Motivation On the spot: the treadmill of your dreams

On the spot: the treadmill of your dreams

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By Sonia Mendes

Notice a correlation between the rapidly-dropping temperature and your dwindling desire to train outdoors? You’re not alone. As we head into the heart of winter, it doesn’t always feel like a wonderland from the runner’s perspective. And while the hard-core runners among us aren’t fazed by the biting winds, snow and icy conditions, it’s simply not always feasible to train outside.

Treadmill_TOCThe treadmill offers up the ideal, indoor alternative, but choosing the right one can seem daunting. After all, nobody wants to fork over a pile of hard-earned cash for the wrong piece of equipment; that just makes for a space-sucking, dust-gathering clothes rack. So before you buy, do your homework – or better yet, let us do your homework for you.

Cushioning

One of the advantages offered by a well-built treadmill is a cushioning system, which can significantly reduce the impact on your joints compared with road running. To determine the level of cushioning you need, consider what type of running you’ll be doing. “If your training will include lots of distance, speed work, intervals or hills you may want to consider more cushioning,” advises Marla Brillinger, president and co-owner of Body & Soul, a personal training and lifestyle center located in Vancouver. Some treadmills even offer an adjustable cushioning system, so different users can choose the deck firmness/softness they like best.

Price

When push comes to shove, the price tag may play a big factor in determining which treadmill you choose. But like anything else, the pricing varies greatly. And while you can probably find an entry-level treadmill that comes in just under the $1,000 mark, keep that wise, old adage, ‘You get what you pay for,’ in the back of your mind. “Don’t go cheap,” says Brillinger.  “At the same time, you don’t usually need a commercial-grade model either.” Top-end treadmills can run you up to $3,000 or more, so you’ll need to decide what price range is realistic for you.

Tread belt (Running Surface)

Most treadmills on the market today offer two-ply tread belts, ranging in size between 14-24” wide and between 45-63” long. If you’re planning to do the majority of your training on the treadmill, you’ll want a larger belt – nothing smaller than 18” wide and 55” long.

Keep in mind that while a treadmill with a smaller belt might have a pleasingly small price tag, if the tread belt is undersized you will find yourself hitting your feet on the front or sides of the machine or even tripping – neither of which are terribly conducive to a good workout.

Programmable features

Before you shop, put some thought into what sort of features you require during your workout. Do you need a heart rate monitor? What about built-in programs, such as hill training and intervals? Is having a speed decline feature important to you? “People often get swayed by all the fancy bells and whistles,” cautions Brillinger. “But do you really want or need all of that?”

Horsepower

The treadmill motor, which delivers power to the tread belt system, usually falls in the range of 1.5 to 3.0 horsepower. But here comes the age-old question: does size really matter?

The answer is yes – and no. Bigger does not necessarily mean better – some manufacturers use bigger motors to power their treadmills because they have a poorly-designed tread belt and need a bigger motor to power it. That said, you’ll want to find a treadmill that offers at least two horsepower – anything less and you could have mechanical problems due to overheating or motor stress.

Continuous or Peak Duty Motor?

While you shop, you might find your head swimming with treadmill terminology, such as motor ratings that are continuous or peak duty. Fear not – these are actually terms that are thrown around interchangeably, and there’s no standardized motor rating in the industry (bottom line: don’t worry about it).Notice a correlation between the rapidly-dropping temperature and your dwindling desire to train outdoors? You’re not alone. As we head into the heart of winter, it doesn’t always feel like a wonderland from the runner’s perspective. And while the hard-core runners among us aren’t fazed by the biting winds, snow and icy conditions, it’s simply not always feasible to train outside.

The treadmill offers up the ideal, indoor alternative, but choosing the right one can seem daunting. After all, nobody wants to fork over a pile of hard-earned cash for the wrong piece of equipment; that just makes for a space-sucking, dust-gathering clothes rack. So before you buy, do your homework –
or better yet, let us do your homework for you.

[Originally appeared in the January 2010 issue]