There are plenty of reasons to bring a treadmill into your home. This machine can simulate the outdoor walking, jogging or running experience there for you rain or shine, remedy some of the pitfalls of those activities (i.e., reducing the risk of a stress fracture by 50%), and allow you to keep up with news, friends, entertainment or even your work.
There are also many reasons consumers bring the wrong treadmill home. Short-term savings attract them to models with short-term lifespans. They go for something with impressive features and challenges that might serve another user but don’t meet their own fitness needs or help them achieve their goals. Important durability details like construction and motor capacity go by the boards. They’re lured into a purchase by “bonuses” that cover a machine’s fundamental flaws and weaknesses.
Here are a few considerations that will help you find the treadmill that goes the distance and doesn’t waste your time or money getting you to where you want to be.
1. Consider your requirements.
- Your age, height, weight, physical ability, limitations and goals: A visit to your doctor is a good first step in assessing these criteria. You’ll want to know what’s safe for you to do, how to make desired improvements (weight loss, cardio boosting, fat burning, mobility, rehabilitation, etc.) That info will help you determine physical treadmill must-haves like your required deck length and motor horsepower. Knowing how hard and often you’ll be exercising allows you to narrow down which features, speeds and challenges are worth your money.
- Imagine your treadmill’s life in your home: How will you use your treadmill? Will you be walking, running or jogging? How many users? Do you have neighbours/roommates/family members who will object to noise? How much space will you need to run it and store it? (Remember to figure in an extra 1 to 2 metres of space behind your treadmill for safety.) Will it be in a high traffic area? (Consider kids and pets that like to move around and are often intent on what you’re doing.) Is your floor hardwood, cement, or carpeted? (Softer surfaces absorb noise.) And last but not least, how will you get it home/through the doorway?
- What kind of person are you (athletics aside)? There’s more to owning a treadmill than using it. There’s also maintenance, including cleaning, lubrication and the occasional repair. This attention will contribute to the longevity of your machine. If you’re no lover of maintenance schedules, not particularly handy or too busy with other things, you can consider a lower-maintenance machine (that may offer fewer features) or hiring someone to handle that for you. Sometimes service comes with your machine, so you may want to figure that into your purchase decision. There are also some options that can make maintenance less of an issue.
Keep these things in mind as we talk more about the treadmills themselves. You’ll be better able to envision how the following factors apply to you:
2. Treadmill Basics
There are two types of treadmills. You usually imagine a treadmill as an electrically-powered machine that needs to be plugged in. However, some treadmills, like the Assault AirRunner Treadmill, are self-generated, meaning the user’s own motion keeps the belt going – thanks to an innovative, distinctly curved deck design. Users can save on energy bills, be able to workout anywhere, and keep going if the power goes out. Still, there are trade-offs: You could lose some of the programs and amenities (like incline) that you’d get on an electric treadmill. You’ll also need power for the graphically represented hills and valleys of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs. Finally, starting and ramping up your self-powered treadmill workout usually requires advanced athletic skills, leaving some of us out in the cold. For that reason, most of what follows will apply mainly to electric treadmills.
- Parts to Ponder: One good way to understand a treadmill is to examine its important components:
- Motor – what your heart does for you, the motor does for your machine. A weak motor can overheat, require frequent repairs and wear out early. A strong one will cost more but will carry you through to the completion of your goals. So what qualifies as strong? Motor efficiency is measured in horsepower (HP) - a standard divided into peak duty HP (the machine temporarily working its hardest) and continuous duty or CHP (the maximum horsepower at which your motor can perform for the entire duration of a workout). The minimum recommended CHP ranges from 1.5 for walking to 2.5 to 3.0 for frequent running. However, you’ll have to add .5 HP to that if you weigh over 200 lbs. If you’re not a college linebacker, you might be okay with a smaller, less expensive motor that brings your deck speed up to 10 mph instead of 12. Added note: DC-powered motors are quieter than AC motors if you want to keep peace with your neighbours.
- Frame – Frames are made of steel (heavier, stronger and more stable) or aluminum (lighter, flexible and less expensive). Naturally, steel frames last longer and are less likely to vibrate and wobble. Some, like the Spirit Fitness CT850 Treadmill, can support up to 450 lbs.
- Deck – the running surface over which the belt travels. The most important aspects are its dimensions (see belt), strength and shock absorption. Strength can be determined by reading your machine’s maximum user weight. Opt for medium-density fibre-board (not particle board) ¾” or thicker for walking, at least 1” for running. Some flexibility is okay, but a deck that bounces like a springboard is apt to crack down the road. Shock absorption isn't just a matter of cushioning but also impact-reduction that employs automotive technology and special elastomers – making models like the Bowflex BXT116 worth considering if you have joint problems. If you do, you’ll want to avoid cheaper treadmills that skimp of cushioning and sometimes angle outwards, created a risk of a twisted ankle. If you want a true simulation of running on hills, you’ll want a minimum 10% incline and a realistic decline, if that’s in your budget.
- Check out that warranty: If you can’t find exact details on all of the above, you can get a fairly accurate idea of component quality from a treadmill’s warranty information. Manufacturers don’t guess how long to cover a product or its parts after you buy it. Constant analysis, including stress testing, gives them a very accurate estimate of how long that product will last on average.
Knowing that, what kind of warranty periods should you look for? Consumer Reports recommends getting lifetime warranty coverage on the frame and the motor, with three to seven years warranty coverage on parts and at least one year on labour (having your seller’s certified technician look after your machine). Find more information on warranties here. Be aware, one condition of that warranty put some of the onus on you, the consumer.
3. Maintenance is key.
Warranties can be voided if your machine hasn’t been properly cared for. On most treadmills, it should be relatively easy to wipe dust and debris from the belt or lubricate your treadmill once a year (some are even self-lubricating). Look for a formula that cleans evenly and minimizes friction, like Dyaco Lube-N-Walk Treadmill Lubricant.
Adjusting belt tension and alignment might be a little trickier. Repairs are much trickier, and your attempt to do it yourself could also void your warranty. It’s best to leave some jobs in the hands of pros. That’s why Flaman Fitness proudly offers customers the skills a team of technicians who are trained in servicing every treadmill model we sell– even if you didn’t buy yours from us. You can also check online reviews to determine whether or not a prospective treadmill could be a pain to maintain and whether a post-purchase service agreement might be a good value for you.
4. Features, Options and Accessories
This category covers the things you don’t necessarily need to complete your workout, but make it more pleasant in several different ways: They help you work out more efficiently, encourage you by showing how well you’ve done, keep you safe, and help make your workout more enjoyable or at least a little easier.
Those aren’t all the external treats you can add to your treadmill experience. A rubber floor mat might not be high technology, but it can do wonders for your workout (by reducing noise and vibration), your floors, and your machine, by acting as a barrier between dust and carpet fibres that can rise and pollute your working parts.
Finally, you also have the option of using an entirely different kind of treadmill. Desk treadmills like the Lifespan TR5000 DT5 allow busy workers to do their jobs and their workouts simultaneously.
5. Drop by Flaman Fitness and discuss what your ideal treadmill is worth to you.
Perhaps by now, you have some candidate treadmills in mind – or maybe just the one. In either case, our Flaman Fitness experts are available to provide even more details and let you try them out for yourself. Drop by your nearest Flaman Fitness location to discuss your needs, budget, goals and more. We’ll help you get your fitness journey on track.