I've been running on treadmills for 5 years now, and I've learned many things about their maintenance and usage during this time. A good treadmill is reliable, but it's a machine nevertheless. And like all machines, it needs proper maintenance. I've listed below the 10 common questions we receive about our treadmill reviews at RunReviews. If you need additional assistance, or you have a particular question I can help you with, leave a comment at the end of the post.
1. Is there a difference in speed between different treadmills? Theoretically, if the treadmills you’re comparing are calibrated, there should be no difference in speed. However, with treadmills at the gym, there is a high probability that the calibration is not right, and you’re speed stats may be slightly off. In this case, to be sure, you can wear a timer to track your total time and record the distance from the treadmill console. You can calculate your speed per hour with a simple mathematical formula: if you run x miles in y minutes, how many miles do you run in 60 minutes?
2. How to be sure that the treadmill records data correctly? If you’re using a gym treadmill, there isn’t much you can do, rather than go with the solution listed above. On the other hand, if you own your own treadmill, there are other alternatives at hand. First off, make sure you calibrate your treadmill correctly. If you don’t know what calibration is, or how it’s done, see questions 4 and 5. You may also run a test on your own to compare the speed values on the screen with the real speed. Measure the belt length entirely. Put one mark on the belt and start it at 3mph speed. Count the times you see the belt mark, to measure the distance ran, and track the time with a timer. After 100 belt lengths, stop the treadmill and make the calculations. If you’re interested in monitoring your heart rate during the run, you should know that handlebars are not the most accurate system. You must stay still for a few seconds in order to have the readings completed, and it's hard to do that while you're running. The advisable solution is to wear a wireless chest strap to record such data, but still keep in mind that this is not a medical tool. One last info you're probably interested to know if it’s accurate is the calories number registered on the console. If you’re machine is basic and has no user profile to record personal info about yourself, don’t trust the data listed. If you do have a treadmill with user profile, use it, because the results are close to reality.
3. What are the circuit requirements for your home treadmill? Most US and Canada home treadmills run on a 120-volt circuit and must have a dedicated grounded outlet. Some brands send the treadmill equipped with a grounding conductor and a grounding plug, but you still need to meet the power requirements listed in the technical specs. Most brands warn about not using a ground fault circuit interrupt (GFCI) wall outlet, because it can trip often. Beware of such details, because you can lose the warranty if the treadmill breaks down because of improper usage.
4. What is calibration and how to calibrate a treadmill? Calibration is a comparison between the standard measurement and the device being measured. In treadmills’ case, calibration is done to ensure speed and incline accuracy. All treadmills should have the “Calibration” program included in the console, but each model has a different process. Consult the User Manual to see how your treadmill calibration is done correctly.
5. How often does the treadmill need calibration? You should calibrate your treadmill every time you move or adjust it.
6. How to center the treadmill belt? Before every run, you must make sure the treadmill belt is correctly centered and tensioned. Every treadmill must have two access holes to the belt tensioning bolts, usually positioned in the rear end of the machine, and easily accessed. You need to have at hand a wrench key, usually provided with the treadmill, to turn the bolts and adjust the belt. Each change you make must be tested on the spot, at slow speed. The proper setup of the belt is centered and tensioned enough for you not to slip or hesitate when you’re stepping on it. You must pay attention to not over-tension the belt in the process.
7. What is belt lubrication and how to lubricate a treadmill? Lubrication is that maintenance process needed to ensure that the friction between the belt and the deck does not rise and affect the usage of the drive motor and belt, or the electronic control board. In a few words, it ensures the longest life for your treadmill, and it’s required every 100 hours of usage. Each treadmill brand has its own recommendations for silicon lubricants, and you should consider their advice. To lubricate the treadmill, you must loose the rear rollers enough to have access to the deck and place the lubricant in its center. Then tighten and tension the belt back to its original place, and let the belt run at 3mph for a couple of minutes. Once you’re done, calibrate the treadmill and start your exercise. If you have a treadmill with no lubrication required, you don't need this info.
8. On what surfaces is it a must to use a treadmill mat? A treadmill mat reduces the vibrations of the treadmill when in use, and should be placed under your treadmill if you’re positioning it on a hard surface, like a carpeted or a concrete floor. You can go with an antistatic mat too, to protect your treadmill from gathering dust.
9. When should the treadmill belt be replaced? A treadmill belt should be replaced as soon as you notice any damage to it. Some belts last for 7000 miles, others have a shorter life. But you should not wait for an accident to happen before you replace it.
10. Are children safe around a treadmill? No, they are not, and you should keep in mind a few safety procedures to prevent tragic accidents from happening. First off, always remove the safety key from the treadmill when you don't use it, because the treadmill can’t start without it. Secondly, always unplug your treadmill when you don't use it and, if possible, fold it too. Thirdly, place your treadmill in a place where your kids don’t have access often, and teach them that the treadmill is not their playground.
About the author: Anna Moore is a runner and a treadmill user, with a passion for technology and a healthy lifestyle. She is also the editor-in-chief at RunReviews.com, a website dedicated to all about treadmills.