Buying a Treadmill: The essentials

So now you’ve decided that you want to own your own treadmill at home. How do you go about it? What model do you buy? What should you look for? What brand? How much will it cost?

Since its invention in the 1960s, the treadmill became a staple in most gyms, and is now the most preferred exercise equipment by many. With its popularity, first time buyers may easily feel intimidated by the size and complexity of these machines, its various add-ons, especially with the breadth of the options available in the market.

Here we break down the essentials of what you need to know when buying a treadmill.

#1:Start With Knowing What You Need It For

What are your fitness goals? Are you looking for a machine for walking? Are you looking for a lean mean training machine that can handle the pace for muscle building and endurance training? Or are you looking for a treadmill to use in rehabilitation?

Knowing how often you’ll be using the machine is the essential first step in buying a treadmill. A good clear view of this will make it easier to narrow down your choices, and will keep you more focused in the buying process.

#2: How much are you willing to spend?

Knowing your budget will speed things along. A budget will help you prioritize your ‘must-haves’, and the ‘nice-to-haves’.

It’s also a good idea to compare prices, and look for the best deals and discounts. Treadmill sellers usually offer an average of about 25% off on their regular list prices. Budget Treadmills start at less than USD$100, with prices going all the way up to USD$200++ for the more high-end models.

#3: Research. Research. Research.

Use the internet. Before buying, research on what is available in the market, and the things that you should look out for. Start with the basics.

Different Types of Treadmills

There are many treadmill models available in the market, but there are only two types of treadmills in general: manual and motorized treadmills.
For our purposes, we will discuss motorized treadmills.

  • Budget Folding Treadmills
  • These models are the most basic treadmills available, and they are ideal for those who wish to use the treadmill for walking, or light exercise. Most Budget models include features like a monitor display showing distance travelled, speed, time, and calories burned. These also fold up for easy storage. Budget folding treadmills might feel unstable to a heavy user, as the machine’s frame is made of light materials. Also, the shorter length of the running area might be a concern to those with longer strides.

  • Folding Treadmills
  • These models have most of the features of the budget folding treadmill with a couple of extras like a heart-rate monitor, or pre-loaded workout programs. Folding treadmills offer more stability for the runner, as the frame is built with stronger materials than its budget counterpart. Folding treadmills are mostly the same size as budget folding treadmills.

  • Non-Folding Treadmills
  • Non-Folding Treadmills are the machines that commercial gyms use. These machines can take the pressure and speed that an athlete or an avid runner will require. Most of these machines come with a lifetime warranty on their frame and motor. Some extra features also include heart-rate monitors, and programmable incline.

What Makes A Treadmill?

Most websites online will offer the treadmill buyer a list of features and specifications. What do these specs mean? We list down the parts and elements of the treadmill, and the things that the buyer should look out for.

  • Size
  • First things first, get the length, the width, and the height of your treadmill area. If you don’t have that much room to spare in your home, opt to get the foldable types. Remember to add 2-4 inches clearance from the sides when measuring, while the tail-end should have at least 8 inches of clearance.

  • Motor
  • This is the heart of the treadmill. And while the specs for motors include Horsepower (HP) and Continuous Horsepower (CHP), the treadmill buyer should be more concerned with the CHP of the machine. If Horsepower measures how fast the treadmill can go at its peak, Continuous Horsepower, meanwhile, measures how long your motor can continue running at a certain speed for the duration of the workout.

    Look for the CHP that will correspond to your training needs. If you’re using it for walking or light running, treadmills that have 2.0CHP are more than adequate. Running or heavy exercise? Get 3.0CHP above. Get a machine with more CHP if you’re heavier, add .5 CHP if you’re over 200 pounds. Buy a treadmill with a CHP appropriate for your needs, as overworking a low CHP machine will cause its motor to break down faster and will cost you more in the long run.

    Most budget foldable and foldable treadmills come with either 10 to 25 years motor warranties, while most of the non-foldable machines come with lifetime warranties.
    Besides CHP, consider how the motor runs. Does it run smoothly or is it noisy? The general rule of thumb is that direct current motors (DC) motors are quieter than its Alternate current (AC) counterparts. So if you want your treadmill nice and quiet, go for the DC motor.

  • Treadmill belt
  • When you look at the treadmill’s specs you will find something called the treadmill belt or treadbelt, this refers to the thickness of the belt material. Budget machines will have thinner treadbelts, while more upscale machines will have more than one-ply thickness.

    For light users, one-ply treadmill belts will suffice, but if the machine will have repeated prolonged use, for example, if it’s going to be used for professional training, go with the thicker-ply.

    Besides thickness, you should also consider the width of the treadbelt surface. Buy a machine with a wider belt, usually 22 inches, if you intend to use the machine for running, while those that intend use the machine for light exercise will find 20-inch surfaces comfortable.

