Running on a treadmill can be an effective workout, but boy, can it be boring. For some of us, the “dreadmill” represents a tedious conveyor-belt-to-nowhere that makes us want to snooze rather than speed up. Invented in 1818 by an English engineer who developed a machine to harness power from prisoners to crush grains and pump water, the earliest treadmill was truly meant to be a torture device from the start!
But there’s been a great deal of innovation since the nineteenth century, and these days, it’s not just runners hopping on treadmill-like equipment to stay active. Athletes, office workers, even dogs are getting their fitness fix from new and innovative pieces of equipment. These outside-the-box ‘mills will cost you, but chances are you’ll start seeing more of them at a gym near you.
1. “The Blade” Skating Treadmill
It’s a miracle on ice, without the ice! The Blade, a skating treadmill designed for all levels of skaters to use, has a slick, synthenic surface that stands up to wear and tear from real hockey skates. Strap in to a harness that ensures safety while you glide on the moving “ice” and practice crossovers, proper stride and explosive speed work. (Price upon request; woodway.com)
2. Jacobs Ladder
Functioning like an infinite, revolving ladder, the Jacobs Ladder was designed to be an effective cardio workout, without negatively impacting the knees and back. According to Josh Fly, Fitness Director at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York City, members use the machine as a conditioning tool during interval training because it increases heart rate while also working the upper and lower body. You won’t have your hands free to read a book or fiddle with an iPhone, but that means your mind and body will be more focused on the task at hand. ($4,600; jacobsladderexercise.com)
3. Kayak/Canoe Ergometer
When sprint canoe World Champion and Olympian Michele Eray can’t get on the water to train, she hops on a SpeedStroke Kayak or Canoe. Though she believes time in a real boat is irreplaceable, the high performance manager for Team USA’s Canoe/Kaya sprint program says that the body’s movement patterns on the ergometers are similar to the real thing. Outfitted with bungees and a flywheel that provides resistance, the machines allow athletes to perfect their stroke technique while monitoring stats like distance, time, stroke rate, heart rate and power output. ($2,500-$2,800; kayakpro.com)
When it isn’t possible to get outside, let your favorite four-legged friend stretch her legs on a DogTread. A treat holder will help motivate your pup to jog on the four-foot running surface that is surrounded by low safety barriers. Using the remote control, you can even challenge your canine by increasing the intensity to an incline of up to nine percent. ($740; dogtread.com)
5. SurfStream Wave Machine
Practice hanging ten on a continuous swell? With SurfStream and PerfectSwell, it’s possible to catch a ride without the beach. These sophisticated wave machines are designed to deliver a variety of wave types that imitate point breaks, beach breaks and reef breaks. Plus, the air pressure system can manipulate the size, shape and direction of waves, meaning surfers can challenge themselves with different conditions without having to wait around for the perfect swell. Grab a board and train on continuous surf at eight water park locations worldwide. (Price upon request; americanwavemachines.com)
6. Treadwall M6
Channel your inner mountaineer by scrambling up a rotating climbing wall. An excellent way to work both your upper and lower body, the Treadwall M6 has a six-foot climbing area that can be customized with different types of hand holds. Change the angle of the wall to up the ante on your workout, or increase the speed of the moving wall for an extra demanding session. Since you’re never more than a few feet off the ground, the Treadwall is even perfect for wannabe climbers with a fear of heights. (Price upon request; brewersledge.com)
7. Thinline Pro Desk Treadmill
Whistle while you work? How about walking while you work? Instead of sitting all day, burn some extra calories by strolling on a treadmill desk. Make your workspace do double-duty with the Thinline Pro Desk Treadmill. This versatile machine has an adjustable desktop console that can hold a computer or tablet while you step at a slow pace. Or, lift a hidden console and use the device as a regular treadmill. When not in use, the machine can fold up to a mere 12 inches in width. ($2,500; proform.com)
8. SUP Ergometer
If you’ve heard stand up paddleboarding will improve stamina and balance but don’t live close enough to a body of water, try paddling indoors with the KayakPro SUP ergometer. The titling platform mimics the instability of a real board, meaning your whole body will feel the burn as your upper body and core work to pull against the adjustable paddle. ($2,250; kayakpro.com)
Which of these innovative “treadmills” would you most want to try? Share your opinion in the comments below.
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