It’s always hard to keep up your fitness levels during the winter, especially a winter that seems to be as never-ending as this one. When you’re days away from April and you’re faced with sub-zero temperatures and blankets of snow, finding the enthusiasm to head out for a run isn’t easy.
Of course you can go to the gym, but even that takes a degree of effort, especially when you’re not getting home from work until eight or nine in the evening. There’s a reason why there’s a huge uplift of new gym memberships in January, and an equally large number of cancellations in February.
The answer is to train in your own home, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past couple of months. Back in January I cancelled my gym membership and decided to buy myself a treadmill. I was actually surprised by how many treadmills are out there, with prices starting from a few hundred Pounds, right up to a few thousand.
I settled on the NordicTrack T14.2 treadmill for a couple of reasons. I had decided that I didn’t want to spend more that £1,000, and John Lewis had it on offer for £999 instead of its £1,799 retail price. Second, it sports a plethora of programmes that any gym runner will already be familiar with. And third, I liked the idea of its iFit integration – more about that later.
Unboxing and Setup
The NordicTrack T14.2 is very heavy. It’s worth making space in the room where you want to set it up before it’s delivered, because moving the box is a serious struggle by yourself.
The build instructions insist that you need two people, and while I usually ignore such warnings and get on with it, there are certain parts of the T14.2 construction that simply can’t be done by yourself. So, while you can do a lot of it single handed, make sure you have someone else close by to help you when you need it.
You probably want to set yourself aside around half a day to get the T14.2 built, and believe me, you’ll be in no condition to go for a run when you’re finished. It was good to find that the whole thing went together without issue, although getting the console mounted was a struggle even with two people on the job.
It’s worth investing in some gym mats to put the treadmill on, which will save your floor from some damage during extended use. Despite the T14.2’s weight – it tips the scale at a significant 100kg – it’s not hard to manoeuvre around once you’ve folded the running deck up.
The NordicTrack T14.2 is a large piece of equipment, designed for heavy-duty home use. You therefore need to make sure that you have enough room to accommodate it. The machine measures 198 x 94 x 144cm (LxWxH), although it does fold up, reducing its dimensions to 107 x 94 x 173cm (LxWxH) – that said, you’ll still need a pretty large cupboard to stash it in.
Despite its folding credentials, you really want to keep the T14.2 setup, since the whole point of having a treadmill at home is that it’s ready to use at the drop of a hat. The fewer barriers there are between you and your exercise, the best chance you have of sticking to a regime.
The NordicTrack T14.2 is very well featured given its mid-range price. There’s a 3CHP (Continuous Horse Power) motor driving it, which is guaranteed for 10 years. That motor will drive the treadmill up to a maximum speed of 22kph, while the running deck will also rise to a maximum incline of 15 per cent.
The machine has 30 programmes built into it including time and distance based targets, intervals and incline training. It’s compatible with Polar WearLink Coded heart rate monitors, and there’s a chest strap bundled in the box.
There’s a two-stage fan built into the console, which is powerful enough to actually make a difference when you’re working up a major sweat. There are also integrated speakers and a 3.5mm input jack, so you can pump out music from your MP3 player. The sound is adequate, but you’re better off having an iPod dock or stereo system in the room.
The LED display is relatively basic, but there’s all the info you need and it’s easy to read at a glance. There are also shortcut controls for both the speed and incline, so you’re not left tapping a plus or minus button while you’re running.
If you don’t want to use the supplied chest strap, there are pulse sensor grips so you can check how fast your heart is racing. There’s also a safety key, which you can attach to your person via a chord – should you stop running the key will be pulled from its slot and the treadmill will automatically stop.
There’s no shortage of features and programmes built into the T14.2, but its real party trick is that it’s compatible with the iFit service. To make use of iFit, you need an iFit Live module, which slots into the back of the console and connects to your home Wi-Fi network.
The iFit Live module retails for £99, but you can find it online for around half that. Thankfully T14.2 shipped with a voucher in the box for a free module. The module includes a year’s iFit membership, after which you’ll have to pay for continued use at a cost of £49 per year.
The iFit subscription might sound expensive, but it’s important to remember that multiple users can actually share the same account. So, while there will be one main user you can setup sub-users for other people in your household to benefit from the service.
So what does iFit add to the T14.2? Quite a lot actually. At its most basic level, iFit allows you to create custom workouts via the website, then, thanks to the iFit Live module, those workouts can be sent directly to the treadmill over your Wi-Fi.