    Now we look at the belt length. Shorter lengths of 50 inches is okay for walkers, while runners and taller people should opt for machines with a treadmill belt length of about 55 to 60 inches.

    Like in the motor, you should also be concerned about how the treadbelt rolls, as well as the maintenance involved in keeping it running smoothly. Most budget machines require a lot of regular maintenance, including monthly lubrication of your rollers to keep them running smooth. More high-end machines, however, need little to no upkeep.

    Last, but not the least, get the best-sized treadmill roller for your training needs. It takes more turns for a small roller to go the same distance than a bigger roller. So if you’re going to use the treadmill for running then you should get one with a bigger roller.

  • Shock Absorption System
  • Track cushioning is important especially for people with joint concerns. Users that have heavyset frames or those that are purchasing for rehabilitation should buy a treadmill with a shock absorbing system.

    Most commonly found in the more expensive Foldable and Non-Foldable machines, a good shock absorbing system will prevent injuries to the runner.

    Some machines feature adjustable track cushioning that enables you to control the “hardness” of the surface that you’re running on. More advanced types of track cushioning feature dynamic systems that adjust to the pressure and force of your strides from landing to push-off.

  • Incline
  • Incline refers to the capability of your treadmill to adjust its angle. The rule of thumb is that the higher the incline, the more calories you will expend during the workout.

    Besides the additional caloric burning benefits of an incline, changing the incline also changes up your program—varying the level of difficulty, and making any training program less tedious.

    The scale and increments that your machine can incline will depend on the type of machine that you have. Budget treadmills seldom have two or three incline levels, and would also sometimes require you to manually change levels. Meanwhile, more advanced machines can give you more control, you can change your level of incline with only the press of a button.

  • Programs
  • Most motorized treadmills come with pre-programmed workouts. Built-in training programs can make working out less of a routine and more exciting. Programs will control the speed, the incline, as well as the duration of the workout.

    As things get more high-tech, treadmills that are more expensive have features to connect to services like the iFit. The iFit system can program a ‘run’ based on an actual geographical route in Google Maps. As you run, the treadmill program will adjust the incline as you go, and in certain set-ups will even show you the Google street view, as if you’re running outside.

    Another system is called the Passport Virtual Active. It also has a video interface that moves your view as you run on the treadmill, but with a more “complete” experience as it includes ambient sound. Change your pace, and the video and the audio changes as well.

    For the beginner runner, start with the basics. Get a machine with a quick start button, and a pre-loaded interval program.

  • Heart-Rate Monitors
  • One of the ways to know if you are exercising effectively is to measure your heart-rate. Most foldable treadmills ($1000 above) include a heart-rate monitor. Most units come with heart-rate monitors found in the handrails of the machine. A bit more advanced are those that you strap onto your chest and connect to the machine. The most advanced types are the wireless ones that can monitor your heart-rate or your pulse.

    Elite athletes or those with a heart condition should always opt to get a treadmill with a heart-rate monitor. To ensure that they training on their desired level, and to make sure that they do not over exert themselves.

    Some technological advances in treadmill programming include Heart-Rate based programs, where workouts are created so the heart-rate reaches and stays in a particular range during exercise.

  • Safety Features
  • People can seriously injure themselves on a treadmill. Treadmills without basic features like well-padded handrails or comfortably positioned handgrips can spell the difference between an accident and a safe workout.

    A safety key is a common feature in most non-foldable treadmills. The key is attached to a cord that you can also attach to your clothes. When you inadvertently slow down and find yourself at the edge of the treadmill, the cord will pull the key out of its slot, and the machine will automatically shut off.

    Most treadmills with this feature will also not start unless you insert the safety key. This is ideal for those with curious children that may injure themselves if they use the treadmill incorrectly or without supervision.

    #4: Knowing What Comes After

    Before buying the treadmill, it’s also vital to know the after-sales services offered by the seller or brand. Ask if the machine requires regular maintenance after a certain number of months, or if the machine comes with a lifetime guarantee on its motor or frame.

    Ask if parts are regularly available if the machine breaks down, and if all the components of the treadmill are covered with warranties, as well as the duration of these warranties.

    #5: Just Before You Buy

    So you’ve done your research, and you’ve picked the best machine based on your requirements. You’ve also found the best deals for your price point. Before you make your final decision, make it a point to personally test the machine. Run on the machine and see if it suits your needs.

    While we can make theoretical assumptions from the technical specifications, it’s another thing to actually try the machine, and feel if it suits you. If you cannot test the product as much as you want, you should do a bit more research, and find personal unbiased reviews of the machine to guide your choice.

    If possible, buy online, and buy directly from the manufacturer. You usually will get better deals and the lowest prices online.

    Be a Satisfied Treadmill Owner

    Knowing what you need the treadmill for is really the first essential step. Know your must-haves, and nice to haves. Get the best deals on buying a treadmill online, and surely you’ll end up a satisfied treadmill owner.

Written by Treadmills & Ellipticals