Whether you’re just starting out on a new exercise program, or you’re a dedicated runner, a treadmill can be a great way to stay in shape at your home or office. No need to drive to the gym every day. A quick change and a minimum of 20 minutes of sweat and you’ll get a great workout.
Deciding on the right treadmill for you means taking in to account your needs and goals. There are many models of treadmill, from the most basic to Cadillac versions with all the bells and whistles.
What are your needs and goals?
Dedicated runner or just wanting to shed a few pounds? Will you have time to run every day, or just a few times a week? How long will you run each time? How much do you weigh? How long and wide is your stride? How much space do you have to store your treadmill? And of course, what’s your budget?
Motor power typically ranges from 1.75 to 3 HP. Your weight and the amount of running you’ll be doing will determine what you need. For light walking or jogging, provided that you are of average size and weight, a motor in the 1.75 to 2 horsepower range should do. If you’ll actually be running on your treadmill, you’ll need at least 2.5 horsepower, and if anyone who will be using this treadmill weighs over 100 kilos (225 lbs.) you should be looking at motors starting in the 3 horsepower range.
How tall you are, and how widely built will determine how long and wide a track you will need.
Tracks range from 40 cm (16 in.) to 56 cm (22 in.) wide. Narrower tracks are really only good for walking, or use by smaller individuals. People of average size will find a 40 cm wide track to be too narrow for running, with an increased likelihood of stepping fully or partly off the track. This is dangerous and could result in injury. Most users will be very comfortable running at any speed on a 56 cm (22 in.) track.
Track lengths range from 105 cm (42 in.) to 160 cm (63 in.). How long of a track you need will be determined by your stride, which can usually be predicted by your height. Obviously the taller you are the longer a track you’ll need.
How fast do you want to run? Will you be doing a slow jog all the time, or practicing sprints or doing interval training? You can probably run faster than you think you can, so if you’re going to be hitting your top speed you’ll need a more robust model than if you’ll be maintaining a constant slow jog.
Most models will go up to 19 km/h (12 mph) and this should be more than adequate for most of us, but if you’re a serious (and speedy) runner you’ll need something faster. To put it in perspective, Olympic sprinters are usually moving faster than 30 km/h (18.5 mph), so even if you’re not an Olympic sprinter you’ll need more than 19 km/h to do sprints.
Incline training is not only great for cardiovascular health, but results in better leg and core strength. It also has the benefit that running uphill is harder (no kidding?) so you’ll burn more calories with incline training. Many base models don’t have the incline ability.
How much incline you’ll need will be based on your goals and ability. Most models with incline capability will allow for grades up to 10 — 15% and this will be fine for most, but if you’re a serious endurance athlete you can get ‘incline trainers’ that go up to 40%!
In addition, there are some deluxe models that also have up to a 3% decline, to better simulate hill training, but this isn’t really necessary for anyone but the most competitive of distance runners.
Before we consider any kind of regular exercise, we do need to think about the strain we’ll be putting on our body. There’s no point in getting in great shape if you ruin your knees doing it.
Most models have at least some cushioning in the track, but if you are very heavy, you have joint problems, or you’ll be doing a lot of running, you may want to shop for a higher-end model in this regard. Some models can reduce the impact on each step by up to 40%. This might also be necessary if the floor where your treadmill will be is not concrete and you have neighbors below you. It will help to reduce the noise.
Almost all models will have basic pre-set programs such as Manual, Hill, Interval, Cardio and Fat Burning. Higher end models will have variations on these, with more adjustable options. Cadillac models can have video screens with the option to run a variety of real courses from around the world. This really cuts down on the tedium factor.
You can get a host of extra options as well. While units with built in TV’s or MP3 players may look attractive, they may not be the best idea. If those entertainment options break they can be expensive to fix. If you have a blank wall where you’ll be keeping your treadmill, you may want to put up a wall mounted television instead. Bluetooth headphones or a stereo will provide music.
There are some very nice luxury features available though, and if you have the budget, you might want to consider them. A built-in fan can direct cool air over your face or upper body. Wireless heart rate monitors solve the problem of measuring your cardio fitness while running.
Whatever you do, though, don’t forget the most basic luxury – a water bottle holder!
The Right Treadmill for You
As you can see there are many things to consider when choosing the right treadmill for you, but with this guide, you should be well set to find the model that will take you where you want to go.