December 04, 2007

Treadmill Tips

[Posted by Crabby]

In yesterday's Ask Cranky Fitness post, Mary was discussing cold weather exercise and the topic of treadmills came up. Unfortunately, Mary doesn't have a treadmill and wishes she did. Crabby, on the other hand, does have a treadmill and sometimes wishes she didn't.

Since Crabby loves to give advice, and she actually owns the equipment in question, she thought she'd give some tips for those lucky enough to have some funds in the bank for a home treadmill purchase. (Not everyone does, nor do they have a place to put one, so Crabby apologizes in advance for her insensitivity about this). She also hopes those of you who actually know something about treadmills will pipe up in the Comments section if she says anything too dumb.

Home Treadmill Advice:

1. Consider your purchase carefully. Don't buy a treadmill, or any piece of exercise equipment for that matter, as a result of an infomercial. Especially not an infomercial viewed late at night in a guilty sugar-induced stupor following an unfortunate Ben and Jerry's incident.

A recent totally made up rigorous scientific study showed that 97% of home exercise equipment buyers felt like total morons. Why? Well, for not realizing that the reason they weren't exercising was because they hated to exercise, not for lack of proper home exercise equipment. It's much cheaper to not go running or not do exercise videos than to not use your treadmill.

2. Think about buying a Cheap-Ass treadmill. Not one of those totally junky infomercial brands, but a modest, possibly used or refurbished treadmill. Of course you should get on it and make sure it's not totally rickety, and think about doing some internet research on the brand. But one does not have to spend thousands of dollars to get a decent model. The Crab & Lobster's treadmill was purchased at a Sears Warehouse after someone took it back. Cost well under $400 and works just fine. Will it last forever? Probably not. (But who knows, they may invent cooler exercise machines in a few years anyway that fly around or something).

3. Treadmills Are Boring, Plan Accordingly! Though some may disagree, Crabby is of the opinion that home treadmills suck, relative to trails and paths and even sidewalks, as places to exercise. At least at the gym you can watch other people being miserable. So plop a tv in front of you, get out your best music, rent some audio-books, or whatever it takes to distract you. It's worth a little extra effort to make the experience more appealing, especially if you've just shelled out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for your machine and are growing to loathe it. Along those lines, you can...

4. Play Treadmill games! What are treadmill games? Well, these take advantage of the fact that treadmills allow you to control your terrain and tell you how fast you're going. So you can track your times and compete against yourself, make up little challenges, and generally just mix things up in a way that you may not bother to do outside where there are pretty things to look at.

So the inherent boredom of the treadmill can actually push you to improve your performance! Been wanting to try interval training? Treadmills are great for that. Or see how fast you can race-walk without having to look like an ass in front of people. You can alternate slow hills with fast flats; see how quickly you can run a mile, or how long you can walk backwards without falling over. (Crabby once read an article about how good running and walking backwards is for your legs--she gave it a try, on a treadmill at the gym when other people were around, which was not a very smart thing to do!)

5. Don't Wait for Weights! This is a favorite trick of Crabby's. One advantage of a home treadmill is that you can jump off for a minute without someone stealing it from you like they might at the gym. So Crabby will take advantage of the fact that a bit of strength training, done quickly in the middle of a cardio workout, will keep her heart rate up. It's two for one! (But not as intense as actual circuit training, which Crabby is too lazy to do).

Here's what you do: at some point in your cardio workout, you leave the treadmill running, giving yourself full credit for any mileage it records. This is important. Since you're still keeping your heart rate up, you're essentially doing cardio and get to count this time as though you were still running. Jump off the treadmill (not literally, unless you are very athletic), do a set of some yucky strength-training exercise in a quick but not too half-assed manner, then hustle back to the treadmill again. Slog some more. Wait until you get totally bored with the treadmill again, then jump off and do a different strength training exercise.

Strangely enough, through some weird workout math, you may find that miserable + miserable does not equal 2 times miserable! The cardio seems to go faster, and you have less to do when it's time to tackle those weights.

So, do any of have treadmills or other home exercise equipment? Wish you did? Glad you don't? Any tips? Comments are always welcome!


  1. I have an exercise bike. It's one of those slick ones with a recline seat. I think that means my butt gets no workout what-so-ever. Sad. But it's cool because it works your legs, is easy on your back, and because it has the nice seat you can read and work-out at the same time.

    The bad part is that when I read and work out at the same time I get so dizzy I almost fall over. Not that this has stopped me from reading and biking mind you. Because that would be dull. LOVED the ask crabby deal yesterday too. Now that was funny.

  2. These are good ideas. I'll have to find a treadmill and put them into practice!

    I love the idea of getting a pre-owned treadmill. Maybe I'll check out Craigs list, as was suggested in the previous comments.
    Now -- where would I put the treadmill? Oh. You can't help with that one. Fine, Crabby, just fine. BE that way.

