Time For a New Treadmill?

November 28, 2010 · 11 comments


Lately I have been thinking about getting a new piece of exercise equipment to start off 2011 - either a replacement treadmill for the one I already have or a new elliptical, something I have used only a few times in a hotel gym. To help me make a decision between the two (or maybe I’ll just get a new flat panel television instead) I figured I’d do a little research on both types of exercise equipment to try to make an informed decision. I’ll start with treadmills:

So why am I looking at getting a replacement treadmill? Well the one I have was bought in 1998 or so, meaning it is a dozen years old. It’s a pretty solid one, a foldable “Spacesaver” Pro Form J8 with multiple programs, heart rate sensor (that hasn’t worked in years), incline, cushioned belt, etc. I wish I could say I’ve put thousands of miles on it but that wouldn’t be true - but I’ve put hundreds on it anyway.

I want to start exercising more and the biggest issue I am having with this treadmill is that I just can’t get the belt adjusted in a way that doesn’t make it slip periodically. It’s no fun running on a treadmill where the belt is slipping. I’ve tried every trick in the book (Google) and while I have improved the problem significantly, it still is an issue. I wouldn’t say it was an excuse for why I am not using the treadmill like I should, but it sure doesn’t help.

So, why a treadmill?

Treadmill Benefits

Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association show treadmills burn more calories per hour than any other piece of fitness equipment tested. Throw in the convenience factor-no foul weather, mad dogs, strangers or potholes-and you’ve got an ideal solution for successful home fitness.

Compared to exercise equipment like bicycles, treadmills burn more calories per hour because running on a treadmill is a weight bearing exercise. While I have been enjoying my outdoor walks recently the fact is that, particularly in a cold weather state like Minnesota, I often need to get my exercise indoors - whether it’s the weather or the time of day. I don’t like to go for walks at night if I don’t have to.

My goal is to start running in 5ks and eventually 10ks and in order to get into shape for those I need to start running. The treadmill is of course the only piece of exercise equipment that prepares you for running.

Treadmill Features

I mentioned that my current treadmill is foldable. While that is a great feature for some people it isn’t one that I need - I have my own room for my equipment and the only time I have ever folded this treadmill up is when we moved. So that really isn’t a feature I need. What other features should I be looking for? How about:

  • The motor - the bigger the motor the smoother the workout. Get the biggest motor your budget can afford.
  • The deck - again, bigger is better. Assuming you have the space available, get the biggest deck you an afford, particulary if you are big like me.
  • Incline - For sure get a treadmill with an adjustable incline, this helps to mimic outdoor running across varied terrain.
  • Cushioning - Different levels of cushioning are available - try to get a machine with adjustable cushioning.
  • Programs - Modern treadmills will offer a plethora of available programs, both speed and incline.
  • Extras - These days there are a whole bunch of different options available that I don’t think were there the last time I was looking at treadmills - think things like integrated television and iPod/MP3 integration.

It’s not really a feature per se, but make sure you check the weight limits on the treadmill so that you get one beefy enough to handle you. My guess is that because I plan to get a big motor and a big deck that I will be fine, but I’ll still need to check that out.

Treadmill Workouts

One of the benefits of getting a top quality treadmill is the number of workout programs available. There will be a number of pre-programmed ones or you can make your own. Personally, I will be going with a modified version of the Couch to 5K program that has you start walking and then slowly incorporate running until you are running an entire 5K. It’s a pretty ingenious program because slow and steady wins the race. If you have an incline option on your treadmill you can use that to make the runs more challenging. Because you will be exercising indoors you will need to keep your workouts interesting and one way to do that is to vary between speed and incline programs.

As I have been looking around at all of the treadmills available these days I have gotten pretty excited about getting an upgrade.

