Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail And What to Do About It

new year

I know it isn’t Christmas yet but just around the corner is the time for New Year’s Resolutions! Some people swear by them and others swear at them but very few people have a neutral feeling about the matter.

Personally I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t want to wait to make a change when I know I need to get it done. That’s the main reason New Year’s Resolutions fail. If it can wait until New Year’s Day, then the pain to change isn’t bad enough. If the pain of something is too big for you do keep doing what you have been doing, then change now. Don’t wait for the calendar to flip over to a new year.

Most people simply say a few words or make a few statements and the really bold write down their resolutions but then quickly fail to keep them. A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol concluded that nearly 90% of New Year’s Resolutions fail (Wikipedia). That figure sounds just about right to me.

If you really want to make a change, you need to apply something that I learned in B school. You must have a roadmap to make a change and the way that has worked for me is through the acronym SMART.

S- Your goal must be specific. The more specific, the better to enable you to reach your goal. Visualize it and make it as real as possible. If you want to lose 25 pounds, picture yourself weighing 25 lbs. less. If you have an old picture of you at the lower weight, put it up on your bulletin board to give you a visual of where you want to head.

M- Your goal must be measurable. If you can’t measure it, you won’t know when you have reached your goal. If you want to limit your sugar intake, you can’t have a goal to simply eat less. You need a measurable goal like a 25% reduction in your sugar intake and need to know how much you are intaking currently.

A- Your goal must be attainable. Setting a goal that you cannot reach will quickly devolve into a situation when you lose hope. You must be able to attain it in a reasonable amount of time and if you don’t, most likely you will simply give up.

R- Your goal must be realistic. If you want to lose 90% of your body weight, that is simply not realistic. Make a crazy goal is the mindset of some people but what scientists have found is that the less realistic, the less likely that you can maintain your goal.

T- Your goal must be timely. If you make a goal that cannot be reached for 25 years, how motivated are you going to be to work on it every day. That’s why people don’t save as they should. It just takes a little bit of effort every day or a Herculean effort in a small amount of time according to the thinking of most people. Make intermediate goals if you have a long-term goal but people who can’t celebrate regularly won’t celebrate at all.

Hopefully these will help you make a resolution that will stick and the great thing about following this acronym is that it will work any time of the year, not just on New Year’s Day!

3 Tips to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays


Have you ever gone into the holiday season around Thanksgiving saying, “this year I’m going to be good?” As you were finishing off an entire pumpkin pie you promised yourself that you would do better at Christmas. You had a passing thought about that promise as you were polishing off an entire box of Godiva chocolate!

People ask me how I lost nearly 100 lbs. 4 years ago and how I have kept the weight off. I used these tactics:

1.    Freeze your hunger.

I took this from Dave Ramsey. He hates credit cards and tells people that if you keep one, put it in a frozen block of ice in the freezer so you give yourself time to think about it while the card is thawing out. Let’s say you love Godiva chocolate and your whole family knows this so you get 3 boxes for Christmas. Put them in the freezer. If you have serious control issues, eating a frozen caramel might burn more calories than eating an entire stalk of celery. When they are frozen, you have to put it out and let it sit for a couple of hours at room temperature to be ready to eat. Don’t pull out the entire box, only a single piece at a time.

2.    No treats from Costco.

I love the deals at Costco, don’t get me wrong but if you buy treats at Costco, you get a MASSIVE quantity. I know it costs less per piece than from the convenience store but if you buy the 5 lb. bag of Hershey’s Kisses at Costco, you will eventually eat the entire bag. Do you really need that pallet of holiday cookies. I know they are a great deal but unless you want to be moved around by a forklift on a pallet, buy your treats in single serving sizes and pay more per ounce. Also, when you only buy a single serving, remember that a half gallon of ice cream is not a single serving size. Which brings us to our final point:

3.    Half it up.

When I lost my weight, people asked me how I did it. The secret included more exercise and a good diet but I didn’t deprive myself. When I wanted a piece of chocolate, I got one. When I wanted ice cream, I would go and get a single scoop. The key was a simple piece of advice my doctor gave me, which was when you pull what you want from the box or bag or when you serve out your food on a plate, put 1/2 of it back. He said he had other patients that would half it on their plate and only eat half but I found when I tried that, I ended up just taking an extra bite or two so I just put 1/2 back every time. This worked like a charm and it will for you if you don’t double the portion on the front end.