  3. I read an article once that said one of the most commonly sold larger items at garage sales were - you guessed it - treadmills. :-)

    I have an exercise bike that I can't use because every time I do, my left hip pops out. Not Fun and Very Painful.

    I also have an elliptical that I do like. I'd probalby like it better if I used it with a bit more regularity.

    Then again, who needs exercise equipment when you have 35 cm of snow to shovel right outside your very front door?

  4. The Bag Lady has a very old exercise bike that belonged to her father. She uses it....(to hang clothes on)...occasionally.
    The Bag Lady is hoping someday to get in shape without actually doing anything involving sweating. Perhaps surgery...

  5. I have an elliptical. It's decent one and has never let us down...we picker it over a treadmill as it worked the upper body a bit more and was supposed to be a bit easier on the knees.
    I *used* to really enjoy my time on it until I took up running outside. Nothing to look at except my 2 cats trying to convince me they are so cute I should stop working out and rub their bellies...
    Now it seems so very very dull to be inside for my workout. It's jsut way too cold to be out in the winters here. Can't wait for spring.

  6. I've done a fair amount of running on a treadmill. When I was in medical school in the Northeast, the winter ice and snow often made the treadmill an easier alternative than that uneven, ankle turning, outdoor surface. It's amazing what's on TV at 4 in the morning, but that's another story :-)
    Anyway, I've always feared stepping on the non-moving edge and taking a bad fall. I've seen some, degree of difficulty 9.5, spills at the fitness center, so be careful!
    Dr. J

  7. I never realized that treadmills were a boon to society until I saw the video of the guys dancing on them. Or whatever it is they're doing. Skating? It totally makes up for the philosophical awfulness of the treadmill.

    Anyway, I really appreciated the suggestions, especially about stopping in the middle for strength training. I guess I'm going to have to do the treadmill just as soon as I can get myself started again. I decided this yeaer not to wait for January first. What's so be-all about January first?

  8. mouse's advice for running on the the gym:

    -please do not text message and run, but if you feel you must, please do it far away from me. I cannot brace myself well when I'm laughing at your sorry ass when your head makes a *thwack* noise off of the console.
    -do not cross over the back of my treadmill when it's in motion. I don't know why you thought it wasn't in operation. Perhaps me running wasn't a clear enough indication.
    -You really won't be needing that novel. I suggest you try the elliptical or the bikes instead because you might get sick trying to run and read.

    ...and that is why I run outside :)

  9. I use a recumbent bike and do chakra sounding as I ride so as to exercise my lungs that much more.
    Sitting down to exercise is the best.

  10. Dang, the power went out Chez Crab this morning, and look at all I missed!

    This would have been a great morning for a treadmill run, as it was pouring rain outside, but unfortunately, treadmills require electricity! So alas, do wireless internet connections. Power went out; came back on briefly; Crabby hit "Publish" then power went off again. Hope it's back for good now.

    (BTW: running in the rain? WAY BETTER than running on a treadmill. At least if you don't have to do it every day.)

    Anyway, I'm impressed at those of you who can do the exercise bike thing, for some reason I hate exercise bikes.

    Oh and Mary, they make treadmills now where the deck folds up! I think even our cheapo one does that. Takes up less space.

    I like ellipticals too, but I wasn't sure if you could get a decent quality one for home use without paying a fortune. Can you guys recommend a brand?

    And the "philosophical awfulness" of the treadmill totally cracked me up! But no treadmill dancing for me, or I'll end up like one of Dr. J's unfortunate examples.

    And OMG, do people actually try to text message on treadmills? It's great to hear about a brand new form of text messaging stupidity.

    Chakra sounding? Wow, that sounds cool. I didn't know they had sounds! (But then I have to confess I'm not actually sure what a chakra actually is.)

  11. I have a treadmill and a spin bike. I can't use either without a good movie or even a workout DVD playing. It's all mental...and I will go mental if I don't have some distraction!


  12. I'd love to have a treadmill and I regularly scan craigslist in the hope of finding a good deal.

    I do have a couple of gym memberships, but they're closed or don't open until late in the morning on holidays and weekends. This plays havoc with my training schedule if it's raining and I can't hit the trails.

    The other reason I want a treadmill is because Coach Troy of Spinervals fame has Runervals videos now. I just know that they'll be a fantastic workout, just like his spin videos.

  13. I love my treadmill--I bought the upperlevel of cheap model and it has been great so far. My kids and I are working our way through 9 seasons of X-Files while I walk--that really helps with the boredom factor. The biggest surprise for me when I tried a treadmill for the first time and used the incline was the awesome hamstring and glute workout it gave me--I even felt it a little in my abs!

  14. I really wish I liked treadmills more. I think it would really help the winter running issue. I feel too much like a gerbil on one of those wheels.

    (it's katieo. Blogger's having issues.)

  15. I don't have a treadmill or any big exercise equipment, won't fit in my itty bitty place. I do have: a yoga mat, a balance ball, a couple sets of dumbbells, ankle weights and a set of those stretchy tube things. Plus a million DVDs. I go through periods where I use them all the time, then they gather dust, lather, rinse, repeat.