I don’t have much experience with treadmill brands beyond the one I have. Anyone have a suggestion for a rock-solid treadmill that won’t totally bust the bank? (I am willing to spend $$$ if I need to though)

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Treadmill November 28, 2010 at 10:09 pm

great article as alot of people waste money on exercise bikes and cross trainer s when they should invest in a treadmill as using a treadmill is most efficient way to get in shape and lose weight
make sure the treadmill has a wide belt and automatic incline and be prepared to spend at least $500 to get a good treadmill that is enjoyable to use
as a personal trainer my advice is to go into a retail store and try out all the treadmills, ask lots of questions and then go online to compare prices. even with delivery you will save alot of money buying online and you can compare the specs from the retail store with online shops
with the money you save buying online you can invest this saved money into a good weight set and bench and you will have a great home gym setup at home !
all the best with your training !
dean piazza

Mark November 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I’ve never purchased a treadmill but I have heard that a great way to get a high quality unit is to find a place that sells equipment from gyms. Many of them are refurbished and come with a warranty. It might be worth a look.

Justin Harrison November 29, 2010 at 12:06 am

I personally hate the treadmill and I think its one of the crappiest inventions of all time, whilst its true that it does give you a good cardio workout, the fact is that it is very heavy on your knees (the kind of impact you don’t want)

Also and this is just me dude, but if I am going to spend money on a piece of exercise equipment, it better be fro something I am going to enjoy and something that I cant do on my own steam (like riding bike)

My advice, save your cash, get off your @ss early in the monring and go for a run in the outdoors… it will do the same thing, save you cash and allow you to take in some much needed fresh air.

Bottom line Treadmills are a load of BS

John November 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm

I have to admit that I hate running. Not so much the act of running, but the fact that my bad knee tends to kill me after. I have started to run more since my weight has dropped and wow, its tons easier. Personally at the beginning of weight loss I do not think running is the best exercise. Biking is what got me started and in general, its just more fun.

John's Weight Loss Blog November 29, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I get the feeling from your blog you play a lot of hockey, John, is it enough to give you consistent cardio? I used to live next to an NHLer and let me tell you that guy was FIT! :-)

John November 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Well I bike to work everyday so I get about 13 miles in. I am playing hockey 2-4 times a week. Hockey burns somewhere north of 750 cal for a 90 min game. I would like to run more on non hockey days but have been doing that consistently yet. Anyways, yea it’s plenty of cardio.

Greg November 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I have a buddy that bought a treadmill a few years ago. Says its the most expensive coat rack in his house! LOL!

My wife and I talked about it, but I know I just wouldn’t use it. Maybe just not disciplined enough…

Cynthia November 30, 2010 at 12:59 am

My go to cardio equipment is my old Nordic Track skier. They seem to last forever, and when something fails, you usually can fix it yourself since there are several websites that specialize in parts for it. Further, the machines turn up at thrift shops fairly frequently for minimal money. It’s lighter and smaller than a treadmill and easier to find space for. Plus it folds and can be stood on end. What I don’t know is how heavy a person they can support. But the action is easy on the knees because there’s no impact. Probably not useful for the Couch to 5K program training in that respect.

They do take some getting used to for balance, but then they are very nice machines when it’s cold and icy outdoors. I can’t imagine anyone running down our hill when it is iced over or up it either for that matter. Sledding yes, running no. I don’t even see anyone biking up or down.

I’d think a treadmill might be useful for my hubby though, so I’m interested to see what people suggest. Don’t know where we’d PUT it, but if it kept him more active it might be a good idea.

Ron December 3, 2010 at 7:43 am

Proud to say my treadmill is not used as a place to hang clothes…. use 5-6 days a week, without it… I would be sitting on my ass on the couch… so people can talk bad about them all they want…. but mine has done a lot for my health.

Keith @ My Body Fat December 4, 2010 at 5:28 am

I’ve had my Reebok treadmill for nearly 2 years now and its one of the best investments I made to my home gym. If you are from the UK its best to buy in Jan or Feb at this time there will be lots of half price deals floating around. I managed to get mine half price which was a saving of over 250 pounds.

anna @ Treadmill Reviews January 16, 2011 at 7:38 am

As a treadmill user I can confirm that technology has improved treadmills quality in the last years and it’s worth buying a new one for your home gym. For example, there are treadmills that connect your treadmill to Google Maps and automatically control the incline of the treadmill to simulate terrain, depending on the route you create. And these models don’t cost that much.

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