Should You Buy a Treadmill?
Since the day we closed our first home in 2009, I’ve been fantasizing about buying a treadmill. It’s way more cost effective than a gym membership (over time), and since it would be right there in our garage, I would use it more (in theory). Running outside when the weather is terrible has its place, but usually it totally sucks.
When we had twins this summer, and our family expanded to 5, I thought this would finally be the year I could convince my wife to buy a treadmill. After some serious conversations, she told me we could get one if I made my case.
So, that’s what I set out to do! To my surprise (chagrin?), the results were not what I had anticipated. I was hoping to present her a written report of three machines, priced low to high, with appropriate bells and whistles all at an affordable price that would take up minimal space in our already cozy garage. I even organized the space to point out how easily it could fit, without sacrificing much storage.
If you are considering buying a treadmill, here are three questions you should ask yourself:
How Much Are You Willing to Spend?
At the end (or perhaps the beginning) of the day, you need to decide how much money you want to spend on a motorized running machine. The price of a treadmill varies wildly, from $500 all the way up to a $9,500 model that makes you a recovery shake while you run. Ok, I made that last part up, but for nearly $10k it should!
One way to determine your budget for a treadmill is to ask yourself how much you would spend on an investment in your physical and mental health. How can you possibly put a price tag on that? If the alternative to not buying a treadmill is not running, then perhaps you should pinch your pennies for a few months, bite the bullet, and buy one.
Because of the wide range in price, it can be hard to decide how much to spend. After combing through all sorts of online reviews, and talking to some sales people at a few places that specialize in selling fitness equipment, I came to the conclusion that a high quality treadmill, with enough bells and whistles to be helpful, start at $2k and up. At this price point, you’re paying for quality and durability, two things you’ll want if you plan to run on a treadmill long term.
The two treadmills I looked into purchasing were the Sole F85 ($2,300), which has some of the best reviews online and the Landis L7 ($3,499), which seems to be the best of the best of the home consumer models. Here is a handy online guide I found.
Conclusion: I think if you can comfortably spend $2-3k on a treadmill, go for these options. Assuming you won’t go into debt, a treadmill is a smart investment in your physical and mental health.
How Much Are you REALLY Going to Use it?
I kind of hate running on a treadmill, but if that’s my only option, I’ll take it over not running at all. With three kids and an ever changing work schedule, a treadmill may offer me some flexibility on when I could run (nap times on days I’m working from home), and I wouldn’t be held captive to only running early in the morning.
Over the past few weeks when I would head out for my 3-4 miles at 6 a.m. I kept asking myself, “would this be better on a treadmill?” Almost always, the answer was no. I then asked myself further if spending three grand would make me more likely to find time to run on the days when the kids and my work schedule don’t allow. Again, the answer was probably not.
But then there were days when I was working from home, the twins were napping, my son was at pre-school, and I thought, “this would be a PERFECT time to escape for a 30-60 minute treadmill run! I’m buying one!” However, this maybe happens once a week, so again, if I’m only going to use this thing once a week, is it worth spending the money and taking up the garage space? Probably not, and my fear was that I would feel obligated to use the treadmill simply because we spent three grand on the thing.
Conclusion: If you plan to run on a treadmill more than 50% of your weekly miles, then you should heavily consider purchasing one. Otherwise, It might be best to skip the investment.
How Much Do You NEED to Run in Terrible Weather?
The best argument for buying a treadmill is that you can run inside when the weather is terrible. I totally get that, and in a place like Minnesota, this would almost certainly seem worth every penny. Lord knows I’ve spent 19 of my 23 years of running dealing with ice, snow, and sleet four months of the year.
However, running outside in the winter cold, at least on occasion, is super fun! There is a certain appeal and toughness that comes along with saying you’ve survived running outside in negative temperatures and snow.
But you have to ask yourself, “Do I NEED to be running high miles and doing speed work in these types of conditions?” If you are always training for key races in the early spring, then probably yes. If running is one of your only hobbies, it may make a lot of sense that you would want to invest in something that will help you do it as often as you possibly can.
My decision on this point came down to the simple fact that I don’t need to deal with crazy Minnesota winters anymore, and I’m not training for any races that are important. After living through so many harsh winters, anything less seems almost tropical by comparison. I also don’t plan on doing any early spring races in the near future where I would NEED near perfect outdoor conditions to run my best. As I’ve said before, I’m in a bit of a maintenance phase of my running life, and just happy to get out the door.
Conclusion: If you’re trying to qualify for Boston, running an important early spring race, or detest running in the cold, then a treadmill (or at least gym membership) is probably a good idea. Then again, you could always try indoor running.
At the end of the day, and after a lot of thinking and internet research, I’ve decided not to pursue buying a treadmill. This is NOT how I thought I would be concluding this post, but after answering the three questions above, it is clearly the right decision. That’s not to say things won’t change next year, or the year after, but it just doesn’t seem like something I will use enough to justify the cost. If it comes down to saving for our kids college, or fixing the perpetual water problem in our basement, it seems silly to convince my wife I need a treadmill right now.
Have you considered buying a treadmill?
If you have one, which one do you have any why did you decide to get that particular model?