Walking Without Worry

Accessible Treadmills Make Workouts...Almost Fun

by Nolan Crabb

Jefferson City, Missouri

If tedium and treadmills are synonymous with one another for you, it may be because you have never used a truly accessible treadmill. Imagine enjoying a treadmill workout with full access to features, including adjustments to the rate and incline of your walk, without ever searching for a button, stepping on the sides of your treadmill to adjust a knob, or worrying about information on the display. Such carefree workouts are possible and easily achieved with the right kind of treadmill, and you won't break the bank buying it.

Exercise equipment that includes iFIT technology is made accessible through signals sent to the equipment from another device in the form of chirps or clicks. The iFIT technology allows you to operate your treadmill, elliptical or bike using your computer, CD player or MP3 player. You never have to touch a button or ask anyone to read the display.

To learn more about the iFIT technology and to buy workout CDs that provide words of encouragement from a trainer as your treadmill automatically controls your workout, visit If you have some vision and would rather operate your treadmill from your VCR, videos that take you on walking tours of Yosemite National Park, the Canadian Rockies or the hills of San Francisco are also available.

What if you don't want to buy workout CDs or videos? What if you would really like to develop your own workouts? You can, and the software to do it is inexpensive and accessible with JAWS 7 or Window-Eyes 5.5 screen readers. You can determine how long and rigorous your workouts will be--a real advantage if you don't want to use the pre-packaged workouts sold at

To download the workout creation software for $29.95, visit Read the information on the Web site carefully to ensure that you have a treadmill compatible with the iFIT technology. You will need a computer that runs at least Windows 95, but Windows 98 or Windows XP is better. You may also need to download Visual Basic 6 Runtime Library from the site, but I don't recommend downloading this additional software unless you receive an error message when you attempt to run i2Workout for the first time.

Once the software is installed successfully, workout creation can begin. Please check with your physician before creating your first workout. You can create workouts that are too strenuous without knowing it. While engaged in a workout that was more difficult than I realized, I remember thinking, "I'd like to kill the so-and-so who designed this." Only to recognize rather ruefully that I was doing exactly that!

To begin, open the Options Menu (alt-o) and be sure your equipment is selected. Then, specify whether you want your results displayed in pounds and miles or in kilograms and kilometers. If you wish, fill in your current weight so the software can make rough predictions regarding the amount of calories you will burn during specific workouts.

The first thing that appears when the software is loaded is an edit box labeled Segment 1. If you press tab once, you will enter a combo edit box in which to specify the length of the first segment of your workout. Note that most iFIT-compatible equipment won't perform well if your segments are shorter than one minute in length. Press the up arrow until you hear your screen reader announce "1 o'clock." This indicates that your segment is one minute long. Pressing the up arrow adds a second to the length of the segment each time it is pressed; pressing page up increases the segment length by 10 seconds at a time.

Another tap of the tab key places you in the Speed Edit Box. The default speed is one mile an hour. Change the default to the speed you want for the first segment using the up arrow key. Good exercise conventional wisdom says to start slowly and increase your speed gradually. Press tab again and move into the Incline Edit Box. The up arrow key will advance your incline in increments of 1, 1.5, 2, etc.

Now press alt-i to insert a new segment, which will already be labeled Segment 2, and tab through the combo edit boxes again, specifying your desired speed and incline settings.

When you are done, open the File Menu (alt-f) and select Save. The file will have a .txt extension, but it doesn't appear as a traditional text file. When the file is saved, you can decide whether you want to create an MP3 version to download to your iPod or an MP3 CD player. If you want to make an MP3 file of your workout, open the File Menu again (alt-f) and select Make File. Navigate to a second Make File button if you don't plan to use any music with your file. I never use the music, since the song has to be interrupted so that the next control chirp to the treadmill is surrounded by silence, but you could create a play list of your favorite exercise tunes. After you have executed the second Make File button with the spacebar or enter key, you will be prompted for a file name; the MP3 extension is already provided. To conclude this process, you will have to use your JAWS cursor or your Window-Eyes mouse keys to find the Exit button at the bottom of the screen.

Once the file is created, you can burn it to a CD, put it on a memory card or store it however you choose. I have controlled my treadmill perfectly with an MP3 CD player and with my PAC Mate. I have even created an audio CD of six 10-minute workouts I used when I was just getting started. The audio CD will play in any CD player in your house. Simply connect the CD player to your treadmill with a long patch cord, which may have been included with your iFIT-compatible treadmill.

Treadmills that are iFIT compatible are sold at Wal-Mart, Sears and sporting goods stores. Brands of treadmills that are compatible with iFIT technology include ProForm®, Reebok®, NordicTrack®, HealthRider®, Precor® and Image®. There may well be others. Just remember when shopping for a treadmill to ask for one that is iFIT-compatible.

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