A good fitness treadmill can be of great benefit to your workout if you know how to use one effectively and safely. Fitness treadmills are often the first thing you see when you walk into a gym or fitness facility. They are sold at fitness specialty stores, online, and in large sporting goods stores.
Fitness treadmills are particularly beneficial for those who live in colder climates, when walking outdoors is less practical or enjoyable. Most fitness treadmills sold today come with some sort of extended warranty should any of the mechanical parts break down or malfunction. In this article I will talk about some of the different features of the average treadmill.
Basic Features Of The Average Fitness Treadmill
The majority of fitness treadmills have very similar features. This means that if you travel often and work out at different facilities you can be assured that while minor differences in shape and design are present, overall functions are pretty much the same. The average fitness treadmill can be looked at in terms of what its intended purpose is for. For example, many treadmills that are sold at sporting goods stores or retail stores are sold with the understanding that they will be used moderately. In other words they are designed to be used here and there by one or a few users. These machines are primarily intended for residential use in the home. As such, they are not made or designed to withstand heavy, constant use. On the other hand, commercial fitness treadmills like those you see in gyms and fitness centers are designed to be used for hours and hours every day. Their construction is often considerably more heavy duty than that of residential use treadmills. Unfortunately, like pretty much anything mechanical, parts and moving mechanisms break down and require replacement from time to time. For the residential user, this is where having a good warranty in place comes in handy.
For a person starting out, the first thing you want to think about is safety. Of course before you begin any new exercise program you should always check with your doctor and ensure that you are cleared for such activity. This is especially true if you have had any sort of cardiac problems in the past. Even if you are cleared for exercise, your doctor may have certain restrictions or guidelines that he/she wants you to adhere to.
Fitness treadmills come with a unique safety feature geared toward protecting the user in the event that he or she loses his or her footing while walking, jogging, or running. Unfortunately, over the years I have noticed that most people who use fitness treadmills don’t actually use this safety feature. In this case, if the person loses their footing and is taken back on the treadmill to the floor behind them, the treadmill will continue to run. This can cause serious injury. The safety mechanism on fitness treadmills typically require that you clip the emergency shut off line to your pants or shirt. If you begin to lose your footing or get to far away from the front of the treadmill, the unit will automatically shut off. You may have had “funny” videos forwarded to your email of someone falling off a treadmill because they did not use the safety shut off line and therefore know what I am talking about. I can assure you that you do not want to be the one on the receiving end of this preventable mishap.
What Do All Those Buttons Mean?
For a person who has never used a fitness treadmill before, getting one can seem a bit overwhelming at first. The new user will see a series of buttons, a small digital screen, an emergency stop mechanism, wording about “METS”, and possibly some other related features. When starting out, it’s not necessary to be consumed by all the various programs and features available. It is necessary however to be familiar with all the unit's safety features. Most fitness treadmills have different set programs built in that you can choose from. These programs are geared toward raising the speed, incline, or both in a way that will produce a certain effect on your cardiovascular system. These programs are something you may be interested later on, but you don’t have to be familiar with all of them if you are just starting out. A “manual” option is usually available that allows the user to dictate what speed and incline they wish to use at any given moment.
In addition to the various program buttons available, you will also typically notice up and down arrows for both the speed and incline of the treadmill. When starting out it is typically best to start off with both of these numbers set to zero. Once you begin your workout you can progressively increase the speed and rate of incline to your desired level. The higher rate your speed and incline are, the faster your body is going to burn calories. Many people prefer to train in “intervals”. In other words they may train at a high level for a few minutes and then take it back down for a while. A persons goals, fitness level, and medical background in large part determine what is appropriate.
The main console of your treadmill may say something about METS. METS are something that is used in conjunction with your age and body weight to calculate caloric expenditure by the treadmills computer. If you are sitting at your computer reading this, your body is probably operating at around 1 MET. This means it is still using some energy to maintain respiration, circulation, digestion, and other bodily functions. If you are running at a good pace on a fitness treadmill, you may have a MET value above 10. You don’t need to worry much about this number as the computer in the treadmill will make the appropriate calculations for you. Just make sure to enter in all your personal information into the computer at the onset of your workout, and it will have everything it needs to accurately calculate your caloric expenditure.
Even if you don’t intend to spend hours on a treadmill every week, a fitness treadmill can be a great way to warm up and cool down for your workouts. For example if you like to lift weights, warming up by walking for 10 minutes or so will help increase core temperature and raise your heartrate. Similarly if you have a workout DVD in your home that you want to follow, warming up and cooling down before and after is a great way to help prevent injuries while burning a few extra calories.
If you intend to buy a fitness treadmill, make sure you do your homework. As I mentioned above, there are different levels of quality, and some are not designed to withstand heavy usage. Some of the treadmills of lesser quality are made with the understanding that most treadmills sold for residential use end up as glorified clothes hangers. Understand what your usage needs are, and then make your purchase accordingly. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, follow all safety protocols, and your fitness treadmill will be a great benefit to your overall workout routine.