Maybe I’m getting soft, or old, or fearful, but running in/on snow and ice, sometimes in the dark, has caused me to take action: my wife and I recently purchased a treadmill. With all of the training I wanted to get done over the winter and my wife’s crazy schedule, it seemed like the best thing to do – not to mention the safety and convenience benefits.
After searching around quite a bit and doing some research online we decided on a Smooth 6.75 Treadmill from Smooth Fitness. With a powerful 3.0 HP continuous duty motor I knew it could handle the work I was going to be putting it through: up to (and hopefully beyond) 50k a week. The quiet function of the motor and the “ultra quiet whisper weave” treadbelt make the treadmill pretty quiet – for a treadmill. While definitely not a commercial treadmill (like those used in health clubs), this treadmill does have much of the functionality of a commercial machine – particularly “under the hood.”
I’ve been using the ‘mill for about a month now, often running five times a week at distances beyond 25k on my long run, so I feel pretty confident in making some comments on it, even if I can’t comment on durability quite yet.
I’m not a big “programs” guy on the treadmill – that is I don’t really use the presets. I have a workout plan, and I tend to stick to it. If there’s a way to do personalized plans, I’m not aware of it, and I feel like it would be more trouble than it’s worth. The handy hand rail toggle switches make it simple to do speed and incline adjustments on-the-fly without having to reach up to the main controls. I like that, since many of my workouts require frequent changes in speed, in particular.
While I like the inclusion of a water bottle holder on the side of the machine, it is a bit awkward to get the bottle out while running. With practice it’s become a cinch, but warning goes out to the poor guy who doesn’t clip the safety pull on (I never do) and gets off-balance trying to get that bottle’s precious contents. The two cup holders on the main controls aren’t much help to me because they seem awkwardly tilted. I wish they would have taken some design cues from the auto industry and made them just like the cup holders in my Jetta.
There’s a great two-speed fan on the unit that others said was “mediocre.” I agree. And disagree. The fan isn’t large enough nor powerful enough to do a great job of cooling your whole body down, but it does do a great job of refreshing you when you’ve gone a few kilometers. For that reason I keep the fan off at the beginning of my run and turn it on full halfway through: that way I feel the air movement and it gives me a bit of a reprieve from my incessant sweating.
There are several things that I’ll never use:
- the transport wheels. Yeah, great it has them, but I’m not moving that sucker again.
- the ‘deluxe’ sound system. It’s not so deluxe. I’d rather use my earphones.
- ‘softdrop’ folding functionality. With something this big, I don’t know why you need to fold it up. It doesn’t help that much, and so much work (well, not that much, but I don’t want to be putting it up and down every day).
The display is pretty good. Easy to read, the controls are easy (although going from miles to kilometers or vice-versa requires a technician on the line, as I discovered).
As anyone who’s run on a treadmill will tell you, it’s very different from running outside on… well, anything. I actually enjoy the rhythm of the machine, and its gentle whirring. However, without a TV on it would be a snoozefest looking at the walls in my basement. I know purists are cringing right now: running indoors? While watching TV? Sacrilege! But, I want to get my training in, and I prefer not to re-injure my back, or slip and break something, or sprain an ankle. And I get bored. Easily. So TV it is. Perhaps I’ll do some audio-books in the future, but this is good for now. I do miss the scenery outside, though, and can’t wait for some dry roads to be able to get back out there.
Oh yeah, the run. The speed is very steady, with increases and decreases being very fluid (some machines are quite jerky). I haven’t noticed any slippage of the belt and it’s held up to the daily pounding quite well (so far). I’ve hit the safety pull out of its socket once or twice – which almost instantaneously stops the machine, which is a hazard itself, I think. Suffice it to say I was quite annoyed. Also annoying is the fact that you can’t go longer than 100 minutes without it auto-stopping. I’m going to be doing workouts two to three times that long. That will also be annoying, as it completely ruins your rhythm. Maybe there’s some sort of setting for that I haven’t found yet…
The Smooth 6.75 scores well with the general population, and it does with me as well. I give it two hearty thumbs up for its good looks, sturdiness, and ease-of-use. I would give it one more thumb up if I could run for longer without it shutting down on me, or if I could dry myself while I run without worrying about knocking the dumb safety pull out of the main console, or if it had better cup holders, but I’ll live with it.
Not the funnest training in the world (on a treadmill), but if I have to do it, this is a solidly performing treadmill to do it on.