Choosing and Using a Treadmill
At this time of the year when the weather is
bad, it can be tough to tie on your running shoes
and open the door and
when it is icy it is dangerous, too.
Face it, there are days you wish you had a
Choosing a treadmill
If you are thinking about buying a
treadmill, first consider carefully what you want to do with it. You can buy a
no-nonsense motorized treadmill for as little as $500; at the other end of the
scale you can spend more than $4,000.
You may think you just want a machine that
will let you enjoy a slow run on those days when the weather is really
obnoxious. But if you buy a no-frills machine, you may find later that you like
running indoors enough to wish your treadmill was more versatile, so that you
could run hill workouts or intervals.
The basic points you need to consider think
about when you set out to choose a treadmill include:
Size and weight. You need space for a
treadmill, but lighter and smaller are not the way to go. Sturdy, well-built
machines last longer and are more trouble-free. Make sure the surface is wide
enough and long enough to keep you comfortable and safe up to your fastest
pace. Give machines a good trial in the store.
Power. Consider only machines rated
at 1.5 to 2.0 horsepower continuous duty (not peak power). Lighter motors may
make your legs drive the motor until you get up to cruising speed.
Speed range. There is a range of top
speeds. Many less expensive machines peak at 8 mph (7:30 minutes per mile).
Others go up to 9 mph (6:40 pace), 10 mph (6:00 pace), or 11 mph (5:27 pace).
While you don't want a treadmill that is too slow to meet your most demanding
needs, there's no point in buying an 11 mph machine if your time for a 400
meters interval is 1:40 (6:40 pace).
Incline. Many machines have inclines
up to 10% or 11%, and you should not choose less if you want to run hill
workouts. Some treadmills go up to as much as 25%, but it is hard to run on
such a steep incline with good form.
Smooth controls. If you expect to
change speeds or elevation during a workout, check for controls that you can
reach while you are running, and that work smoothly and don't change speed too
Program options. On less expensive
machines, you may have to change speeds and inclines yourself. Next up the
scale come simple intervals that may let you choose speeds but not duration
(for example, switching every 60 seconds). Others will offer you a choice of
preprogrammed intervals and accept a number of workouts that you can customize
for yourself and punch into memory. These can be as few as four preprogrammed
and four additional workouts up to as many as 10 or more.
Other options. By the time you're up
to intervals and custom programmed workouts, you may also find features such as
a heart rate readout and calories burned. If you're a numbers freak, these may
have some attraction, but remember that although the heart rates may be
accurate, the calorie figures can only be approximate because there are too
many personal variables that the computer doesn't know.
Treadmills have moving parts that must wear
out eventually. American Running Editorial Board Member Douglas Lentz,
C.S.C.S., recommends that you check the reliability of the manufacturer, and
the service reputation of the stores you choose from. This is even more
important if you consider buying a used treadmill from a second-hand store.
If you want a treadmill for simple runs when
the weather is awful and you don't need too many bells and whistles just
a well-built machine that will reach your top speed and you can look at
machines in the $500 to $1,000 range.
If you want to program hill and interval
workouts, you're facing a price range that begins at about $2,000, and can go
well beyond that.
In view of the investment you will make in a
good quality treadmill, give several models a thorough test drive before you
make a decision. Make sure you are comfortable with a machine in the store
before you take it home.
Using a treadmill
When you substitute a treadmill run for a
road run, if the quality of effort is important to you, please recognize that
treadmill running is easier than road running at the same speed.
There are two reasons for this. First, there
is no air resistance when you run on a treadmill, and yes, this does make a
significant difference even compared to no wind on the road. Second, on a
treadmill you plant your foot on a moving surface. This reduces the braking
force your foot experiences and tends to move your footstrike farther forward.
These effects also make treadmill running less demanding, in terms of impact
and effort, compared to road running.
If you want the same quality effort at a
given running speed, set the incline at 1% instead of running on the level.
Since level treadmill running is less stressful than pounding the roads, it is
well-suited for getting back into shape after an injury.
Better yet, Editorial Board Member Jack
Daniels, Ph.D., says "Slower speeds on steeper inclines reduce landing shock
and are very good for conditioning with less chance of injury."
Copyright, The American Running