Travis knows by now that once I get it into my head that I want something, I usually don’t stop thinking about it until I’ve bought it. I mean, with big purchases. Little things (shoes, purses, kitchen toys) I just go buy. I suppose the fact that I keep thinking about it means that I’m not subject to too many purchasing whims. I do stop to think about whether or not I’d really use it, look for good deals, do some research, etc. This time, I’ve been dreaming of a treadmill.
We bought an elliptical two and a half years ago, and it actually still gets used. And not as a coat rack. It’s been holding up pretty well – no loose parts or squeaks and all the electronics still work. I’m sure it helps that we did some research and didn’t get a cheap one. But, the elliptical gets used mostly by me because there’s only one of it and two of us. You can’t use it at the same time and by the time one of us is on and done, it’s kind of late for the next person to start a workout. Occasionally, Travis uses the elliptical and I’ll put in a DVD workout (I don’t really like Billy Blanks, but his Fat Blasting cardio workout is a pretty effective one) – but that’s not really fun for Travis since he can’t watch tv or a movie. He has to watch me flail around in response to a sweaty Billy Blanks.
I’d also been noticing that I actually prefer running to being on the elliptical. When I run, I feel like I can really stretch out and find a good stride. But, I don’t like to run by myself and Travis would prefer not to run. The route I like around our house goes through a sometimes-deserted shady path and then by some open space. I’m kind of concerned some wacko living in the bushes might jump out to assault me. Plus, with all these reports of pedestrians being hit (and killed) while on the sidewalk in bright daylight, I’m kind of scared. It’s probably a silly fear, but it’s there nonetheless. So, a treadmill seemed like a good, safe solution.
I did my research online and found that the Sole F63 is a Consumer Reports Best Buy… which means it’s one of the top-rated machines but also a good value. I was kind of ready to just buy it based on that, but I thought it would be nice to actually see one in person. First, it’s pretty hard to find Sole machines in person in San Diego. Dick’s Sporting Goods is the only place that carries them in-store. Second, it is ridiculously impossible to find a working treadmill in a store. Sure, Sears and Sports Authority have models on the floor, and they all blink and beep, but not a single one is set up to actually run. With an elliptical machine, you can kind of fake it and still get a sense of how it feels moving. With a treadmill, you kind of need it powered up and running or you’re just standing there pushing fake buttons. Lame.
There is one Dick’s Sporting Goods in San Diego County – it’s in Oceanside – and I had never been there before. I read online that someone had bought a floor model from a Dick’s so I called to ask if they had Sole treadmills on display. Not only did they have them on display, but their display models are working models. And they had the F63 in stock. So, Travis drove us up there and we entered the largest sporting goods store I had ever seen. They have everything you could ever think of looking for, the staff is all friendly and helpful, and I got to actually run on a couple of treadmills. I love that store. If you ever need something, I would highly recommend Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The Fitness staff guy answered all my questions (how is the Sole brand, is there a reason I should buy the more expensive model, do they ever go on sale – good brand, he’s never had one returned and his customers all praise them; for most people, the F63 works great but if you have a long stride or run really fast you might want one with a longer running area; he’s never seen them go on sale like the cheaper machine sometimes do) and then trucked the boxed treadmill to the front of the store. We planned to take it home in the back of the Prius (with the hatch tied down). No one believed us when we said it would fit (it totally fit). You’d be amazed what you can fit in the back of a Prius.
The thing is heavy – like 240 lbs heavy – and I don’t know how Travis dragged it out of the car. He loaded it onto his dolly and wheeled it to the patio so we could bring it inside in pieces and then assemble it. It’s actually really easy to put together; way easier than the elliptical was. You bring in the base, with the side rails and belt and whatnot all in one piece. You attach the front “legs”, then the console. And you’re pretty much done! If you’re someone like Travis, you could put it together yourself. If you’re someone like me, you’ll need someone like Travis, mainly to get that base piece in position. That’s the heavy part.
The F63 is a folding treadmill, but I don’t foresee us folding it up on a regular basis. Maybe when we have people over and want more space. But, it’s really easy to fold up and put back down. There’s some sort of hydraulic lift, so it doesn’t feel so heavy when you lift it up. I can do it easily (and that’s not the case with a lot of treadmills I tried). Then, you just pull a lever to release it and the hydraulic thing slowly lowers it to the ground for you. Some of the other machines, I would have been smushed if I tried to lower the platform. And, once it’s folded up and locked, it’s actually pretty easy to roll around and position. It’s a pretty nice feature to have, I think.
We’ve only had it for a day, so I can’t comment on long-term use, but I’ve taken it to the maximum incline of 15% (the buttons only show 12%, but you can push the “up” button a few more times to get to 15%) and both walked (2 mph) and run (6 mph) on it. I spent about an hour on it the first day, mainly seeing how the installed programs work and how you can adjust it. One thing I like is that even if you start with a set program, you can manually adjust it after it starts. So, if you find that it’s too easy (or too hard) you can fiddle with it so you’re comfortable. With our elliptical, once you’ve set the difficulty level, you’re pretty much stuck with it. The programs are also set to different patterns so for each program it will vary based on incline only, speed only, or a combination of speed and incline. There’s a 2.5 minute warm up and cool down period on either end of a programmed workout, but you can skip either of them by hitting the Start button. I really like the incline and speed adjustment button on the side handles. They’re easy to find, so I can adjust what I’m doing without ever looking down.
The F63 also comes with a wireless heart rate monitor, but it’s compatible with our Polar monitors, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably compatible with most heart rate monitors. The heart rate monitoring and the 15% maximum incline are two features that aren’t mentioned in any of the specifications but definitely exist in the machine.
When you start the treadmill, it’s a little slow to get going, but once it reached 1.5-2.0 mph it’s nice and smooth. Ramping up speed and the incline is also smooth – I hardly notice it’s happening until it’s done and I notice I’m working harder to keep up. The F63 has a blue back-lit display screen, while the higher models have a red LED display (I like the blue one better). There’s a ¼ mile track on the display, but I barely pay attention to it. I just keep running until my time is up and then I see how I did. I can say that running on a treadmill seems harder than being on the elliptical machine. I used to be able to log 5.5 miles on the elliptical in 45 minutes (maybe the measurements aren’t really compatible) but an hour of running (jogging) only gets me 4.9 miles on the treadmill (and I feel it more). Running seems pretty smooth, though. Maybe it’s the fancy cushioning or whatever, but it doesn’t feel like my feet are just slapping onto a hard surface with each step. There’s a little bouncy give when I run.
We’ll see how it performs in the months to come, but for now I’m pretty happy with it. I’m glad we spent the money and it’s nice that we can both work out at the same time. I told Travis that maybe now we’ll get through the stack of movies that’s just been sitting there.