Keep these in mind when you are having that Christmas or New Year’s party or if you decide to treat your shopping exhaustion with an entire package of Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookies.

3 Secret Hacks of Celebrity Fitness Trainers That Can Make You Into a Fitness Star

personal trainer

I hear the excuse all the time that Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper, and the like “can be fit but I’m not a fitness freak and I’m not an elite athlete.” People use this excuse so they can continue to eat whatever they want, lay on the couch, and continue to waste away and harm their quality of life, develop health issues that seriously limit their lifestyle, and eventually die prematurely from the havoc these issues eventually cause.

After people make these excuses, they flip on The Biggest Loser and see “reality” TV and say what I say, which is “if I did daily workouts like those on this show, I would have a fatal heart attack!” What they don’t tell you is that you don’t have to do this type of workout to be seriously in shape. There are shortcuts (hacks) and you don’t have to hire an expensive trainer or spend thousands on equipment. These hacks are:

  1. Start slowly. I tell people all the time that you would try to run a marathon without training for it. I know a number of marathon runners and they always follow this secret. Even they start slowly and build up with the event as their training goal. You can’t train at full speed all the time or you will burn yourself up just like you can burn up a motor by running it at full speed all the time. Most people don’t realize it but F1 racing engines have to be rebuilt after a single race. The same holds true for you if you try to max out ever time you workout.
  2. Develop consistency. The key to fitness success is consistency. It is also the killer of fitness success. If you want to feel good about fitness, do what a great number of people do and spend $500 on a machine and then set it in a corner and forget about it. If you want to get in shape, get the job done every day. If you set your schedule, meet it regularly and don’t use excuses and certainly don’t lie to yourself. Remember, that they Grand Canyon was amazingly made by water erosion but it didn’t do it overnight.
  3. Set achievable goals. The biggest secret is that people want to look like Jillian or like Brad Pitt within one month. It doesn’t work that way. The people you see on TV and the movies that have ripped abs and can run a marathon started with achievable goals. They started slowly and worked consistently, and made achievable plateaus. Remember to reward yourself but don’t do it all the time. Remember Christmas comes once a year but it wouldn’t be special if you had Christmas every day.

What most people don’t realize is that many of these trainers are celebrity trainers because they too were severely out of shape and in some cases, bordering on serious health problems from their overeating and sedentary lifestyle. The reason they have a passion for it is because they know the power of these three secrets.

You don’t have to have the goal of having your own TV show to be a fitness star but you must have these three key hacks to achieve any level of fitness success.

Tell Your Personal Trainer to Jump in the Lake!

Personal Trainer

Personal trainers can be a passionate lot. I know of one personal trainer here in our town that was an Olympic Gold Medalist and she runs her personal training sessions in a way that you would imagine an Olympic athlete would do. It is simply crazy and, if you want intense, she’s your gal but most of us would be scared of that kind of workout and personally, I’m a bit scared of her!

I’ve had a number of friends over the years that are personal trainers. Most trainers absolutely love exercise and that’s why they are training people. I’ve known a number of professional athletes that become trainers after their professional career is over. What most of these people lack is perspective.

If you want to be the next Carl Lewis or Michael Phelps, you might need a trainer with the intensity of a Marine drill sergeant but the average person has nothing near that level of need. Most of us just need to get moving again.

That’s why if you need help from a personal trainer and you run into someone that chews on anvils for breakfast, your best bet might be to move on to the next one. The ugly truth is that most people in the world are sedentary and the more developed the society, the greater chance that you have the daily movement of a Redwood tree.

I’m not trying to shame anyone and I speak more for myself than anyone else. I made some big changes a few years ago after a health scare and I want you to get moving without having to have the boot of a health emergency kicking you in the rear.

What you don’t want to do is start off with such intensity that you get it firmly planted in your mind that working out on a regular basis is for a select few rather than for everyone. So, if you have had the exercise pattern of a garden slug, you might want to start out with something as simple as 5 or 10 minutes of sustained walking. When you start out slowly, it is easy to increase your effort.

I know of a few people who have started out with a simple stretching routine and once they regained some flexibility, they started doing a brief workout routine. The important thing is to start moving because movement is life.

So when you decide to get started and want some help from a professional trainer, make sure to get someone that understands where you are and wants to slowly bring you along and hopefully can motivate you by making exercise fun.

