My husband bought me a treadmill for Christmas, but before you start the Peloton-level outrage, I promise you this isn’t a cry for help. Technically, we bought a TrueForm Trainer treadmill after Thanksgiving as a gift to ourselves to try to escape the terrible Midwest winter. Since I don’t live in a New York flat complete with a home gym (I see you, Peloton user), I set it up in my living room so I could binge-watch Netflix while I run, because, to be honest, I hate treadmills. I’d rather run a marathon during a polar vortex than spend an hour on a treadmill.
But my tune has changed since I discovered the manual treadmill. What it lacks in techie bells and whistles (it’s not motorized and it doesn’t have a tablet display screen), it makes up for in how it has transformed my workout. Even if it comes with a $4,000 price tag.
How a manual treadmill works
While there are a few styles on the market, I opted for the TrueForm Trainer, based on reviews I’d found. At first glance, its curved belt looks weird, but it looks that way for a reason. It offers a more natural running surface that allows you to set the pace, not the treadmill (since it isn’t motorized, you’re powering the thing, hamster wheel–style). That means you have to put in the work and, man, is that hard at first. Your form has to be perfect to propel the belt correctly. Many runners, like myself, will find they have really bad form and have to force themselves upright (think tall) and home in their core and glutes to get this thing moving. Which is exactly what TrueForm wants you to do.
The display on the TrueForm Trainer is battery operated and shows you just the basics: pace, speed, distance and time. It’s also compatible with a heart rate monitor that can display those stats as well. I prefer to use my watch to track my heart rate, but I find the display to be really accurate and helpful to track my pace.
The Benefits of a Manual Treadmill
1. It Helps Improve Your Form
Running on a manual treadmill is quite the learning curve (pun intended). It feels bizarre, and almost out of control, the first time you step onto the machine. The first time I ever ran on mine, I thought I was for sure going to fling myself right through a nearby window. But that out-of-control feeling is mostly mental and can all be corrected with the right form.
“To get the belt to move, you actually have to engage your hamstrings and your glutes,” explains fitness expert Liz Cort, founder of TeamFit global virtual training for women and owner of Fitness Fusion of the Hudson Valley. “It really promotes you to have a proper stride and gait.”
“It positions you in the best way for running efficiently and truly developing power and endurance,” adds Lara Harrington, coach and co-owner of Boutique Fitness. “It makes progress accessible to everyone. Rather than choosing a speed and possibly limiting yourself, the TrueForm responds directly to your effort. Some days you’re really on fire!”
2. You Could Burn More Calories Using It
According to TrueForm, you also burn 44 percent more calories using this style of treadmill than your typical motorized treadmill. Say what?! A 2018 study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that participants who ran on a curved non-motorized treadmill faced more physical and mental demands, as well as increased cadence compared to runners on the motorized counterpart.
3. It Can Make Running Less Painful
Traditional treadmills always gave me killer knee pain and made me more prone to shin splints because I would stomp on the belt. Because the TrueForm forces you to have good form, I’ve been completely pain-free. Many women are not alone in this situation.
Cort has found that the TrueForm curved treadmill is the only kind of running she and many of her female clients can complete pain-free due to shin splints or knee pain, especially if they’ve had a baby. Cort was having a lot of pain in her IT band when she started running after becoming a mom, but since the machine encourages better posture, she could jog on the curved treadmill without any issues.
“[Traditional treadmills] just don’t have a lot of cushion or a lot of give to them, and you can run on them without having good form,” she explains.
4. You Can Still Enjoy Interactive Workouts
Just because there’s no electricity doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice interactive workouts. TrueForm has released a series of training videos on the Live TrueForm site that incorporate the treadmill and strength training. Similar to Peloton workouts, you can access paid classes on your computer or smart TV, as well as a handful of free ones.
The One Surprising Con I’ve Found
Static electricity can be an issue. Having your treadmill near two couches can cause a ton of static. Slow down a bit before touching the handrails or you’re in for a big shock. You can also buy some handy anti-static spray.
And Now I’m a Curved Treadmill Convert
After running on the TrueForm Trainer, I am now a firm believer in the power of the curved manual treadmill to help improve my form while using less electricity (hello, eco-friendly!) and giving me that interactive at-home workout experience I’ve craved. Guess I’m a treadmill person now.
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