Professional runners tend to turn up their nose at a treadmill.  After all, part of the culture of running is getting outside and enjoying the fresh air, the scenery and the people you pass by on your run.   If you are fortunate to live near some great (and safe) trails and parks, there is no beating the exhilaration of an outdoor run.  Unfortunately not all of us are that lucky.

With more people living in urban neighborhoods, other considerations have become a bit of an obstacle to outdoor training. One of the great things about training with a group of runners or a friend is that it is safer. Running alone (particularly for women) can present a bit of a risk to personal safety depending on where you live and the time of day you’d like to run.

Inclement weather can also pose another obstacle to training for your marathon walk or run.  In Canada we aren’t always gifted with exceptional weather, and what exactly do you do in the winter time when snow and ice impede your run?   There is a reason that more people put on weight in the winter.  It’s cold and it’s not convenient to train, and the risk of injury due to slipping and falling goes up.

Does that mean that we stop running?  Absolutely not.  What it means is that you either hit the gym to do your miles or you invest in a good quality treadmill that will allow you to continue training uninterrupted regardless of weather or other obstacles.

If you are considering a hunt for your perfect treadmill, there are a number of things you should watch out for before you buy either a used or a new one for your home.  We started with the article 5 Tips for Treadmill Buying and put together a list to help you narrow you search and get an affordable treadmill tailored for your needs.

Try Before You Buy

No matter how well you research different models of treadmills, the reality is that you need to try it before you purchase.  The reason is that a treadmill has to be comfortable for you and work in tandem with the way you plan to use it.  If you are predominantly a walker you may find one model more appropriate than one that is built for running.   If you are endurance training there are certain features that are a “must have” in order to maintain your development.   Just like buying a pair of shoes, you need to try it on first before making a decision.

Under the Hood

When you buy a car you always check under the hood.  The same advice holds true for people who are buying a treadmill.  Motor and horsepower are everything when it comes to performance and there are a number of things you need to look for before buying.

Manufacturers provide two ratings that refer to the motor of your treadmill. The first rating is called “peak duty” which is somewhat less useful. You really don’t need to know as much about how it performs when it is near maximum output. What you want to know instead is the second variable which is “continuous duty”. The continuous duty rating will tell you how much wear and tear your treadmill will take. For instance, if you are a daily user for more than one hour you will want to shop for 1.5 to 2.5 horsepower (HP) and one with a strong continuous duty rating.

Lastly choose a treadmill that has at least a one year warranty, which is the industry standard for most mid ranged to top rated models.   Anything less than that is likely to disappoint you and result in repair bills and may provide an unstable walking platform or frame.

Low Rider

How low can you go?  How fast will it go? What is the highest incline offered on the treadmill?  These are all things you should be asking as you evaluate the best model for your needs. For people who walk moderately, an incline may not be a necessary feature. For training and marathon minded users, the incline potential of a treadmill is critical for building muscle mass and cardiovascular endurance. The key is to choose the one that fits your work out and fitness objectives.

Extra Features

Lets be honest and say that for the most part, treadmill training can be pretty boring.  After all you aren’t moving and you aren’t out enjoying the scenery. So if a treadmill is your best option make sure that it has a few extra bells and whistles that make using it a little more fun.

A water bottle holder is convenient and essential. For some the option of a book rack (or one designed to hold your iPad) provides the opportunity to “learn and burn” or listen to music for your run.

With a bit of exploration you can find a motorized treadmill that is equal too (or greater than) the impact of training outdoors. The best part?  You won’t be able to use the weather or the time of day as an excuse. Simply plug in and run.

About the author

Louise Alvarez is a fitness writer and a graduate from New York University. When she’s not writing, she loves to hike with her dog and read motivational books.