It is similar to when you change your eating patterns. When I started eating salads (I still hate salads), I told myself that eating salads were a PERMANENT change for me. I wasn’t going to do it for 4 weeks or 6 months, but rather for the rest of my life. The same is true with exercise so you want a program with which you can live. So, if you get a trainer that seems like they are preparing to cast you in the next Rambo film, tell your personal trainer to jump in the lake.

How to Simply Solve the Internet Sales Tax Problem

sales tx

Here’s a solution that most people on either side of the issue won’t tell you…the whole issue of collecting sales tax on internet sales can be solved without hurting small businesses. My simple solution?

Have all larger internet retailers that sell $20 million or more online collect sales tax.

You might ask, “won’t that leave a pile of money on the table?” The simple answer is no. If you want the complicated answer, read on.

The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act does not create a level playing field, but rather just picks new winners and losers. For instance, under current international trade agreements, the individual states do not have the power to require foreign companies shipping from outside the USA to collect tax on individual transactions. Due to the reciprocity agreements with the USPS, foreign retailers would have a natural price advantage with US retailers pushing more business and more jobs offshore.

Additionally multi billion dollar companies like Amazon.com would have a HUGE competitive advantage over small businesses like ours because they have the volume to amortize costs of collecting and reporting tax to 50 different states. Within some of those states, multiple taxing jurisdictions exist- Alabama alone has 49 separate reporting authorities (http://1.usa.gov/106Jdzb). According to the Washington Post, a minimum of 7,600 different tax rates exist and some estimates top 14,000. The reason they can’t give us an exact number? There were 259 rate changes alone in 2012. (http://wapo.st/14MxEQu)

There is a $1 million dollar exemption in the Marketplace Fairness Act for small businesses but that exemption is laughable. Any small business can tell you that if you are internet based and have less than $1 million in sales, you are not a business but rather a hobby. Since margins are typically small with online businesses and since large businesses like Amazon make up the vast majority of online sales, a more reasonable exemption would be along the lines of Internet Retailers Top 500 list (http://bit.ly/106K2bd). For 2013, the last member of the Internet Retailer Top 500 had $21,375,000 in sales.

These Top 500 retailers comprise over 97% of all 2013 online sales (latest published year) so assuming an average sales tax rate across all jurisdictions of 7%, states would collect nearly $18 BILLION in uncollected sales taxes if the cutoff was being a business the size of a member of the Top 500 retailers, the only cost to states would be roughly $10 million per state in uncollected sales tax and would save numerous jobs from retailers that will simply be put out of business due to compliance costs associated with collecting sales taxes in a myriad of jurisdictions. See individual sales tax rates here http://bit.ly/106L4UC.

In summary, the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act will:

1. Place a heavy burden on tiny businesses that will close companies and cost jobs.

2. Unfairly take from small businesses and give to the giants like Amazon.com (that’s why Amazon heartily supports the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act).

3. Collect an amount from small businesses so tiny that it is a rounding error in most state budgets.

What should be done:

1. Pass a bill that exempts businesses with less than $20 million in online sales.

2. Collect between 97% and 98% of sales tax that should be collected.

3. Quit trying to steal from small businesses and give to big businesses!

Using California as an example, their budget for 2014-2015 is $156 billion (http://wapo.st/1FZTZIC). If companies less than $20 million in online sales were exempted from collecting online sales tax, California would collect over an additional $2.3 BILLION in sales tax and would only lose less than 1/2 of 1% of the state’s total budget and small businesses would be SAVED from a punishing compliance burden.

Eat More Chocolate! An Unusual Piece of Advice from a Fitness Expert

dark chocolate

I’ve lost and maintained the loss of nearly 100 lbs. over the last four years. You probably want to know, how did you do it? My answer is easy, I ate chocolate!

Let’s start that my expertise lies in the area of fitness equipment but fortunately, over my life I have learned volumes about the human body from some of the smartest PhD’s in the areas of kinesiology, fitness, and nutrition.

That brings me back to my general advice- Eat More Chocolate! What I learned is why I already knew but never practiced. To have sustained weight loss you must increase physical activity (Facebook doesn’t count), change your mindset regarding food, and eat better- don’t go on a diet.

Starting with the last piece of advice first, dark chocolate has tons of antioxidants primarily from Flavonoids which according to the University of Michigan, can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, help prevent blood clots, and might decrease blood pressure. This is the same ingredient in red wine that has health benefits.

Eating less is not good enough. Now I will readily eat a spinach salad instead of having a side of fries. I don’t prefer but I choose a piece of skinless grilled chicken instead of a burger, and instead of having a milk chocolate Hershey’s Kiss, I eat a small piece of dark chocolate.

