treadmillBuyer Beware

With Christmas around the corner (along with cookies, fudge, and other holiday treats), and the temperatures outside dropping, you might have considered purchasing a treadmill. We purchased a ProForm 995i treadmill from a seller on Craigslist on Black Friday. (I am not an affiliate for any product I mention in this post).

After reading reviews and comparison shopping, we made arrangements to drive four hours to pick up a brand-new-in-the-box screaming deal. I spent an equal amount of time worrying that I may have agreed to purchase stolen merchandise. Or that the sellers might be ax murderers. I even did a satellite map search of their address to make sure it looked legit.

The online information claimed that one could use Bluetooth technology to sync the treadmill to one’s iPad in order to have a maps program control the incline of the treadmill. In addition, one could download training programs for actual races—the Boston Marathon, for example. These features appealed to me because I started training for a marathon in November. I don’t naturally push myself, so having a treadmill simulate real terrain sounded great.

The Treadmill and Setup

First of all, the ProForm 995i in the box weighs about as much as a newborn elephant. You’ll want at least two sturdy people to move it in and out of your vehicle—and plan on using a truck to transport it. The company does a great job of packing it—the one we purchased had spent time in storage and the box had damage. Despite the holes and dings on the outside of the box, no damage had reached the treadmill.

Pedro and I timed how long it took us to put the treadmill together. For once, the instructions on a ‘some assembly required’ product didn’t make my head spin. All of the nuts and bolts and doo-hickeys came shrink-wrapped to a cardboard backing that clearly labeled when one should use them.

I should state for the record that I have no natural mechanical talent and that Pedro let me lead out in the assembly process. Despite my ineptness, we still assembled the treadmill in two hours.

A word of warning here—assemble the treadmill in the room you plan on using it. At roughly 36 inches wide once assembled, this puppy won’t fit through any doorways nor travel down the hallway. Don’t even think of trying to squeeze it through a doorway sideways, either. Even with the running deck lifted to ‘save space,’ the unit measures 49 inches. Hopefully, we don’t move in the next 15 years.

ProForm 995i

This brings us to a discussion on the immense proportions of this treadmill. Don’t get me wrong, I like the size and sturdy feel of the unit. If you want something dainty that tucks inconspicuously into a corner of your apartment, don’t buy a ProForm treadmill.

If you want a treadmill that feels sturdy, has a long running deck, and a large console area, this one fits the bill. The running deck, despite its weight, lifts and lowers easily. It has special cushioning shocks, which my old-lady knees appreciate.

The Treadmill in Motion

The spacious console area houses a watt reader, large readouts that rotate between mileage, time, calories burned, incline, and heart rate (if you wear a compatible chest strap). Since I run with a FitBit Blaze that keeps me updated on my heart rate, I don’t really pay any attention to this feature.ProForm 995i

The console has controls for quick-starting a workout. The unit inclines from 0-15% grade and one can easily choose a speed between 1-12 MPH. In addition, one can use built-in ‘Tempo Training’ or ‘Interval Training’ programs. The booklet that comes along with it fails to give actual workout information for any of these preprogrammed features. I tried one of them and it seemed pretty silly. The treadmill started off at 1 MPH and then would zoom to a speedy 3 MPH. Having a breakdown of what speeds and distances one will encounter on the workout ahead of time would prove useful.

The console also has a fan, which I love. Of course, Pedro listened to it and declared that only two of the three speeds work. I registered the treadmill when I purchased it, and within a day received an email from ProForm that my product warranty had expired. It boggles my mind that my warranty can expire within a day of registering it. I don’t have time during the week to haggle with customer service people, and ProForm’s customer service closes on weekends.

The upper console has a nice clamp that will hold a tablet. My iPad Mini fits nicely, even when it’s in a case. The distance from my eyes when I run and the iPad in the holder (about 45 inches) makes me wish I had a full-sized iPad.

