale to track progress and the Lever mobile app, which connects to Bluetooth and features training and rehabilitation plans. Renting the system at a lower cost is also possible, with the option to purchase at any point in time before returning it.
“Most people end up wanting to keep it forever,” Ryan says. “They put so much into training, and they’re able to use this to get them to the finish line. We’re happy to have brought a product to market that can help people in many ways.”