You also have to change your ideas about food. Food is fuel and for my first 40 years it was about celebration and enjoyment. That gravy train is over! I don’t deprive myself completely but now I realize that to keep 100 lbs. off I have to think differently about food and it all can’t be a treat.

Physical activity was what I always turned to because that was my specialty. At one time I weighed 285 lbs. and had body fat that was just north of 11% body fat. For those laymen out there, that’s good, really good! The problem was I was an in-shape big man and when I stopped playing college football, the activity slowed but the eating didn’t.

It took decades but the weight added up until my body couldn’t take it any more. With this revelation 4 years ago, I am now on a course to live healthy and that includes activity. It doesn’t have to be much but 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking per day can make a world of difference. Get a dog and walk her around the block a few times a day. She’ll love you for it and you’ll get your walking done.

It might require radical change but it doesn’t have to require a radical lifestyle change. The first is mindset (1) think about food differently, (2) eat smaller portions of the right foods, and (3) get moving and build up…even if you start with a minute a day…each journey starts with the first step. Remember, movement is life but it isn’t everything. Don’t forget, food is fuel so Eat More Chocolate, just make sure it is the right kind!

Workout While You Work! – Exercise at Work Tips from Treadmill Doctor – 2015

Treadmill Desk

There has been consistent excitement over the last several years about exercising while you work.  The idea is to walk very slowly for a long period of time while you work or simply something as simple as standing periodically.  It won’t get you a good cardio workout but it burns calories and it beats the alternative of sitting on your butt and looking like a human but slowly transforming in a shape that resembles a gourd (trust me- I was there about four years ago but I changed and so can you).  Like I’ve said some times- I’m in shape- round is a shape, isn’t it?

There are multitudes of ways you can workout while you work. From something simple like a simple hand exerciser to a balance ball all the way to a desk where you pedal or walk all day, there are a great number of choices. We know the choice has arisen from the popularity and with the building scientific proof that sitting all day is a very bad thing to do.

So far, the most popular type of workout at work is a treadmill desk. Treadmill Doctor gets hundreds of questions about treadmill desks every year.  In the past, most people get a regular treadmill and then modify the area around it to make it work.  Some high-end providers that are making the whole workstation are Steelcase (the office furniture company) and Woodway (a high-end provider of commercial treadmills). Some cheap alternatives are out there but the quality is less than that of a department store treadmill on the whole.  For 2012 Lifespan created a new machine just for this type of use.  The TR 1200-DT was Lifespan’s purpose built treadmill desk with the controls and display integrated right on the leading edge of the desk and apparently, they sold a bunch of them because last year they came out with 6 models and for 2014 the expanded to 9 models. We would stay away from the 800 series but the 1200 and 5000 series desks are serious treadmills.

Since Lifespan has such a good design, they are wholeselling their machines to other companies to combine with their own desks. The ones we have found reselling Lifespan machines are TreadmillDeskInc.com, Multi-Table, Xybix, Next Desk, Ergoprise, Human Solution, SpecialT, UpDesk, and Compel.

You know the market is getting crowded when Icon introduces multiple models and that is what they have done with two new Proform treadmill desks and a NordicTrack treadmill desk. Once again, Icon takes things to a new level with an innovative design on the Proform machines where they can be used and have the features of a regular treadmill but you simply flip down the console to use it as a treadmill desk. On the NordicTrack model, the desk portion swings out of the way so you can fold it up and still electronically adjust the desk height to use it as a sitting or standing desk. Pretty innovative since the major complaint we ran into about purpose built treadmill desks is that you couldn’t easily use them as a regular treadmill and you can with both of these.

Treadmill Doctor provides a couple of important points to keep in mind when designing your workspace:

  1. Do not create a condition where you could be trapped.  People have fallen when using a treadmill so always use the safety cord and don’t build your desk where you could be trapped on top of a running treadmill if you forget to use the safety cord or if something malfunctions.
  2. When creating the work area make sure not to close the area around the motor off to a good circulation of air (more of this in the next point).
  3. Remember that low speed use for extended periods of time is the hardest on a treadmill.  Most people think sprinting on a treadmill for 10 minutes daily really wears a treadmill out.  That is not necessarily the case.  We regularly see more problems on treadmills that are used at very low speeds for extended periods of time because little air circulates to cool the motor and electronics and the heat has a cumulative effect, causing component failure.
  4. It is important to keep the treadmill clean and also keep the belt well lubricated because dirt and friction are the two biggest causes of failure on machines used at low speeds for extended periods.
  5. We also suggest additional cooling.  Whether you install a fan in the motor cover (what I would do personally) or simply have an external fan keeping the air circulated around the motor area.  It will help the treadmill last years longer.

