Saturday

Buying a Treadmill

Update 2/4/09: I've walked about 100 miles on my new treadmill. It's the Smooth Fitness 7.6HR Pro It's great and here's why:
  • 3 HP Motor: With 3 HP you have all the power that you'll ever need.
  • Running Belt: 20"x60" Perfect.
  • The console is narrow, elevated and out of the way so I was able to build a large desk surface on top of the arms. My new desk is almost as big as the desk surface on the $4,000 SteelCase Treadmill Desk.
  • Almost perfectly straight arms. This makes for a level desk...no more catching my pencil as it rolls off my desk.
  • 310 lbs. It's heavy so it doesn't shake as I walk.
  • Warranty: Lifetime Frame and Motor, 5 years parts & electronics and 2 years in-home service.  (Note: This warranty is for home use only)
  • Finally, shipping is included in the price.
Following is what you should look for when choosing the treadmill in a Treadmill Desk.

A treadmill is the foundation of the Treadmill Desk. If you choose poorly, you're setting yourself up for one headache after another. How do I know? I made every mistake in the book in building my original Treadmill Desk, including the purchase of the wrong treadmill.

After scouring CraigsList for several days, I spotted a "great bargain". The Nordic Track 7100 R, originally sold at $2,200, was being sold by a kind older gentleman for $375. What a steal! What can go wrong? Well, the answer is everything can go wrong on an older treadmill. My Nordic Track has so many problems, I'm thinking of giving it away for free (Update 2/1/09: I finally gave away this old treadmill for free via CraigsList).

Lesson Learned: Unless you know the pedigree of a treadmill, you may want to consider buying a new treadmill.

For a Treadmill Desk your treadmill should have:

a) Substantial Weight. A lighter treadmill may shake and rock. When you're trying to type on a keyboard, you don't want to have your desk shaking.

b) A Wide and Long Running Belt. Try to get a 20" wide and 55" long running (walking) belt. Try to avoid the common 14", 16" or 18" wide belts. When your eyes are focused on your computer monitors or papers, you don't want to worry about steeping off of the running belt. Also, your desk will take up some valuable space at the front of the running belt so don't buy a treadmill with less than a 50" long running belt.

c) Straight Arms. In some Treadmill Desk designs, your desk will be sitting on the arms of the treadmill. If the arms are uneven, then your desk will be uneven. My old used treadmill of course had uneven arms. I was constantly testing my reflexes as I tried to catch my pencil as it rolled off my desk. It was a fun game that I played. Look at the treadmill arms in the photo at the top right of this page. This is what you want (Smooth Fitness 7.6HR Pro).

d) Other considerations. Your typical treadmill, in general, will start to have problems after a lot of use. You can't imagine what can go wrong (ball bearings wear out, Mylar needs to be replaced, electrical problems, etc). I would never consider buying an extended warranty on a new product, except for a treadmill. Buy it if it's available. A service call, even if it's just 15 minute, will run $100 to $200.

Reviews and Recommendations
When you buy or replace your treadmill focus on these websites:

Consumer Search : ***Great Source*** This website provides a summary of reviews from other websites. I love this site!

Treadmill Doctor : A wonderful unbiased source for treadmill reviews. Also, tons of information about repairs and treadmill problems. Why didn't I listen when I read about the used treadmill (Nordic Track 7100 R) I was purchasing " They have had a flurry in the past of failures including, upper boards, lower boards, rear endcaps, etc. and they are typically much more expensive to repair..."
About : Lots of reviews and advice on buying (Budget, Mid-Range, Quality) and using a treadmill.

Runner's World : The online version of the runner's magazine has a section devoted to treadmills.

6 comments:

deskgrl said...

I am getting ready to buy my treadmill and design my new desk. A friend of mine pointed out that treadmills are not meant to work for long periods of time at very slow speeds. He says the motor will burn out. The max amt of time I would walk would be 4 hours and then give the treadmill a rest for 5 hrs before I go back to work for another 4 hrs. Any thoughts on this being a problem for the motor?

Jay Buster said...

Dear DeskGrl,

I've heard that also. I have a 3 hp motor on my treadmill and there have not been any issues after about 700 miles. I walk about three miles, take a 20 minute lunch break and then I walk another 3 hours. Maybe there would be problems if I had a smaller motor. Jay

iam_seanmcc said...

I'm also looking to build a treadmill workstation and was wondering if anyone had tried this with a manual treadmill? I was going to try to find a place where I could test drive a few, just to see if they would smoothly operate at low speeds. If I can find one that works, the manual would greatly reduce the cost and would negate the issue of motor failure.

Amelia Elias said...

Have you spoken with anyone who has tried this with a manual treadmill? I've seen a couple of comments about this but haven't seen any replies.

Thanks for all the great information!

Intchanter said...

@Amelia Elias

I'm just starting to look seriously at this, but my gut feeling is that avoiding a manual treadmill would be a good idea. Among the reasons that spring to mind are speed consistency and the ability to write, type, etc. without having to push against the desk surface.

Anonymous said...

Costco carries the Smooth 7.6hr for $1499 from time to time (free shipping).