One of the hottest topics in the fitness equipment industry right now is how digital technology can be used to help keep users engaged and motivated during workouts. For cyclists this technology has been around for a while, but there was an obvious gap for runners…. that is until now.
Many people buy a treadmill to use at home but in order to get the most out of your machine you will want something that will keep you focused and motivated to workout. As a company we often get asked if a treadmill will connect to certain apps, with one of the most common questions being "does it connect to Zwift?".
The great news is that essentially any home treadmill will connect to Zwift via the use of a foot pod. The foot pod will transmit your speed rather than the treadmill. The even better news is that there is currently no subscription fee for Zwift running!
However, there are now treadmills available that will send speed and cadence directly to Zwift without the need for a foot pod. These treadmills will be discussed later within the article, but first we will look at the difference between home and commercial treadmills to help you make an informed decision when purchasing one.
Having your own treadmill at home means you aren’t bound to gym opening and closing times and you have the freedom to get on the treadmill at your own convenience. Additionally, owning your own treadmill is becoming more cost-effective as prices become more competitive and the cost of gym membership increases. As mentioned above, if you own a treadmill at home, you can begin running on Zwift, simply by attaching a foot pod to your trainers.
With a huge range of options on the market, we would suggest checking the treadmill’s top speed and the power of the motor (which is measured in CHP; Continuous Horsepower). Purchasing a treadmill with a top speed of approximately 12mph (20kph) and a motor of around 3CHP is a good benchmark. If you are a serious runner then a significantly lower horsepower motor than this means that you will see a significant decrease in the speed of the belt with each foot strike. If you have limited space, then you may consider a folding treadmill, but you want to ensure that the top speed and motor power aren’t compromised.
Some current consumer treadmills will offer Bluetooth connection which is usually used to play music through built-in speakers or by connecting your phone to the treadmill. It is important to be aware that Bluetooth treadmills in the lower price ranges will not generally broadcast cadence and speed and therefore cannot be connected to Zwift directly.
The difference between the average consumer treadmill in comparison to the units in a gym is noticeable. Commercial treadmills are usually much bigger, and this results in a sturdier feel underfoot as you run. The treadmills found in a gym tend to also feature a more powerful motor; usually 3 CHP at the very least. Thus, your running experience will feel smoother due to the more consistent speed of the belt. Commercial treadmills are understandably more expensive to buy than home treadmills but if you can’t afford to buy new, there are often reconditioned models available online at good prices.
Most commercial running machines will feature a CSAFE (Communications Specification for Fitness Equipment) port. This feature noticeably allows you to fit a Wahoo GEM (Gym Equipment Module). This turns the standard commercial treadmill into a unit that is Bluetooth connected enabling you to connect Zwift with the treadmill as a speed source. However, a foot pod for cadence may still be needed. The Wahoo GEM is likely to be preinstalled in some units from Precor, Star Trac and Life Fitness but should it not be, they will include a CSAFE port which enables you to fit your own.
Leading treadmill manufacturers are increasingly producing smart treadmills and they reflect the future of treadmill running in terms of the ability to connect, transmit and receive data with multiple devices. These treadmills will often guarantee a powerful motor and top speeds of at least 20kph. Furthermore, they will also include apps for your IOS or Android devices which will allow you to run multiple fitness programs or update firmware.
These smart treadmills mean there is no need to calibrate; your connection is consistent and reliable which means it offers the easiest and most efficient way to get your speed into Zwift. The speed which is shown on Zwift will automatically match the speed you see on the display of the treadmill. Many of these smart treadmills also transmit cadence which means you can leave your foot pod on the shelf.
Technogym MyRun - Cosmo
F3 Folding Treadmill with Track Connect
T3 Treadmill with Track Console
T5 Treadmill with Track Console
The Technogym MYRUN treadmill was one of the first on the market to offer direct connection to Zwift.
Shortly afterwards Life Fitness provided the F3 treadmill, the T3 treadmill and the T5 treadmill provided you choose the Track Console option. These 3 treadmills in particular are proving to be very popular with Zwift runners. As more people embrace the technology, the list of available smart treadmills will undoubtedly increase.
If you require help and advice before buying a treadmill or any other piece of fitness equipment, please feel free to contact us or call on 01494 956765 and speak to one of our expert team.
We have proven experience with the Lfitness and Technogym ranges and can help you decide on the suitability of each treadmill based on your needs.
*only compatible with Track Connect Consoles.