We hope this becomes a healthy habit for you and if you follow our recommendations you will have much more success from a reliability standpoint than if you just wing it.

Copyright © 2014 by TreadmillDoctor.com, Inc.

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What to Look for in a Treadmill or Elliptical in 2015

Fitness equipment- as a business- continues to evolve and more and more of the transactions are occurring online. Plenty of purchases still occur in physical stores but when you consider that only a few years ago there were over 1,100 fitness specialty store locations and today we estimate that the number is now under 300, it is easy to see that the dynamics of where treadmills and ellipticals are bought has changed rapidly. Many more units of fitness equipment are bought on the web and in mass-market stores.

As far as how the market divides, we have seen a shift in dollars spent as well. It mirrors much of what has been reported in the broader economy. The very high end of the market has done well and actually expanded. On the more economical side, more and more purchases that used to be at the $2,500 level have moved in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. Much of the business that used to be at the $1,500 price point has moved lower too. Places like Amazon.com, Sears, and Dick’s Sporting Goods commonly today sell machines that are in the $1,500 price point or higher and just a few years ago, it was uncommon for these retailers to sell anything above $1,000 and most of their sales were at $799 or below.

What does this mean for you? First, you will find better quality in the mass market. Joggers on treadmills and moderate users of ellipticals are now able to get on a machine as low as $1,000 without significant problems. The one caveat is that most treadmills in this price range have ¾” decks and those can break with a runner since they put a pounding on a deck. That’s why we have developed a deck reinforcement kit so if you are a runner and get a machine with a ¾” deck, we would recommend our reinforcement kit or simply buy a machine with a 1” deck. The ellipticals in this range typically use bushings instead of bearings on the major load points so you will have less life engineered into the machine but the elliptical will cost significantly less and you can easily stay with the latest gadget trend with a new machine in 5 years.

At the $1,500 price point, you can get a durable machine. More and more people report to us that they are 5k and 10k training on a $1,500 machine! Icon has put great pressure on the mass market and has effectively grabbed a huge share of the market under $2,000 and now they are moving into higher price points. The company that once dominated the under $1,000 price range now makes home treadmills that cost as much as $4,000.

With all of the turbulence, some matters that were not terribly important in the past are incredibly important today. In the past, manufacturers and distributors had leeway in operations since there were only a few companies and missteps could be easily corrected next year. Competition is now so cutthroat, in all price ranges, that a small misstep could mean your company won’t be around next year to service your treadmill or elliptical. Never fear! We are here to help you make sense of this mess.

The point is that you should consider the channel that you are buying from and the company that makes your treadmill as much as you should consider the model. In our overviews of companies, we give our opinions and thoughts about the stability of the company as well as how we expect them to do over the long run. Check the local BBB (Better Business Bureau) to see how the retailer takes care of their customers. You may also want to check the factories with the national BBB. Since product support is very important with fitness equipment, pay careful attention to our outlook for the brands and consider our comments in regard to their long-term prospects.

Many people email us each year asking about specific components, most notably motors and rollers in relation to treadmills or should I buy a front-drive or rear-drive elliptical. Component buying is almost always a trap that you don’t want to fall into and these are two areas of a treadmill or elliptical that has been muddied over the last 10 to 15 years. First, the motor situation is almost laughable. Since there is no accepted standard for rating treadmill motors, it is easy for a company to put virtually any rating they want on a treadmill motor. With some fear and trembling, we launched a new motor standard four years ago. At first, we had some big players wanting to help out but this fell apart when some factories realized we were going to tell the truth so we have had to go it alone. When we rate the motor, we attempt to rate it based on the size of the windings in the armature in relation to the permanent magnets. It is the only good way to determine the actual horsepower of a treadmill motor and that is why our power ratings may vary significantly from a manufacturer’s stated ratings. In other words, don’t buy a treadmill based upon what the factory claims in HP rating.

