Picking out a home treadmill

Ignore the vacuum. 

We all love the freedom of running outside — being in nature, in the elements, covering entire cities on foot. But sometimes, our outside runs don’t quite look like that. Maybe you have to run during rush hour and your route is jammed by distracted drivers. Maybe you’re too crunched for time to drive to a favorite park or path. Or maybe you’re just sick of dewpoints above 70º.While I suspect none of us would choose running inside over a 50º day in the park, sometimes the treadmill makes more sense.

Professional runner and South Carolina resident Esther Atkins calls it the “dreammill,” because in southern summers it can be the best option for those workouts crucial to fall racing season. That philosophy helped me learn to appreciate the treadmill as another training tool. It’s a great place to practice pacing, nutrition, race day outfits that might be impractical outdoors (like running in racing buns through my neighborhood, as if people don’t already think I’m crazy), while also eliminating stoppage time. 

When we moved into our house last year, we knew eventually we’d put a treadmill in the basement. It wasn’t an urgent need, but we started shopping for one in the winter. Here’s what I learned from choosing a treadmill for our home and setting up our workout room.

After some research, we decided we needed at least a “light commercial” model — akin to what you might find in a hotel or apartment fitness room. A residential treadmill wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted a wider base and more stable platform. We also needed it to go more than 10 mph, which is the top-end for many residential models.

Most residential treadmills aren’t meant to be run for hours on end, and we wanted something that could accommodate at least 2 hours of run time without straining the components. That’s a realistic request if, say, I ran on it for an hour and then my husband got on right after.

As it turns out, we were able to purchase a commercial treadmill from our gym when they replaced equipment this summer. Your local gym might do this, or there might be another retailer in town that sells used commercial treadmills. Be sure to test-run on it and ask how it has been maintained. 

Of course, buying a used treadmill means you likely will not have a warranty or service agreement. You’ll want to ask about regular maintenance you can do on your own, and make sure you know who you can call if you need service (and how much it’ll cost!). For us, the savings between buying the used commercial treadmill and a new light commercial one was about $800, including delivery and installation. 

One important tip is to sweep the floor in that room so that the treadmill isn’t constantly sucking up dog hair and other debris, helping it stay cool and ventilated.

We also installed rubber floor tiles in that room (purchased on Amazon), which are easy to clean and very inexpensive. If the treadmill damages the floor, it’ll be easy to replace individual tiles.

Also in the workout room we installed a television — of course! I might not hate running inside but I still need all the distraction I can get! We mounted it on the wall and used an Amazon Fire Stick for programming. The great thing about the Fire Stick is that you can connect Bluetooth headphones directly to the Fire Stick, no additional equipment needed. I can watch television through my wireless headphones! 

Thinking about adding a treadmill to your home? Be sure to check out light commercial and used commercial options to give you the best experience. 

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