Percent incline: cautionary tale

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  • #30343

    After reading both books, I started looking all over uptown Manhattan for suitably steep slopes for sprints.

    Eventually, I figured out that there are free apps for my Android phone to aid in the process. The one I currently use is called Clinometer.

    In the meantime, I have done a few HR drift AeT tests on the treadmills in the gym, since my gas exchange test results produced more heat than light.

    I had read claims on other forums that treadmills (presumably the same could be said of stairmills) are notoriously inconsistent with respect to pace. I.e., there is a lot of variability on a single machine over, say, an hour. Just because you set it at 3.3 mph, doesn’t mean that it isn’t going BOTH faster and slower than 3.3 within that hour.

    I have not tried to verify this by, for example, looking for some identifying mark on the belt and measuring its cycle time over an hour.

    But that got me wondering how accurate the incline readings were. My gym has about 30 or so treadmills, but I only recently discovered that two of them are particularly helpful for my UA ambitions. They (1) have a max incline of 30% instead of 15%, and (2) they do NOT have a 30-minute maximum workout duration.

    My earlier HR drift test were involved taking short breaks between the warm-up and the first 30-minute segment, and another short break between the first and second segments.

    Last week I used a new (for me) treadmill for a HR drift test. After I completed the test at a nominal 14.5% incline, I took out my phone and measured the incline to be between 11.2 and 11.3%.

    Now, it could be that my phone is not accurate, but I have more faith in it than I do in my gym’s maintenance crew.

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    Anonymous on #30349

    Good for you for checking this out.

    I’ve seen this on treadmills, my own Nordic Track incline trainer is wildly inaccurate in terms of speed and incline. I have calibrated it using a mark on the belt and it is off by around 1min/mile!! I have checked the incline with a inclinometer and it’s way off too.

    Semple has the same problem with his Nordic Track incline trainer. I think the best we can hope for is consistency: The grade may not be accurate compared to the reading on the machine but at least the grade does not change. As for speed, I have not tested how it changes over the short term (during one use) but The variation in speed must be relatively small as it is insensible to me when I’m on the t-mill.


    Mariner_9 on #30350

    From memory I think the Cloisters has some stairs that might work for hill sprints.

    Alternatively you could try a high rise at Columbia if they have any (?). Probably easier to access the stairs there than in an office or apartment building.

    briguy on #30352

    It’s not much good for the incline issue, but a good high-quality footpod can address the variable speed problem with treadmills. I use a Stryd and recommend it, but you don’t have to go that expensive for simple pace measurement. Works great for traveling as hotel treadmills are horribly maintained and therefore usually wildly inaccurate.

    Anonymous on #30358

    I don’t know if maintenance is the issue. My incline trainer was off from the beginning.

    My solution is to calibrate it whenever I’m using it to train by pace, sometimes multiple calibrations as I change pace or incline. It’s always faster than what it reports, never slower.

    Good, accurate machines exist (Woodway), but they’re about 4x the price.

    And I guess anything with a tablet holder and/or a maximum workout time isn’t really designed for fitness anyway…

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