Another related point is treadmill roller size. Factories claim a bigger roller is a better roller. In theory, the larger the roller, the slower it will turn causing less wear on the bearings and less stress on the walking belt since the belt can operate at a lower tension. The truth is that many larger rollers have just as many problems as smaller rollers (and some larger rollers have more problems than smaller rollers) because companies skimp on the quality of the parts used to make the rollers, so overall quality is much more important than size of the roller so pay attention in the reviews to the quality ratings. This is just an example of how factories can muddy the waters.

In summation, the market has improved again this year; especially for the consumer because you can get more quality for your money. Some of the mass-market brands still have a way to go in regards to their customer service but the quality of their products has improved so much that in most cases poor service is a moot point. Treadmill Doctor suggests selecting carefully and make sure you pick one from a company that has good prospects to be around for a long time so you can get the parts you need in 10 years. If you are buying from a specialty retailer in order to receive a higher level of service, double-check the retailer’s service level with an organization like the BBB to make sure they take care of customers because if you are buying a high priced treadmill or elliptical, you deserve the best service.

7 Critical Criteria That You Must Know Before Buying a Treadmill or Elliptical This Year

Treadmill Doctor Tips

1. The Internet is a Great Place. 

The great disrupter for the fitness industry has been the internet.  10 years ago, the industry was packed with companies that simply no longer exist today due primarily to online competition. With that said, it is also a great place to do your research and then go to a local store and try to have them match the price.  Keep in mind that the delivery of a treadmill or elliptical from an online seller is much different than when you buy from a local store.  Curbside delivery literally means that.  Most people find that paying extra for “white glove” or inside delivery and assembly is well worth the cost.  Also, it is much easier for a single unit to be damaged in shipping rather than when you buy from a local store so inspect your box carefully before accepting delivery.

2. Unbundling Isn’t Just for Airlines Any Longer.

An ongoing trend is to get very aggressive on the price of the machine but take away things that were once free and that you would expect to be included in the price…remember there is no free lunch.  Just like the airlines now charge for bags, drinks, snacks, a seat larger than a thimble, and breathing (we’ll maybe not breathing yet but it wouldn’t surprise me) and Ryan Air is trying to charge to use the restroom.  Some companies have so aggressively priced their products that they have essentially priced the product where they don’t have the ability to effectively service the product.

3. Don’t Buy on Specs.

Especially if you visit a specialty retailer, you will get all kinds of facts and figures thrown at you…typically at the mass-market retailers all you will hear about is the motor HP.  All of these figures are about as helpful as a fire hose for a drowning person.  These facts and figures are, many times, designed to confuse most consumers because HP ratings can be manipulated wildly and bigger is not necessarily better.  You are better off looking only at quality brands from a quality retailer and not let your head get too clouded with all the hyperbole.  We help you cut through the nonsense with our quality ratings.  We also have our own standard for motor ratings because there is no standard in the treadmill business and we wanted you to have an apples to apples comparison.  Keep in mind that even if a company uses good parts, if it is assembled or engineered poorly, the parts won’t work well together.

4. If It Sounds Too Good to Be True It Probably Is.

Some companies will talk about LIFETIME warranties and other come-ons that sound great but if the factory is no longer in business, you can take the warranty and use it for toilet paper because that will be all that it is worth.  Others claim massively inflated MSRP’s with a “sale” price that is only good for today.  If you feel pressure to make a decision today, you are probably getting the short end of the stick.  Get all your ducks in a row and learn all you can (and the new habit- pull out your smartphone and check prices on the net while you are in the store).  Try out different models because this is an important purchase…we are talking about your health here so it is important to get a good product that will support your fitness goals, weight loss goals, heart health, etc.  This is a great business because it improves people’s lives but remember there are sharks in every business.

5. The Quality is Getting Better & Better at the Low End.

Just as other consumer products are getting better while the price is going down, treadmills and ellipticals are no exception.  Just a few years ago, you had to spend $1,500 to get a decent treadmill and $1,500 was the minimum on an elliptical too.  That is no longer the case and in fact, the $1,000 machines on the market today are better than the $1,500 machines from just a few years ago although we still recommend $1,500 for runners although for those people, we used to recommend a minimum of $2,000.  Sears has really stepped up in quality; as have some of the big sporting goods companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods.  On the whole, the consumer is the real beneficiary. If you want something for occasional, light use, you can really save some money on a lower-end unit.  If you are a marathon runner or someone who pounds the heck out of a machine, still be prepared to shell out the bucks for something that is a long-term treadmill.  If you put 10 miles on an elliptical every morning, you will want to shell out more for a better quality machine.  If you want the best, open up your wallet and be ready to spend thousands but the lower end is as strong as it has ever been in this business.

