If you’ve found yourself pondering a gym membership over the past few winters, just for the use of a treadmill, it might be time to invest in an indoor running alternative that’s all your own.
Since 2017, the Pacific Northwest has seen two massive snowstorms and now, a pandemic that begs people to stay away from gyms and large groups of people. Fortunately, there are many more reasons to invest in a treadmill than a few weeks of miserable winter weather and a global health crisis, but for sanity and safety purposes, these reasons float treadmill ownership to the top of our list.
Ultrarunners often train through sleet, snow, mud and wind, but when the trails and roads become impassable or the temperatures drop below bitter cold, there’s a good chance that running for hours on end isn’t going to make any positive gains. Stepping back inside and hopping on a treadmill will not only save you the trouble of layering with extra gear but also give you a variety of workouts to choose from.
NordicTrack’s x22i Incline Trainer is used by elite ultrarunners like Ian Sharman, Jeff Browning and Kyle Pietari. When it comes to the benefits of using a treadmill, Jeff Browning said this:
“As an athlete trying to balance my time between a full-time coaching business, a father of three kids and trying to train, sometimes I’m crunched for time. The treadmill is a perfect tool for grabbing a workout without having to drive to a park or trailhead, or simply supplement my training with a quick 20-30 minute uphill power hike after my kids are in bed. Another pro with treadmill training is the safety factor. You can run at any time of the day, including the middle of the night. Handy if you live in a location where running at midnight might not be a wise choice.”
The staff at UltraRunning Magazine has been busy testing the x22i over the last several months and here’s what we found.
The x22i Incline Trainer appeals to trail runners due to its ability to reach a 40% incline within a few seconds. While it sounds too steep to be true, the belt is wide and comfortable enough without feeling like a slight misstep will keeping you holding onto the siderails for dear life.
This particular model is user-friendly with a “plug-in-and-go” mode. Beginners will find the control panel easy to decipher with the left side including incline + or – buttons (0-40% ascent or 0-6% descent). There’s also “OneTouch % Grade” shortcut buttons that allow you to select your grade every 5% going up and 3% going down, so you’re not stuck repeatedly pressing the “+” or “-” buttons. The steep incline feature saved me during my final month of training for Western States last spring, after I was unable to run for a couple of weeks due to a bruised bone. Power-hiking on the x22i became a go-to workout when running wasn’t an option.
The right side of the panel also includes “+” and “-“ buttons for speed control, along with numbers 1-12 (miles per hour) which can be used to increase or decrease your pace quickly. A dual speed fan can also be used for cooling off during a high-intensity workout.
The center of the console includes a 22” interactive HD touch screen that transitions from manual workout mode to iFit – NordicTrack’s collection of workout videos which feature a variety of athlete trainers running on trails all over the world. If you’re stuck running inside, you might as well do it while following ultrarunners like Lucy Bartholomew traverse the landscape in South Wales, Australia, or Tommy Rivers Puzey leading you through Morocco. The choice of workouts is extensive and updated every week, but a majority of ultrarunners will likely gravitate to the mountain climbs and wilderness trails. Each run/hike includes a video narrated by the trainer, along with accurate elevation adjustments automatically made by the treadmill throughout the workout. We preferred to turn this particular feature off as it was difficult for us to run in place with the constant rise and fall of the platform. A year of iFit comes free with purchase and costs range from $15 – $33 per month after the year is up.
While the featured trails and variety of workouts are a great way to pass the time, we also found that using “manual” mode while watching our favorite videos or streaming Netflix allowed us to run longer and customize our distance and speed. Treadmills can be an effective way to get in your speed or climbing intervals, which also conveniently helps pass the time. Here is an example of a climbing workout I used during my injury prior to Western States. The climbing helped keep my heart rate up and my leg strength in peak climbing condition:
Hilly Treadmill Hiking
- 5 min Flat warmup
- 10 min @ 10%
- 2 min Flat
- 10 min @ 11%
- 2 min Flat
- 10 min @ 12%
- 2 min Flat
- 10 min @ 13%
- 2 min Flat
- 10 min @ 14%
- 2 min Flat
- 10 min @ 15%
- Finish with a moderate 2-mile Flat Run.
Total approximate distance: 7 miles
(Find a challenging and sustainable hiking pace you can sustain for each of the 10-min hills, then recover during the flat 2-min intervals. As the incline decreases, your speed should increase.)
The Incline Trainer provides a solid surface with reliable stability underfoot with NordicTrack’s Reflex™ Cushioning. Running at both fast and slow speeds offers runners a comfortable ride with zero to minimal bouncing on a surface that’s more forgiving than pavement and concrete, similar to a hard-packed, dirt trail.
The manual feature offers a clear view of a 400-meter track on the screen and keeps tabs on your run by indicating your distance as you move around the track during each lap. With mileage, elevation gain/loss, calories burned, pace and more located at the top of screen, the runner is well-informed throughout a workout and can adjust accordingly.
While most of us probably avoid using the handrails during our workouts, the Incline Trainer includes additional sled grip rails for steep vertical climbing. They are perfectly positioned for times when the climbing gets tough and reaching up for rail support helps to keep the body steady.
The adjustable vertical grade on the x22i Incline Trainer multiplies the versatility of this machine ten-fold. Ultrarunners training for steep mountainous terrain will benefit from its ability to quickly shift up to a 40% grade. The iFit software complements this feature by taking runners across the globe onto some of the world’s most rugged trails such as those in the Alps and Grand Canyon National Park.
For those of us who find it difficult to carve out time during the day and don’t have regular access to hilly terrain, NordicTrack’s x22i Incline Trainer is a great alternative, especially when running outside isn’t the best option.
More information can be found at nordictrack.com.
MSRP: $2,999 (Finance options available)
Free delivery and assembly
Free year of iFit membership
Length – 5 ft. 10 in.
Width – 3 ft. 4 in.
Height – 6 ft.
NordicTrack provided the product above free of charge. The review above is the author’s opinion only and has no influence by the manufacturer.