Treadmills are the most popular choice when it comes to keeping fit at home. For starters you don’t need to leave home and battle traffic to go to your local gym. Yearly gym membership fees will also be a thing of the past. Not only this, but you can watch your kids or your favourite TV show all from the comfort of your own home.
With an endless selection of treadmills on the market, choosing one that is right for you may seem like a daunting task. This step by step guide will help you select a treadmill that fits your goals, your space & your budget.
1.) DECIDE WHERE YOU WILL USE YOUR TREADMILL
Before conducting your search for a treadmill, measure the area that you intend to use it. Some things to consider include:
- Is there a power point nearby? You will want to make sure that if you decide to use an extension lead that it doesn’t become a trip hazard. Also, particularly if your treadmill has incline, make sure there is enough slack with the power cord so that it moves with the treadmill freely.
- Do I need a folding treadmill? Folding treadmills make a great choice for smaller rooms or apartments however they are not as structurally strong as one that doesn’t fold.
2.) YOUR FITNESS GOALS
The key here is to think long term. If you are just starting out, then you will most likely only want to walk or do light jogging. As your confidence increases, you may want to step it up a notch by running and then perhaps perform interval training. Ensure that the treadmill you purchase will cater to both your short and long term needs.
Other things to consider include frequency of use and perhaps other people that may use the treadmill.
Treadmills today come with all sorts of `bells & whistles’. Here are some of the ones that are worth considering:
- Training programs: Inbuilt within most treadmills are programs that will vary the speed, incline and time. You will get more out of your workouts and become less bored with your treadmill if it comes with several different programs.
- Heart Rate Monitoring/Control: Most treadmills on the market have some capacity to monitor your heart rate by way of sensors on the side-rails. The productiveness of your workout will largely depend on what your heart rate is. Too high or too low and either way you could be wasting your time. Heart rate monitoring and control takes the guess work out of this to ensure that you are getting the most of your workouts.
- iPod connectivity: There is significant research to suggest that you perform best during your workout while you listen to your favourite music. Higher end treadmills will come at least with the ability to connect your iPod or MP3 player and listen through inbuilt speakers. The Horizon T5000 allows you to control your iPod all from the console of the treadmill.
The treadmill motor should definitely not be a case of out of sight, out of mind. Your overall experience of your treadmill as far as smoothness & quietness is concerned will mostly depend on the quality & size of the motor.
When comparing the motors of treadmills, you will typically see the motor rated as “CONTINUOUS DUTY” & “PEAK HORSEPOWER”.
THE RUNNING BELT & DECK
The running belt is what you will walk or run on. Ranging in size from around 130x40cm to 150x50cm, your choice will be guided by how you intend to use the treadmill. If you’re just starting out and will mostly walk or job lightly then a smaller sized running belt would be sufficient. If you will be mostly running then choosing a treadmill with a large running belt is best. As you get fatigued during longer running sessions, users will tend to `drift’ sideways on the treadmill which is why a larger running belt is so important.
Another factor to consider with the running belt is the material. The thickness of a belt will vary from 1.6 up to around 5mm. The Horizon T5000 for example comes with an Orthopaedic belt which is 4.4mm making for a very comfortable experience. Note that thicker belts will create more drag placing additional stress on the treadmill motor.
The rollers are what the belt revolves around. One is situated at the front and one at the back. The back roller seems to create the most interest with treadmill buyers as some fitness equipment sellers will have you believe that size matters. The theory goes that the larger the roller the lesser it has to turn and therefore in turn the bearings. In essence, the quality of the roller and the bearings it contains is more important. You can be sure that all components are of a high quality including the rollers if you purchase a treadmill from a reputable brand such as Healthstream, Horizon or True Fitness.
The cushioning system on a treadmill is one of the most important components of your treadmill. The best thing to do when evaluating treadmills is to test it out as underneath the belt not all treadmills are the same. Take for example a Horizon Fitness treadmill with Variable Cushioning System pictured below.
Between the deck and frame of the treadmill, you have what is known commonly as a durometer or elastometer. Essentially it is a rubber block, which makes it softer to run on. With most treadmills the intensity of the rubber block is the same. With the Horizon treadmills as shown above, they vary the intensity of the block to better replicate the running motion and like a pair of running shoes – soft on impact, firm on take off.
The warranty on a treadmill will typically cover the motor, parts & labour as standard. Some offer lifetime warranties on the motor, anything from 2 up to 10 years for parts and 1 year on labour. Before purchasing your treadmill ask your dealer to explain the warranty claim process to ensure that there isn’t any fine print for exclusions etc.