  16. I'm glad I'm not the only one who goes mental on these things!

    And I must check out Runnervals, it sounds like it would be cheesy and fun!

    I agree an incline is great--the one thing I don't like about the cheap treadmill is it only goes to 10%. I like the 15% ones best.

    Too funny about the gerbil--but at least the gerbils look happy when they're running!

    DVD's seem like a great idea--but I fear the possible lame music. Do they have exercise DVD's with real tunes or do they all have that fakey porn-sounding music?

    And thanks everyone--I know Blogger's been down today so I appreciate everyone stopping by!

  17. I lurve my treadmill! I got it at Omni Fitness. The guy was awesome and talked me through all the options. I paid about $1700 on sale for my brand new machine, but it's really solid and will last a long time. Plus the company is local so if I ever have trouble, they will come right out. I also bought a Greg Lemond exercise bike so I can crosstrain. I work out about 5 or 6 times a week, and 3 or 4 of those are at home in my own cardio land! It's the best thing I've ever done.

  18. I really want a treadmill so bad, but can't afford a nice one and am afraid to buy a cheap one due to the fact that I am such a large girl (6'1" and and at my fat-pants size right now) . I got on my dad's cheap one once and it sounded like the Tyranosaurus-Rex scene from Jurassic Park. I thought I was going to break it. So, I too will keep my eyes posted on Craigslist for a fancy one like I *occasionally* use at 24Hour fitness.

  19. I have nothing to contribute advise-wise on treadmills. I will say, though, to also be wary of buying exercise equipment from infomercials that one wakes up to at 4am after falling asleep on the couch. They've had a chance to work on you while you're asleep.

  20. I have some caveats.
    1. Make sure there's a water bottle thingie on the treadmill. If you drink as you exercise, you'll finish stronger.

    2. make sure to stretch. runners usually have poor flexibility. this can cause ouches. Yoga's great, and there are enough varieties to satisfy everyone. Crabby, I know you haven't gotten into yoga, but have you tried kundalini yoga? It'll feel more like exercise.

    3. weight train as well, so you don't end up with muscular legs and flabby arms. The science of fitness: I want that body is by the buns of steel woman, and it kicked my ass. It's also made me go from thin but no tone to resembling a pre-K fed britney.

    4. Make sure that your knees are ok. tendonitis sucks. again, yoga can help with this.

    5. Wear supportive sneakers, and replace them when they wear out.

  21. Eh, I'm jealous, sounds like you got a great treadmill.

    And Cara, I'm not even tall but I sound like a T-rex too--that's what the ipod headphones are for!

    Theresa, that's really smart--I never thought of the brainwashing aspects of late night infomercials.

    And awesome caveats, tricia. I hate when there's no water bottle holder. And no, I haven't tried kundalini yoga yet--I think it was the punchline to some old joke so I never gotten the kind of goofy association out of my head! But someday, i really should try to do the yoga thing. (I do at least stretch!)

  22. It hath become increasingly evident that I need more of a life because the visual of this:
    One advantage of a home treadmill is that you can jump off for a minute without someone stealing it from you like they might at the gym.

    made me laugh.

    and then beg to differ as just this morning I leaped off the stationary bike (CLEARLY not the 'mill addressed in your blog :)) and before I could grab my magazine-accidentally-dropped my toddler was in the seat screaming BIKEBIKE.

    clearly I need to belong to your Crabnasium.


  23. Carla, not having kids I'm constantly guilty of giving advice that's down right stupid when applied to people who have them.

    Yep, leaving a running treadmill in a room with kids at large would probably not be a good idea.

    I miss out on lots of stuff not having crablets, by I do like my child-free Crabnasium. I may have to steal that term from you for later use!

  24. I love having a treadmill. It's useful when I can't get to the gym. There's no excuse making about weather or how to squeeze in a workout.

    Oh God yes it is BORING. That is why cable was invented.

    Several cautionary tips for purchasing your own: 1) Make sure the treadmill feels "cushiony" when you run on it IN THE STORE. Your knees will thank you. 2) The fold up and incline options are useful. 3)Think twice before paying for a cd player or other "extras."

    I can't say I love my treadmill, but I respect it in the morning...

  25. we have three different types of treadmills at my gym...some that have tire platforms, which suposedly are good for your knees, the regular 15% incliners,and speacialty incliners that go up to 30%...and let me tell ya THATS A WORK OUT.
    ..And they all have personal touchscreen tvs built in...its heaven..

  26. Great Article - I like my basic Proform Treadmill that I got from Sam's club maybe 18 months ago. Not to pricey - and now I have no good excuse not to run regularly. Lately I have been using it to add "bonus miles" (an extra mile or two that I'll run right after work) - works awesome! Over 1200 miles on it so far and no complaints (ok - it isn't as good as "outside" running but what are you oing to do....).


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