Buying a treadmill

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Updated: December 4, 2012

By Dar Forsythe, HSSCS, PTS.

Coaching Director, Baseball Presqu’ile.

Thinking of purchasing a treadmill?
Treadmills are one of the few exercise machines that have withstood the test of time. Since the first treadmill built by Bill Staub up until now, treadmill’s have been the premier choice in aerobics machinery, the reasons for this are quite simple, it’s a natural movement that we master by the age of 1 and they actually, work!

Fitness fads will come and go, but treadmills always maintain their status as king of the jungle. In fact, their importance in the fitness industry has been well documented. Walk into any gym or fitness store and notice what the premier piece of equipment is.  Treadmill

Now it’s time to put a little thought into what you need and what you should be looking at.

Who will be using it, how, and where will it go.
Consideration should go into users weight, height, stride length and how it will be used. If more than one person will be using the treadmill then you should consider the weight and size of the heaviest/tallest person using the machine. More than two runners would require something a little sturdier and with more power.

You will need to consider the space you have available to determine whether you’ll need a folding or non-folding machine.(I always advise on non-folding if possible) Treadmills also require dedicated circuits between 15 and 20 amps(in some cases greater) so you need to be sure you have an area that complies. Remember, do not plug into, power bars, line conditioners or UPS, this can be harmful to your electronic components. Think of all your requirements before heading out shopping.

How much!
This is probably the most important consideration before shopping your treadmill. Treadmill’s can cost anywhere between $800 and $10,000 so you will need to have a budget set. Let’s work within a reasonable range, $900 – $5000, you should be able to find what you need in this gamut.
I tend to stay away from online affiliate programs such as Smooth, Nordictrack(or any Icon products), and Sole. Foods for thought, these machines are often marketed at a retail price twice as high as what they are selling them for. They rotate these great sales between machines so you think you are getting a bargain, you’re not!

In the treadmill industry, more so than any other, you get what you pay for. So you are looking for the best possible components closest to your budget.

Treadmill Pointers
The drive system of your treadmill is the most important item you should consider. The right selection at this point is crucial to a successful buy. Transfer of power should be smooth, you should not hear the motor excessively forcing to provide you with extra power nor should you feel lag in the treadmill’s performance. Don’t get too caught up in horsepower speak; a 2.5chp motor may be more powerful than a 3.0chp motor. There is no real standard for rating a treadmill motor; factors such as RPM and amperage are often overlooked.

Cushioning/Shock absorption is another aspect of the treadmill that should be considered. Prepare to take a good test run on any machine you are considering, if it doesn’t feel right, this may not be the machine for you.

The size of the walking belt will be determined by the runner’s stride length, this is a comfort aspect that can be determined during testing. You’ll know if a 60” belt is better for you than a 56” belt. My personal choice is 60” even though I’m not considered to be tall.

Other considerations
Program variations, HRC(heart rate control), and warranty. A standard treadmill warranty is lifetime on the frame, 3 years on parts, and 1 year on labor.
Recommended Companies
Lifespan, Spirit, True Fitness, Bodyguard, Life Fitness, Precor, Landice, Woodway, Techno Gym.

Closing thoughts
For good, solid advice, head on over to the  Runner’s world forums; you will be greeted by a host of fitness experts, industry specialists, technicians and best of all, treadmill users.

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