TREADMILLS AROUND THE WORLD

Yesterday I jogged through Central Park in New York. Today I’m going to the Grand Canyon. Tomorrow I’ll hit the trail at the Great Wall of China.

All from the comfort of my basement.

What, you say? Do I have nine gazillion frequent flyer miles? Do I own my own airline? Nothing that complicated. I’ve just got a VERY smart treadmill.

IFit LIVE

The Pro-Form treadmill uses a program called IFit Live, manufactured by Icon Fitness of Logan, Utah, and is the first exercise equipment to be connected directly to the Internet. That allows you to customize your route to anywhere in the world. Yesterday I programmed in Central Park. It’s a 3-mile course and as I’m plodding along I see the sites of Central Park on my laptop screen (I could just as well hook it up to my big screen television). When I hit a hill on the course, the machine automatically adjusts and programs that grade into my own course. I see the roads in Central Park, complete with taxis, pedestrians, and park scenery, just like I was there.

Icon Fitness has partnered with Google® Maps to provide courses literally anywhere in the world. And, it’s not just pre-programmed courses. It’s the middle of January, there’s two feet of snow on the ground, but you still want to run around the neighborhood? No problem. Just call up your address on the computer and then program in your route — whatever streets you want or don’t want to run. The course will then adjust your course accordingly, with appropriate inclines. Plus, you’ll see where you’re running.

An Evolution of Technology

Icon Fitness began experimenting with these interactive courses a decade ago. The first products included VHS tapes that showed a particular course, and then adjusted the treadmill program to match the geography. DVDs came later, but these products had only limited success because people found it cumbersome. Another problem was price. “Too many people didn’t want to pay $20 and then just have one course on a video,” says Icon.

The new technology has no such limits. If the area is on Google Maps, it can be a course for you. There are a number of pre-programmed courses, such as Central Park, Death Valley, Grand Canyon and other exotic locales, but the courses are really infinite. You can chart a course wherever you want to go in the world.

A Lot More than a Map

This treadmill offers a lot more than just map programming. Besides the usual tracking of calories, miles, incline and the like, the treadmill will also provide custom profiles for you, tracking your progress over any period you want. Training for a certain event? You can program the computer to get you ready and to monitor your progress.

The “world’s toughest trainer” — Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser fame — is also part of the application. She will ‘coach’ you as you run. There are also programs to help you keep track of your diet.

The computer module is sold separately from the actual treadmill. It can also be installed on Icon Fitness elliptical, where the voice of Jillian Michaels and the diet and activity tracking are available.

Are you the competitive type? You can set the treadmill on ‘compete’ mode and go up against pre-programmed competitors. Or you can have a friend enter their data and then compete against them on any course you want.

And in keeping with the “high tech, high touch” environment, you can even receive motivating text messages and e-mails to spur you to improve your workouts. There’s also a music port for your iPod®.

Six inches of snow outside? Nothing on television? Why not run the beach at Waikiki? From your home, of course.

-Fitness Fanatic

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