Those of you who would rather lop off one or more limbs rather than run on a treadmill should just stop reading now. There’s pretty much nothing that I can say that will convince you to come on over to the ‘dark side’. For everyone else, like myself, who appreciates that the treadmill can play a part in training, whether through choice, convenience or necessity, please do read on.
Long gone are the days when treadmills offered little more than basic functionality. Your typical treadmill now likely has processing power that surpasses that which put man on the moon (I have to admit to having tried treadmills in the past that require astronaut equivalent qualifications just to operate a ‘simple’ program. Rest assured, this is not the case with the treadmill in question). You no longer need to visit the gym to run on something that doesn’t feel like it’s just about to vibrate itself apart under the weight of your pounding. What’s more, all this technology is now far more affordable than it used to be.
More recently, faced with impending fatherhood (3 weeks and counting) and surrounding terrain that doesn’t lend itself to hill training, I started my ‘Munro challenge‘, aiming to run all 282 of the Scottish Munro Mountains (3000ft+) at a 10% incline on the treadmill.
The treadmill will continue to play a part in my training for the foreseeable future and, with a bit of luck, Bubbs will hopefully take to the rhythmic sound of the treadmill, finding it soothing and sleep inducing. What effect my thumping footsteps have on this, only time will tell. I can but dream!
Nordic Track T9.1
My treadmill efforts have been kindly assisted by Nordic Track who kindly provided a Nordic Track T9.1 treadmill on an extended loan. Having had some previous experience of Nordic Track treadmills I expected a robust machine with a superior build quality and I was not disappointed. The T9.1 provides a solid, no wobble, running experience, even as you progress up towards the top 20km/h speed (Note that it is possible to convert the display to miles, something that I did straight away). The running deck, which is suitable for anyone up to 150kg in weight, is wide enough and long enough for you not to feel overly constrained and is adjustable, depending on the level of cushioning required.
The T9.1 provides 15 on-board workouts (5 calorie workouts, 5 timed workouts and 5 distance workouts) that each automatically control the speed and incline of the treadmill, guiding you through an effective exercise session. Selection of the required workout is easy thanks to the separate Calorie, Timed, and Distance buttons that cycle through the available workouts. As you would expect, there is also the option of manual control, letting you set speed and incline as required.
A 2.5CHP commercial grade motor drives the belt at speeds of up to 20 km/h and the 1-Touch incline can raise to 10% to make your runs even more demanding.
Where this treadmill comes into its own is with the inclusion of iFit compatability, something that is now common to many new treadmills and which greatly enhances the treadmill experience.
The console has a slot at the back that takes an optional iFit Live Module. The module enables the treadmill to communicate with a wireless network which then provides connectivity to an online iFit account. The iFit Live modules lets you download personalized workouts, create your own workouts, track your workouts and race against other runners.
The iFit website is a central ‘control panel’ for all your exercise requirements and offers articles & resources relating to running, cycling, fitness, weight loss and recipes, the opportunity to join challenges and, of course, the opportunity to track your progress and workouts.
However, the main attraction for me came with the map functionality.
You will no doubt have come across Google Maps. I have to confess to having been a bit of a Google Maps geek back when they first came out. In my defence, it was usually as part of my job as a web developer. Then running came along and the attraction for out of hours map tinkering waned somewhat.
I will confess to having spent most of my time with the Nordic Track T9.1 exploring the Google Maps functionality, basically enabling you to select a location and then run in it, making use of Google Map Street View (where available). What’s more, the incline of the treadmill automatically adjusts to that of the current route so you really can get a feel for a route. Heading off to a race somewhere for the first time? Why not train on the actual route and get accustomed to the gradient and scenery.
Creating running routes is easy. Select your location, which can be pretty much anywhere in the world, and then design your route with the simple to use Google Maps tools, which let you create anything from a simple run around the block to a full on exploration of your chosen destination. Your only limitation is the desired distance!
Note that you need to have a PC/Screen available to view this unless you have one of the newer, high-end treadmills which have a screen capable of directly displaying the maps. In the absence of a lightweight laptop or tablet I set up a monitor/PC combination that let me keep track of where I was thanks to the placement of the monitor on a wall in front of me.
The Street View display flickers slightly as you progress along your chosen route, just as it normally does when viewing Street View online, but it certainly adds that something different to your average treadmill workout and provides a point of focus in an otherwise unchanging exercise environment. I personally made the most of the opportunity to revisit holiday destinations, ‘returning’ to Banff, Canmore, Victoria and Vancouver’s Stanley Park, all in Canada, and to Menorca, where I have holidayed the past couple of years.
I found the ‘return’ to locations associated with fond memories inspired my workouts and I soon lost track of time, distance and, even, effort levels! What’s more, the scenery of, for example, Vancouver’s gorgeous Stanley Park, proved more than adequate distraction when the conditions outdoors were not favourable to running.
I also liked the automatic setting of the treadmill incline based on current location. This left you ‘at the mercy’ of whatever hill you happened to be running up at the time and provided some welcome variation.
The only slightly odd thing about the Street View is that it appears that you are ‘running at’ oncoming vehicles but this is only to be expected given that the map views are taken from a vehicle. It’s definitely not something you should try outside however!
So, iFit provides for some excellent personalisation of your workouts, whether it’s revisiting areas, planning ahead or even just exploring different parts of the world. There’s also an iFit Facebook account that posts new routes from around the world and motivational tips, well worth following if you plan on using iFit.
It’s also possible to purchase various workouts and routes from the iFit store so you really should never be stuck for workouts! The latest free offering is a series of short runs, totalling over 80 miles, that introduces you to 20 of the most beautiful U.S. National Parks.
- Find out more at www.ifit.com
When purchasing a treadmill be sure to consider the warranty. My first treadmill had only a 3 year warranty on the motor and, true to form, it died on me shortly after the warranty expired. I then found that the components used were highly bespoke, preventing a cheap fix and was quoted almost as much as the treadmill had originally cost me to replace the defective part. I have since avoided that particular brand when purchasing equipment!
The Nordic Track T9.1, as with all Nordic Track machines, has a generous warranty:
- Lifetime Frame Warranty
- 10 Year Motor Warranty
- 2 Year Parts Warranty
- 2 Year Labour Warranty
Nordic Track T9.1 Specifications
- Dimensions Assembled: L178xW86xH151 cm
- Weight: 89kg
- Maximum User Weight: 150kg
- Motor: 2.5 chp
- Speed: 0-20 km/h
- Incline: 0-10%
- Incline Type: Digital Quick Incline. One-Touch Incline Selection
- Walking Belt Size: 51 x 140 cm
- Number of Progammes: 15
- Pulse Measurement: Système EKG™ Grip (hand pulse sensor) and Polar belt included
- Console Display: LCD Display Console Features: Speed, Time, Distance, Calories, Pulse and Incline
- Folding: Yes
- Speakers: Intermix 2.0 Audio with two speakers
- Music Jack: iPod Compatible
- Lift Assist: Easy drop shock with lock Impact
- Absortion System: FlexResponse™ Cushion Deck (impact reduction up to 15 %)
- iFit : IFIT Live compatible to get the latest Interactive Fitness technology (WiFi module not included)
- Programme Types: 5 Calorie-Burn, 5 Timed and 5 Distance Workouts
My thanks to Nordic Track for the loan of the Nordic Track T9.1 treadmill.