6. Don’t Expect a Cheaper Machine to Be Perfect. 

We regularly get an email from someone that bought a warehouse club machine and they comment that it has plastic on the side rails or doesn’t feel as sturdy as the model at the club…here’s a news flash- when you buy a $999 from a club or even a $2,500 model from a fitness store, they aren’t the same as a $8,000 club model.  That’s right, list price on most club models is now approaching or over $8 grand and there are now models over $20,000!  You get what you pay for.  With that said, the cheaper units don’t have as high quality components overall as the more expensive machines.  Many of the lower end units are now using the same motors as the higher end units but they cut corners on the quality of the heart rate grips, cut quality of the rollers, use a thinner deck, cut as much expense out of the electronics as possible, or use an incline motor that is slower than the ones on the more expensive machines.  If you want a great machine with no disappointments, you have to pay for that.  If you are willing to make a few compromises, you can get a heck of a deal on a cheaper machine.

7. Figure Out the Angle. 

We are always ready to let you know that we accept advertising from factories and the links are clearly labeled as sponsored links- just like on Google.  We know Google makes piles of cash but NOT our little advertising program.  Our advertising program is finally getting to the point where it helps cover costs…we make our money by selling replacement parts and we are the leader on the Internet in parts sales so that’s how we make a living.  We’ve been doing this for 17 years now so if we were trying to push an agenda or trick the public, we would have been figured out a long time ago- especially how it is impossible to keep a secret on the internet- just ask Miley Cyrus.  Our policy has always been to tell people what we would buy if we were standing in the consumer’s shoes.  As always, we NEVER accept any compensation in any form for the reviews we do.  When we finally figured out that we were spending six figures on the reviews, we knew we had to accept advertising because our readers told us they didn’t want to pay for it.  Reviews like Consumer Reports are also easy to figure out and are above board.  Many affiliate sites are on the web and they get paid if you click through from the affiliate site over to the manufacturer to buy the product…many times they get hundreds of dollars for a single click.  Even Runner’s World has moved to the affiliate model! No wonder they push certain products.  A recycled idea is for factories to start doing their own reviews.  Some have tried to create an arms-length arrangement to make it look independent but you need to ask yourself a simple question; “how does this site make money?”  If you see a well developed review site, it costs a bunch of money and they have to get it back somehow.  Many unwitting sheep are getting served up as lamb chops when they don’t ask this simple question.

Treadmill Doctor’s 11 Tips for Buying a Home Treadmill or Elliptical

1. Remember when you are buying a home treadmill or elliptical, that in most instances a specialty dealer will have more ability to work with you on price than a mass market store.  Usually at Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, Academy Sports, etc., you have to wait on a coupon, sale, or closeout if you want a discount.

2. When buying exercise equipment, make sure to consider where you will put the machine before you buy it.  If you are locating the equipment in a garage, porch or other area that is not climate controlled, expect problems.  Since most models use lubricants that can freeze or lose their ability to properly lubricate at very high heat or extreme cold, you can run into problems on both extremes.  Other problems you will experience in an open area is dust and dirt…these are the #1 reason for failure, not to mention corrosion and other problems associated with areas that have high humidity.  Additionally, arid climates quickly evaporate some belt lubricants for treadmills and joint lubricants for ellipticals.

3. Be sure to buy machines that are built sturdily enough to handle the workload that you want to give them.  Usually the higher the original list price, the better the engineering, the better quality of components, the better overall machine you will get for your money.  Conversely, if your budget is tight, don’t buy more of a machine than you need.  Our grandmother had a cheap $500 treadmill that received very light use every weekday.  Since it was lubricated and cleaned, it didn’t have a single problem in over 10 years.

4. For treadmills- We are starting to temper our view on orthopedic belts.  With that said, we still don’t recommend them because 1) a good pair of running shoes provide more cushioning 2) they hold in heat which shortens belt life, motor life, and electronics life 3) the increased weight of the belt shortens bearing life in the rollers.  We have tempered our view somewhat because the manufacturers of these belts have thinned them a bit which makes them weigh less and the backings have become much more friction-free on many models which has lessened the stress the belt places on the system.  The best way for the average person to see the effect of the belt is stand on the treadmill without any power to the machine and manually walk the belt to see how much friction it has and then compare it with a treadmill with a regular belt.

5. Do your research and get several price quotes from several different stores.  Typically, the more you deal with the various companies, the better deals they will come up with such as discounts, free accessories, financing specials, etc.

