Choosing the right piece of fitness equipment can seem very daunting these days for the average consumer. The Internet is flooded with information, and there are so many choices. The truth is, there are many good options out there. However, there is a lot of misinformation as well. Here are a few tips to help you wade through the overload of choices and information to choose the best cardio fitness equipment for your home gym.
1) Where to Buy
There are essentially three places to purchase a piece of exercise equipment: online retailers, big-box retailers and specialty retailers.
Online retailers are convenient and may offer a good price. However, there are numerous concerns and potential hassles with buying a piece of fitness equipment online. These include shipping damage, assembly issues and lack of service support, among others. I strongly suggest that you test drive any product at a retailer before making any online fitness purchase. It’s very easy to make something look good on a website or TV (i.e., your typical infomercial), but the final product may not be what you initially thought. Not taking this step of trying a product out in advance can lead to disappointment.
These retailers typically offer a selection of fitness equipment that is very feature-heavy with varying levels of quality. Usually the products found here stress style and features over quality and durability. The depth and breadth of fitness or exercise equipment knowledge can vary widely among the staff. Don’t expect much on the service side either, as some stores do not have a dedicated service staff, which means you will likely be calling an 800 number if you have problems.
They will typically carry products that stress quality and durability over features and fluff. Many specialty retailers have staff that have a background in fitness and are trained by factory representatives on all the key details of the products they carry. Plus, they’re a reliable source to contact if you have any questions or equipment troubles after the purchase. Many offer assembly and delivery to your home. Overall, you can expect a higher level of service after the sale and their prices can be very competitive.
2) Why are you buying cardio equipment?
Things to consider when selecting which piece of equipment will work best for you:
Why are you purchasing it? Are you purchasing this equipment to train for a marathon, and do you need a place to work out safely in inclement weather? Are you looking to rehabilitate from an injury, heart attack or surgery? Or maybe you’re just trying to get serious about your fitness or your family’s fitness? What do you hope to accomplish with the purchase of this machine?
Who will be using it? Are you the sole user? Will it be a piece of equipment used by the entire family?
Where are you putting it? Will it be need to be stored away, or will it be a permanent fixture?
With these things in mind, take a look at the deck length, motor size, folding and non-folding options, program options, etc. However, don’t get too caught up in comparing the specs of one manufacturer to another because:
3) It’s not necessarily about the specs!
If you plan on buying a treadmill, for example, based only on how big the motor size is versus the other guy, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Different brands and different manufacturers have different philosophies on how to build treadmills. A bigger motor is not necessarily a better motor. A longer deck with a fan and speakers doesn’t mean your treadmill is a better value than one without.
Specialty brands typically will use higher-quality motors that run cooler and more efficiently than models or brands you find at a big-box store. They use thicker, higher- quality decks, better belts and larger, higher-quality rollers. There is less plastic and more steel for a sturdier feel. Get the idea?
Similarly, exercise bikes and elliptical trainers have a variety of flywheel weights, but it’s important to also consider the gear ratio. The faster the flywheel spins, the smoother the ride. With either, it’s also important to consider the feel of the machine, whether it be pedal spacing or seat comfort.
Just remember to ask yourself if you want a product that is loaded up on the specification sheet, or a product that doesn’t sacrifice durability and performance in order to look good on paper. Make sure you see the products in person and talk to a knowledgeable fitness consultant before making your choice.
4) Long Warranty = Best product???
Consider the car industry. The best cars don’t necessarily carry the best warranties, do they? Warranty in the fitness industry can be used for a few reasons:
- To maintain market share due to lack of innovation.
- To BUY market share because the company or product has not been around very long or they are battling another competitor.
- Or they simply make a very good product and are willing to back it up.
My suggestion is to be careful buying a cardio machine based only on the warranty. You may get a long warranty but an outdated product. Also, be aware that the warranty is only good if the company is in business, so be sure to check the history of the manufacturer you are considering to make sure they have a track record and have a good chance be around long enough to honor that warranty.
5) What a great deal
We all love a good deal, but if you think you are getting a “Great Deal,” you should be aware that it is commonplace for many online treadmill brands and big-box fitness equipment brands to inflate MSRP to give you the appearance of a “Great Deal.” The reality is the treadmill that is priced at $1,000 off online or in the Sunday ads of the local newspaper is likely $1,000 off almost every day of the year. That high MSRP and huge discount do not mean the product is not a good product – just understand you are not necessarily getting a great deal.
6) Do your research
However, make sure you understand that those “reviews” you are seeing on the Internet are likely marketing sites that get paid to tell you how great a product is. Many of these sites have disclaimers hidden on the site, which will disclose how that site makes money. It may be a situation where the manufacturers for the products they are promoting pay them commission or fees to promote them. So it is in your best interest to be skeptical. Visit the manufacturer’s website, and visit your local retailer to try out the products and ask questions.
7) Put it in perspective
There are too many customers that don’t put things in perspective when purchasing exercise equipment. Exercising regularly has the ability to improve every aspect of your life, but too many people want to put a $500 price tag on it. Purchasing a piece of exercise equipment is an investment in yourself and your health. There is nothing more valuable than that. If you spend X amount on a treadmill or an elliptical, but it lasts you 10 years, you essentially have invested how much per day? How much do you spend a day on coffee? How much money do you spend on your cell phone bill per month? If you don’t look at the overall picture and try to buy the cheapest product, you are likely to be very disappointed and probably are not going to achieve your goals.
Keep these seven tips in mind the next time you’re looking to add some fitness equipment to your home gym.