Drawbacks

I should also mention my bruised knuckles. I find my height (or maybe my innate clumsiness) incompatible with the handrails. This school of hard knocks probably resulted in a better running form for me. Unbeknownst to me, I had a habit of flailing my arms like a chicken flapping its wings whilst sprinting. It took me about a week of daily use to stop whacking my knuckles on the end of the handrails when I sprinted. When winter has ended and I once again run along the roads, my neighbors will no longer find my running as entertaining.

ProForm has teamed up with iFit to create a product that syncs with iFit’s fitness program and trackers. I had never heard of iFit, nor its trackers. The price of the treadmill compelled me to not pass up the bargain. Normally, I would have spent more time researching iFit and the apps that it offers.

At first glance, I thought an iFit membership would cost $7.00 a month—which sounds about in my price range. After I purchased and set up the ProForm treadmill, I went back to sign up for the iFit membership—only to discover that one pays $7.00 a month IF one purchases a two-year membership up front. I didn’t want to invest that much money in a membership that I knew nothing about, so I went with a one-month membership—which cost me $16.90 ($15.00 plus tax).

I downloaded the iFit app on my iPad and thought I could just start using it. And you can…sort of. I typed in my old address in Bozeman, MT and mapped out the route I used to run all the time. I spent a blissful half hour walking my old route and watching the old landmarks pass by. The incline on my treadmill raised and lowered in all the appropriate places.

Nike+Run Club vs. iFit

When I spent time on their website looking at different training programs, I discovered that a marathon-training program costs an additional $29.99. Since I didn’t want to commit to a training program on an app I don’t even know if I like, I decided to hold off for now.

At this point I thought I would check out the Nike+Run Club app on my phone that I’ve used since the days before iPhones. I figured that the “coaching” feature probably cost money, so I’d never bothered to look at it.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the coaching feature costs nada. Zilch. Zero. I set the plan to ‘Marathon’ and started doing what the coach told me to do. The next day, I thought I would try using both the iFit program and the Nike program. The iFit app allegedly allows one to program the speed and incline, as well as the duration of each of those.

Nitty Gritty Programming Problems

I found that setting the inclines and speeds took more time than I had. The instructions on how to create a custom workout don’t exist, and the system isn’t intuitive. If one clicks on the little green button, a new point appears on the grid, and then one can move the point up or down to change the speed. Unfortunately, if one clicks on the little green teardrop button again, another point will appear on the grid, thus changing the work one has already programmed. If this sounds confusing, well, it’s a confusing system.

By clicking on one of the points, one can allegedly enter the speed and distance for that segment of the workout. When I tried typing the information in, nothing happened. I tried two different browsers, but neither one of them worked.

Bottom line—iFit has a lot of work left to do to work out the kinks and make the app user-friendly before I would consider paying even $7.00 a month to use it. Of course, if you want to have a virtual coach that offers menus, other exercise workouts, calorie counting, etc., iFit Coach and their exercise trackers might work for you.

Just because a treadmill claims it's 'compatible' with a fitness app doesn't mean that app is… Click To Tweet

I have a low tolerance on technology. If I can’t figure it out within 15 minutes, I won’t ever use it again. I certainly won’t pay money for it. And why should I when the Nike+Run Club and Nike+Training apps do everything I need for free (minus changing the speed and incline on my treadmill).

Overview:

Things you need to know BEFORE you invest in a treadmill that promises compatibility with an app. http://wp.me/p7W1vk-7VProForm 995i Treadmill
Pros
-Sturdy unit
-Long and wide running deck
-Easy to assemble
-3.0 CHP Commercial Grade motor
-The fan

Cons
-Size (make sure you have room for it before you purchase)
-Customer service
-Handrails might leave you with bruised knuckles (I’m 5’6”)
-The compatibility with Bluetooth devices comes at a price.
-No explanation of what the pre-programmed workouts will be like

So, before you purchase a treadmill that promises compatibility with a training program or coach, spend time investigating the apps, the programs, and the reviews.

Unfortunately, treadmill companies seem to tie themselves to proprietary technology that might not be up to par with the product that they offer.

Thumbs up for the treadmill and thumbs down for the iFit app.

Have you found a treadmill and app combo that you really like? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.