6. Tread carefully when buying over the Internet.  Some companies, like Landice will void your warranty if it is not installed by a dealer and some have restrictions on delivery distances from an authorized dealer.  As more factories face the reality of the Internet, this is becoming less of a problem.  If in doubt, contact the factory.  Another issue related to Internet buying is delivery.  Many of us in the business know how difficult it is to ship a single treadmill or elliptical without having it damaged so deal with a company that has been doing it a long time and has already learned how to do it.  Another issue to keep in mind is what you are going to do if you don’t like the machine.  Most companies accept returns but the cost to ship the treadmill or elliptical back to the factory can easily cost hundreds of dollars so it is quite an expensive trial test if the machine is returned.  Also curbside delivery literally means what it says…the trucking company will sit it on the curb and it’s your problem to get it into the house so either purchase inside delivery or have help ready.  Another issue is service…some have good service networks and others don’t but remember that you probably won’t get the type of personalized service you should expect from a local dealer.  The best in the Internet business in our opinion are Icon- makers of the Epic, Gold’s Gym, Healthrider, Image, NordicTrack, Proform, Reebok, and Weslo brands, Johnson- makers of Horizon, Matrix, Merit, Tempo, and Vision brands, Lifespan, Precor, Sole, Star Trac, and True (listed in alphabetical order, not in any order of preference).

7. Do take care of your treadmill or elliptical.  Whether they require quite a bit or little maintenance, keeping the treadmill or elliptical clean and the walking belt lubricated on the treadmill can be the difference between either having a great machine or having a money pit.  Refer to our Treadmill or Elliptical Care Pamphlet for maintenance instructions.

8. If you are considering used machines, really do your homework, then do it again.  We do rebuilding jobs for local health clubs all the time and do this work occasionally for people who are buying health club models for the home but to do it right costs quite a bit and if someone is telling you they have a used or rebuilt at an amazing price, you typically aren’t getting the entire story.

9. Since buying a treadmill or elliptical is a huge investment for most people, choose your dealer and factory carefully.  As with any product, a brand new company may not be around in a few years and parts can be very specific to machines and spares may not be available if the factory isn’t around.  A dealer for a reputation for high quality and personalized service is necessary for some people.  Other people feel confident in servicing their own equipment, so figure out which one you are and buy accordingly.  If you know one end of a wrench from the other, you might want to save a few dollars with an Internet or warehouse club or department store purchase.  Others may need to pay for the full-service price you should get from a local dealer but if you pay the higher price, demand the higher service level.  Many of the Internet shippers are now offering an additional installation service to try to mimic the style of personalized installation you get from a local small specialty store.

10. Treadmills and ellipticals are different than many other home appliances.  Remember, we rate a treadmill average if it has a breakdown only once every 5 years…that’s average!  Extended warranties can make sense if the manufacturer has a short warranty and if you get it from a reputable extended warranty company.  Remember the dealer is typically not the warranty provider and many have gone out of business over the years and others are hard to deal with.  For instance, UTS (Icon’s warranty company) is one of the best on the market.  If you get an Icon machine, buy the UTS warranty…it will be well worth it.  UTS’s number is 800-677-3838.  Also, Sears has a good extended warranty program and typically pays for itself if you use the machine.  On the other hand, we have had problems with the company called N.E.W. and many others have gone out of business so do your research on your warranty company if you have never heard of them.  We now also have our own extended service program now too so it is available for any purchase you make up to 90 days past the date of purchase.

11. A great final tip is if you want to save a bit of money.  Since treadmills and ellipticals are becoming more commoditized, they are getting better and better while the prices are dropping.  The machines being made today in the $1000 range are much better than the $1500 machines made 10 years ago.  If you need to save a few bucks and your doctor says it is OK, use a few degrees of incline always when you use your machine.  If the machine is well maintained and if you use a bit of incline (on the treadmill), you can get by with a bit less of a machine than you might need otherwise.  The incline allows gravity to take over quite a bit of the workload from the drive system.  We are able to measure this by using a simple AC/DC ammeter.  The amp load (thus the load on the electrical system) is reduced when using even a degree or two of incline.  A treadmill used with just a slight incline will last much longer than a comparably cared for treadmill that is used at level.  Plus, if you are going green, you use fewer amps and that translates into less electricity.  If you keep it clean and keep the walking belt well lubricated, that keeps the amp load lower too.