That means that if you want to run 5k with a specific amount of incline, rather than trying to find a programme built into the treadmill and tweaking it, you can create exactly what you want, schedule it for the day you want, and have it ready and waiting for you when you fire up the T14.2.
Your Wi-Fi connection goes both ways though. Not only is your workout sent to the treadmill, when you’ve finished running all your results are sent straight back to the iFit website. Next time you log into your account you’ll see the workout you did broken down into time, distance, heart rate, elevation etc. And if you’ve run that workout before, you can compare to previous sessions and see if you’re making progress.
That’s just the beginning of what you can do with iFit and the T14.2 though. With iFit you can plot a route using Google Maps, then send that route to the T14.2. Not only will the workout sent to your treadmill include the distance you’ve plotted on Google Maps, but it will also mirror the amount of elevation by increasing the incline of the treadmill as necessary.
To add even more reality to your run, you can place a laptop or tablet on the treadmill console and login to your iFit account. Then when you start your workout, your laptop or tablet will show you exactly where you’re running using Google Street View. Obviously it’s not a fluid experience, and you’re treated to a series of static images as you run, but it’s a great feature nonetheless and one that really does encourage you to push that bit further.
There’s also a whole plethora of targeted training programmes on iFit, so you can exercise to lose weight, improve performance or maybe train for a specific event like a half marathon. Many of the training programmes will cost you money, but there’s no shortage of useful options that are free.
And as with most online fitness tracking services, you can share your results with other users, or even compete against them – anything to get you fired up to train that little bit harder.
The iFit functionality in the NordicTrack T14.2 is a great addition, and something that should help encourage users who find treadmill pounding dull and uninviting. As ever though, you need a degree of self discipline and perseverance to get your running shoes on in the first place!
Pounding the (virtual) Pavement
The NordicTrack T14.2 looks like a serious bit of kit, and it feels even more so when you start running on it. The motor doesn’t run too loud, and the running deck absorbs a lot of the pounding sound as you’re running. If, like me, you regularly need to run after your children have gone to sleep, that’s pretty important.
The running deck doesn’t just absorb sound though, it’s also pretty kind to your knees and ankles. If you’re used to running on the pavement, you’ll find that the T14.2 is a far more forgiving surface. NordicTrack claims that its air-based, DualFlex Cushioning system reduces joint impact by 20 per cent, and I wouldn’t argue with that claim.
Of course the problem with having a treadmill that’s far more forgiving than the pavement is that when you have to run outside it may come as an unwelcome shock to your body. So, if you’re training for a 10k or maybe a half marathon in the summer, make sure you supplement your treadmill miles with road miles too.
The running deck is pretty wide for a home treadmill, at 51cm. That helps when you’re pushing hard or increasing your overall distance, where your stride might get a little ragged from time to time. You really don’t want to be worrying about having to maintain a narrow line in order to keep your feet on the belt.
If you’re used to running on treadmills in the gym – most probably heavy-duty LifeFitness machines – then it won’t be a major shock to switch to the T14.2 at home. The dimensions and weight of this machine may make it slightly imposing in a home environment, but its size also makes it feel rock solid in use.
As with any piece of fitness equipment the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you’ll actually use it. Sad as it sounds, all too many home treadmills end up with washing draped over them more often than they end up with a runner pounding on them.
A home treadmill is a major investment, and even though the NordicTrack T14.2 can be found online for around £850 now, that’s still a lot of money and probably enough to buy you a couple of years worth of gym membership instead.
However, if you’re sure you’re going to use it, having a treadmill at home is brilliant. I started running again eight weeks ago after a lay off of nearly 18-months. Having the T14.2 at home has allowed me to run three or four times a week and I’ve already managed to get my 5k time down from a woeful 34:09 in January, to 26:30 this week.
The NordicTrack T14.2 is a great package in its own right, but once you throw in the Wi-Fi connectivity and the iFit Live functionality, it becomes so much more than just a treadmill.
The real purpose of any fitness equipment is to get you active and encourage you to stay active, and the T14.2 nails both those points. If you’re short of time and are tired of paying for a gym membership that you’re not using, the T14.2 will be a worthwhile investment.
- Well built and solid
- Impressive array of in-built programmes
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- iFit Live functionality is great
- Wide running deck
- Reasonably quiet operation
- You need to be sure you’ll use it
- It’s a hefty investment to make