Some of the simplest examples are “manual,” which means that they are powered entirely by the runner’s energy. These tend to be light, inexpensive, and can usually be folded away to slide under a bed or into a closet. The running belt wraps around rollers inside a raised deck. As a person walks or runs on the belt, his or her weight provides the friction needed for belt to turn over the rollers in time with the user’s stride. Side rails provide safety support and the front of the machine is a raised console that supports the side rails and walking platform. It isn’t usually possible to set speed preferences on these models, as the belt will move only as fast as the runner’s feet do.
Motorized treadmills are by far the most common, and are seen in most gyms and formal workout rooms. These are electrically powered and tend to be heavier and less likely to be portable, though most people agree that they offer a superior exercise experience. On a motorized treadmill, the motor, turning on its own power beneath the runner’s feet, operates the belt. The speed at which it turns is adjustable, thereby allowing a person to walk, run or jog at a controlled speed. Slowing down and speeding up can only be done with the help of the control console.
A quality machine can come with many features including pre-programmed workouts of varying difficulty for everyone from the beginning walker to the advanced runner. The workouts vary the speed and incline of the walk to simulate uphill and sometimes even downhill conditions. Degree of incline can also be adjusted manually. Some models allow you to create customized programs, or, based on a user’s saved history, will produce a log and a customized program.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Motorized models generally come with an electronic heart-rate monitor so that the exerciser can see if he or she is getting the desired workout. Some of these clip to the runner’s ear, or wrap around the chest or wrist. Some high quality chest-wrap monitors are wireless and provide alarms to let the jogger know when his or her heart rate falls or rises outside the target range. In addition, some of the most advanced machines will let users set a “target” heart rate, then will either speed or slow the belt to keep the workout in range.
Treadmill technology, like most technology, seems to always be improving and changing. Some researchers have predicted an intersection between running in place and virtual realities, such that people could start their run in a gym but, with the help of specialized glasses or a headset, feel as though they were running almost anywhere else in the world. This sort of technology is arguably a long way from becoming mainstream, but there are still some things potential buyers should look out for when it comes to technological options.
Users should make sure the running deck is long enough and wide enough to take a natural stride, for one thing. People buying a motorized machine should also usually look for motors that are guaranteed for ten years, as this can protect against problems that might arise with normal use.
In addition, people should check the minimum and maximum speeds the machine can support, as well as the available inclines. Some models are built for fast walking, not jogging. Someone who wants to jog or run faster than 5mph (8kph) will likely need to pay a little more and get a more powerful unit with a maximum speed of 8-12mph (13-19kph). When it comes to incline, some machines are very intuitive and can adjust mid-run, whereas others require a programmed incline at the start that can’t be reset.
Console features on motorized machines should typically include preprogrammed and programmable routines. Readouts might include the number of calories being burned and heart rate. Advanced units will offer many more features, some of which can be customized according to user need and interest.