Treadmill 101 – by Jeff Hahn
(Sales Director - Northwest Fitness, Portland, OR)
Let’s face it – we live in the Northwest and part of the price we pay for the beautiful green outdoors is weather that is – well, less than dry. A great way to stay in shape while staying inside on a rainy day is to walk on a treadmill. The problem is, you have probably not been spending all your time researching to improve your treadmill knowledge, right?
Never fear, Treadmill 101 is here to help you out on this one: There are two key factors to consider when buying a treadmill. First, who will be using the treadmill (size, weight)? Second, how will it be used (running, walking, hours per week)?
One common misconception is that if you are only walking, you need to buy less of a treadmill. This is the opposite from the truth. The motor and electronics board are worked harder when walking - since the flywheel and momentum are not able to run at a high rpm. Therefore the motor and electronics have to constantly surge to maintain a consistent speed. On the flip side, runners put more of a pounding on the frame, deck and rollers - causing more wear on these components.
The bottom line is there is a huge range of treadmills out there. You can determine for yourself what level of treadmill you need to buy based on your weight and intended usage. Components vary mightily by price-point, so here are the basics of what to look for:
Frames - vary by manufacturer, but as a general rule - heavier is better. The heavier you are the heavier frame you should buy. Also if you are running or walking, a heavy frame will make your treadmill feel solid. Premium lines will be in the 300lb range on up.
Motors - be wary of horsepower ratings, as many lower end treadmill manufacturers use ratings that include "peak" or other terms that make the number look higher. You should look for a motor that is "Continuous Duty" rated and size does matter. As a general rule, the bigger the motor, the longer it will last. Also, mounted to the motor will be a flywheel. Again, the heavier the better as the flywheel helps the motor to maintain consistent speed through your footfalls.
Rollers - Bigger and heavier are the key to long roller life. Rollers have to hold up to constant motion and they are also the tensioning device for the belt. The bigger and heavier the roller, usually the higher quality of the bearings in the roller, and less revolutions over time will keep them going longer.
Decks - look for a deck that is 1"thick. This will ensure that it will take the pounding whether you are running or walking. High quality decks require little maintenance and premium brands offer a deck that can be flipped 1/2 way through its life for longer use.
Belt - don't get tricked by cushy belts - the cushion in the treadmill should be built into the suspension system, not just the belt. A belt that is too thick holds heat and causes increased deck wear. Most good belts are 2 ply, with some premium brands offering a 4 ply belt for less stretch over time and overall longer belt life.
Electronics - as is the theme with most components - the beefier, the better. Look for a solidly crafted electronics board with stout components. This is the control center telling the motor what to do. Small electronics boards with small components can overheat with continuous use and are expensive to replace.
Elevation Motor - most premium treadmill brands offer a 1000lb thrust motor. While you may think that is too much, if you factor in the weight of you running or walking, your footfalls are putting a heavy load on the elevation motor.
Bells and Whistles - This is the personal preference section. Find a treadmill that is easy to use and has motivating programs to inspire to take your workout to the next level. There are even treadmills now that simulate walking 9 holes to keep you interested!
If you go for the best you can find in each category, you won't go wrong! As is the case with most things, you get what you pay for. The best thing to do is go to a specialty retailer – where you can talk with an expert in the field.
Don’t sell yourself short and order something off the internet when it comes to treadmills. Go to the store in your running shoes, and give them a try. Find a retailer who services what they sell and has been in the business for a while. The dealer is your lifeline should you ever have a problem with your machine. You will be amazed at the range of treadmills out there – both good and bad. Now go shopping and find the treadmill that is right for you!
If you would like a list of brands that would be the ones to buy – you will have to drop by the store or click the chat button at the top of the page for that!!!
If you would like to talk to Jeff, drop by our store at 1337 E. Burnside or call 503-231-1330