Treadmill Reviews, Elliptical Trainer Reviews, Home Gym Reviews, and other fitness equipment reviews from an industry insider.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Treadmill Buyer's Guide

Hello Again,

My name is Johnny and I’ve been selling, marketing, and writing about treadmills since 2004. I’ll be going on my 5th year in the fitness equipment industry in August 2009. I started writing treadmill reviews for the general public a few years back, issuing fatwas against poorly made, but all too often, very well marketed fitness equipment and steering you towards the better treadmill choices out there. Well, I realized I’ve been handing out fish to my readers all these years and I’ve decided to teach my readers HOW to fish. There are so many treadmills out there I can’t possibly review them all between school work and my job. So here is my Buyer’s Guide to Choosing a Treadmill.

Treadmill Motor Rating: CHP, THP, and PHP Explained!
At the core of every great treadmill is a great motor. There’s an easy way to determine if a treadmill is using a quality motor, check the horsepower rating. Make sure the horsepower rating listed is the Continuous Duty rating. There are several ways this will be phrased in a treadmill description including: 2 HP continuous, 2 HP continuous duty, and 2 CHP Motor.

Other treadmills, more often than not, the ones you shouldn’t buy will list the Peak Horsepower Rating or PHP. The PHP rating is always going to be higher than the Continuous Duty rating and is a great way to bloat your treadmill specifications if you’re trying to pawn a low grade treadmill off on an uneducated treadmill buyer.

The difference between Peak Horsepower and Continuous Duty Horsepower is simple. Peak Horsepower is the most horsepower a motor can possibly generate. Continuous Duty rating will tell you how much horsepower a treadmill motor will generate at a constant rate. Continuous Duty Ratings are better for judging the quality of a treadmill than Peak Horsepower Ratings because the Continuous Duty Rating measures how much power a treadmill motor will output under normal, prolonged workout routines. If you take one thing away from this guide, take away the difference between Peak Horsepower and Continuous Horsepower.

To make things easier, here’s a schedule of how much Continuous Horsepower to expect when in each price range:

If you Pay:
$400 – $599 1.75 CHP
$600 – $1000 2.00 CHP – 2.5 CHP
$1000 – $1500 2.5 CHP – 3.0 CHP
$1500 – $2000 3.0 CHP or more

Warranty is next on my priority list. I’ve learned from experience in the fitness industry that treadmill manufacturers who know they have quality equipment will back their products with generous warranties because they know they’re not going to be responsible for expensive treadmill repair bills. The standard treadill warranty length is one year parts and labor. If you’re looking at a treadmill with anything less, chances are you should probably kick the dust off your feet and move on. Treadmills in the $1200 or greater range should have parts and labor warranties of 2 years or more.

Here’s something a smart treadmill buyer should be aware of. Treadmill Motors and treadmill frames are often covered for ridiculous amounts of time, it’s not unheard of to see a treadmill motor or frame backed for as long as 30 years to life! You would do well to ignore these guarantees when choosing a treadmill. Motor and frame warranties are mostly fluff. The real meat and potatoes of a warranty are the Parts and Labor portion. Parts and labor cover almost everything on the treadmill and are often the most expensive items in a treadmill repair.

Here’s a chart to help you know how much warranty you should expect

Under $600 – Less than one year. *
$600 - $1350 – 1 years parts and labor
$1350 - $1650 – 2 years parts and labor
$1650 – and beyond – 3 – 5 years parts and labor

Fitness Programs
Fitness programs are much more subjective than things like horsepower and warranty. One good rule of thumb is the more fitness programs included with a treadmill the better. You can often spot a shoddy treadmill just by the amount of programs it has. Anything fewer than 8, unless you’re shopping in the under $600 category and it’s probably not a treadmill you want to invest your hard earned money in.

Heart Rate Control
Treadmills with heart rate control generally cost $1000 or more. Heart rate control is expensive, but it’s worth it. Heart rate control enables users to set a specific heart rate and use a wireless chest strap or heart rate watch to stay within the specified heart rate. The treadmill will automatically adjust speed and incline to keep your heart within that heart rate range.

Different heart rates better for achieving different kinds of results. For example, you can burn more fat running at 75% of your maximum heart rate. If you’re trying to lose weight, it might be more advantageous to try staying within a specific heart rate range rather than trying to run as fast as you can.

Running Area
Running area is key to comfort. If your treadmill is not comfortable you won’t use. I don’t know how much more simpler I could put it. Larger running areas make for more comfortable treadmills. Here’s a list of what you should expect in each price range:

$600 - $1000 – 55” x 18”
$1000 or more – 60” x 20”

Speed and Incline
I mashed these two together because they’re the simplest of the factors to consider when choosing a treadmill. Incline ranges from 5% - 15%. A good treadmill will have an incline of 10% or more no matter the price. Treadmill speeds range from 6 MPH to 12 MPH. A good treadmill no matter the cost will have a speed of at least 8 MPH. A treadmill that costs $1200 or more should have a top speed of no less 12 MPH.

If you’re worried about speed, don’t be too concerned with it. A treadmill with a top speed of 8 MPH is incredibly fast! Most people stay within the 4 – 6 MPH range. 12 MPH would make you Olympic sprinter material!

Finally, we have comfort. Comfort is the most important factor to consider when choosing a treadmill. If a treadmill isn’t comfortable you won’t use it. Period. In my many years of selling treadmills I’ve found the brands that tend to be most comfortable to treadmill users are Bowflex, Horizon Fitness, Sole, Spirit, Star, Trac, and Matrix. These companies cover the wide spectrum of low end to high end treadmills and if you stick with one of these brands you’re going to get an excellent treadmill.

Well, that concludes my Treadmill Buyer’s Guide. I hope you take your time buying a treadmill and find something you love that fits inside your budget. Remember, pay attention to Continuous Duty Horsepower, Parts and Labor Warranty, and the comfort a treadmill offers and you’re going to make a good choice.

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