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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