think before you leap (on the treadmill)

I made a terrible mistake a couple of years ago when my wife was pregnant. You may think of all of the romantic comedies you have seen – Nine Months springs to mind – but it did not involve a mad dash to the hospital with my best friend Tom Arnold. No, I bought a treadmill.

I bought the treadmill with the best of intentions. At the time, our young community’s clubhouse and gym were not yet completed. My wife was pregnant over the winter, so it was terribly cold and icy outside. We had limited space and didn’t want to spend a huge amount of money on a gym or an elliptical machine, so I decided to buy a treadmill. The idea was for Bubelah to use it throughout her pregnancy for some mild walking. She had already quit work by that point, so the cold weather likely meant very little daily exercise. I enjoyed running and pictured myself jogging away on sub-zero mornings. We bought the treadmill online, picked it up at our local Sears, and set it up in our basement.

Here are a few tips for you if you ever find yourself in a similar situation – namely, buying home exercise equipment.

  • Put it somewhere you will feel comfortable using it. We have kept the treadmill in the garage and in our sub-first-floor room which is not quite a basement but only had one window to the outside and connects to our garage. These places get very, very cold in the winter. We have a big TV down there, but because of the configuration of the room and the size of the TV stand, it’s hard to see the TV from the treadmill. It’s not fun to be on a treadmill in a cold room without a TV you can see clearly.
  • Don’t spend a lot of money on exercise equipment, but spend enough to get what you want. My wife wanted an elliptical machine. I wanted to be able to jog. Elliptical machines are substantially more expensive than treadmills, so we ended up getting the treadmill. I wish now we had spent a little more for an elliptical machine. It would have been used.
  • Remember that any big item you bring into your house will be hard to get rid of. I have tried to sell our giant old Sony TV and treadmill several times – ads posted around the neighborhood, eBay, craigslist – with no success. People usually don’t want huge items even if the price is very good. They are hard to transport and especially in the New York area it’s difficult to fit big items into small apartments where most people live. I will probably just offer it for free to anyone who wants it, but I don’t anticipate any takers at this point considering we have a beautiful brand new community gym 1000 yards away, which leads us to…
  • Never buy exercise equipment if there is a gym nearby. Our gym/clubhouse for our community was not finished when we bought the treadmill but it was completed the next summer. At the same time, a beautiful riverside walkway perfect for jogging was completed, as well, making jogging indoors a much more boring affair. I knew this was coming but thought that surely the benefit of having the treadmill in the house would persuade us to use it more often. I was wrong. I now have absolutely no desire to get on the treadmill, and its presence actually makes me less inclined to exercise.
  • Do not ever try to browbeat your spouse into making a big purchase that is “needed.” Bubelah told me more than once that she hated treadmills, but I kept insisting we needed one. We did, because of her pregnancy and the time of year it happened, but the treadmill never got used much and therefore it’s a sore point every time either of us walk by it. In the end I will probably solve the problem by pushing it out to the dump, even though I cringe at the thought of creating that massive heavy hunk of junk in a landfill somewhere.

In general, home exercise equipment is never a good purchase unless you have no better options. The types of treadmills and other aerobic machines that are available really need to be high-end to be effective. The $500 treadmill we bought is OK for a slow walk but struggles at a fast run or even a brisk jog. The gigantic $2000 treadmills in gyms are bigger, sturdier and better. A gym membership is cancelable. A giant treadmill in your house is not. The depreciation on a treadmill is almost immediate, as well. I am sure that a one-year old used treadmill generally sells for less than one-quarter of a brand new one, since you can never be sure whether it was being jogged upon by a 400-pound person or not.

Think carefully before buying any home exercise equipment. A pair of 10-pound weights can be put under the bed, but a treadmill or one of those Bowflex machines are hard to hide behind the door.