Monday, March 9, 2009

Top 10 Things to Look for in A Treadmill

About 2 years ago, I bought a Bowflex 5 Series treadmill for $1600. Although I could have purchased the 7 Series with more features for the same price, I am very pleased with my treadmill. I use it frequently, 3 to 5 times per week, especially during winter. And thanks to my treadmill I have expanded my training to include progression runs, hill climb, speed work, and tempo runs - training I can not do quite as well outdoors.

A few friends recently asked me for help buying a treadmill. While I do not recommend specific brands, I do know what worked for me. Below I share my knowledge along with a few articles I could find on the internet to create my list of the "Top 10 Things to Look for in A Treadmill":

  1. Motor: Get a strong motor (1.5-2hp or higher). This is especially true if you plan to put a lot of miles on your treadmill and/or more than 1 person will use it regularly.
  2. Sound: Test the treadmill in the store. Turn it on and walk/jog on it. A good treadmill should be quiet at low and high speeds. When you jog the treadmill shouldn't slow down with your strides. You should feel comfortable whether you walk or run.
  3. Construction: Look at the construction of the frame and the base (area you run on). It should be made of a sturdy material. The belt should also not look heavily worn if you are buying a used product.
  4. Programs & Display: Having a lot of programs and display gadgets is not that important to me. Once you start using your treadmill, you may find that you don't use most of the programs. When my wife or I use our treadmill, we usually change the speed and/or incline as we run or walk. As far as the display goes, it should be able to show your speed, distance, pace and time at a minimum.
  5. Dimensions: The treadmill should be at least 18" wide and 50" long. In my opinion, the wider and longer it is, the safer it is to run without falling off. (I've never fallen off, BTW!)
  6. Convenience: I'd look for one that folds up if you can find one in your price range. A good treadmill can be heavy. The fold up kind are easier to carry.
  7. HRM: A heart rate monitor (HRM) is not necessary, but they are common on treadmills. Keep in mind there are many heart rate monitor watches that are inexpensive, have more features, and can be used while on the treadmill or with other exercises. If you find a treadmill you like, but it doesn't have an HRM, it isn't a big deal.
  8. Incline: Find a treadmill with a motorized incline. This is a great feature because running and walking hills builds speed, endurance, and burns fat.
  9. Warranty: Try to get at least a 2-3 year warranty on parts, especially if you buy a used product.
  10. Used vs. New: If you buy a used treadmill, I'd suggest you not get one more than 1-2 years old. The average treadmill lasts 7 years. If you buy a 5 year old product it could die sooner than expected. You should be able to get a new or used treadmill for $1500 or less.
The bottom line is for a moderate price you can find a treadmill with quaility construction and good features. My treadmill has a fan which helps, but I could probably live without that feature if necessary. Even though I would much rather run outdoors on any day, knowing I have a good treadmill allows me to continue training under the worse weather conditions. I have no excuses for not running!



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