Should You Use This Treadmill as a Training Tool?

Last week, for the first time in decades, I ran and hiked up a portion of the Bright Angel Trail from Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. Then I headed off to a trail which climbed up to a hut in Austria and worked on 30-…

Last week, for the first time in decades, I ran and hiked up a portion of the Bright Angel Trail from Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. Then I headed off to a trail which climbed up to a hut in Austria and worked on 30- to 60-second pickups along the way. Of course, in both situations, I didn’t actually leave my home in New Hampshire.

I recently checked out the new NordicTrack X22i to see if it could be useful for runners as a training tool and see where it could help improve performance. If you’re an avid runner, reading the word “treadmill” may have you rolling your eyes. For most of us, we prefer to feel the ground beneath our feet and breathe in all the sights and sounds of nature.

As a runner myself, I understand this sentiment well. But the new X22i feels different than just your average treadmill. Part of its appeal is that you get to virtually roam the world as you exercise and you don’t have to spend a dime on travel. Plus, it’s a great device for those living in cold-weather destination who need ways to get their miles in each winter.

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Photo Credit: NordicTrack
Photo Credit: NordicTrack

To start, the treadmill offers a myriad of engaging interactive iFit coach-led, GlobeTrek workouts to choose from in locations across the world (all included in your complimentary first year subscription). For me, the experiences were highly immersive and engaging since, while the treadmill adjusted to the trail profiles, its giant 22-inch touch screen display refreshed every 10 seconds with visuals. The system uses Google Street View to showcase a number of destinations and terrains.

Videos range from running to walking, strength training, yoga, recovery, cross training and HIIT workouts and are around 25-30 minutes long. Some workouts are grouped in progressive series such as the Italy Interval Series set in Florence, Rome and Venice. There’s also the Thailand Run Series, Marathon Training in Greece and an Around the World in 30 Days program. The latter will have you running on all seven continents, and new workouts and locations are constantly being added.

NordicTrack offers coach-led runs in locations across the globe. Photo Credit: NordicTrack

The run feel of the wide reflex, shock-absorbing deck is decently cushioned and feels like a softer track with a touch of spring from under the belt surface. I have been running my virtual roads and trails in lighter performance trainers very comfortably so the feel is certainly less harsh than the road. The transitions in grade are smooth, whether for incline changes or the key transitions from an incline to a decline. All the controls are easy to access and large enough to notice while running. I do wish there was a more tactile feel to its buttons, especially since you’re going to typically be navigating them with sweaty fingers.

Controls include grade and speed level buttons with additional up/down buttons for each, a large fan, audio volume, start and stop, and an emergency magnetic button which instantly stops the treadmill when dislodged. One of its greatest features though is that you can go anywhere that Google Street View has captured. And not just on the flats, the machine can automatically (or manually) adjust the incline up to 40 degrees and to a decline of up to 6 degrees providing the largest range of any incline trainer.

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Photo Credit: NordicTrack
Photo Credit: NordicTrack

This allows users to train on iconic courses such as the Boston Marathon, NYC Marathon or any of the Majors courses. Plus, with its worldwide reach, you can visit Machu Picchu, run an African Safari, climb the Mont Blanc, trek to Everest Base Camp or do multi-stage routes such as Daring the Dolomites or the Grand Canyon all in a day. However, I generally found that the X22i followed the ups and downs of courses, but with a bit of a lag between the images shown on screen and the incline or decline of the treadmill. I did wish the status bar displayed vertical ascent and descent during workouts.

While setting up runs on the touch screen is less user-friendly, doing so on the iFit website is a much easier option. From there, you can see and select all roads or click segments on the map to create your route with the distance, profile and elevation gain summarized. Then back at the X22i, select the route you set up and connect via Wi-Fi to get it to load.

Your iFit subscription also includes access to maps and workouts for other ProForm and NordicTrack equipment such as cycling. The X22i will operate as a normal manual treadmill at any time including after your first free year of iFit if you chose not to subscribe monthly. All iFit workouts can also be displayed on tablets, so that you can take your runs with you should at the gym. Included with the X22i is a Bluetooth chest strap heart rate monitor and a set of weights that adjust from 2.5 to 12.5 pounds.

The NordicTrack X22i Interactive Incline Trainer is priced at $2,999 and includes one year of the iFit coach workouts and mapping ($15/month after first year).

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