Back in 2007, I ran on a treadmill for 90 minutes. Because of the impact on my joints, this caused an injury which left me barely able to walk for about two months and, as any runner can tell you, getting over a running injury can take time. Lots of time. So, my advice to you is to not run for 90 minutes on a treadmill (unless you’re a nutter called Phil Anthony who ran 100km on a treadmill in 6 hours and beat the world record. Sorry – did I say ‘nutter’? I meant ‘superhero’). Obviously it’s not just treadmills that can cause an injury – road running puts a lot of pressure on your joints, too, and so the folks at Octane Fitness invented the Zero Runner.
As the name suggests, it’s a running machine with zero impact on your joints. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a cross between a treadmill and a cross-trainer though – it’s not. The Zero Runner has mechanical hip and knee joints that replicate human biomechanics in running and the user controls the motion, with the Zero Runner following the runner’s movement.
It’s been around for a while in the US and has now been brought to the UK, where it’s sold exclusively by Fitness Superstore, who invited me to come along to one of their stores for a demo.
On my arrival at the Tunbridge Wells store, the manager, Malcolm, greeted me, along with Ricky who set me up on the Zero Runner and talked me through it. The first thing I noticed about the Zero Runner is its size. Considering it’s for home use (you won’t find them in gyms), it’s a big machine, but, as Malcolm pointed out, compared to a treadmill – which are a few feet long – the Zero Runner’s footprint is actually quite small. On the plus side though, because it’s self-powered there’s no motor which means there’s no need to plug it in which in turns makes it quiet while also not increasing your energy bills.
You can link up the Zero Runner to Octane Fitness’ free SmartLink app on your iPad and set up programs and workouts and watch videos that will walk you through everything. If you don’t have an iPad, as you’d expect, the Zero Runner has a console that shows basic stats such as pace, speed, calories burnt, distance, etc. It also has wireless heart rate technology for Polar, ANT+ and Bluetooth.
So, what is it like to use? After a quick demo from Ricky, I hopped on to the Zero Runner and tried to make the paddles move and failed. I ended up kind of scissoring my legs without bending my knees. I asked Ricky how long it takes to get used to it and he said it’s usually around a minute or so, so I persevered for a while longer before jumping off and asking Malcolm (Ricky had gone to help a customer) to show me how it’s done. This time I paid more attention to his leg movements and when I went back on for another go, I quickly got into the swing of it. As I mentioned above, the Zero Runner isn’t like a cross-trainer. It doesn’t move for you – you make it move and it follows your movements and, once you realise you can make a natural running movement, it’s really effective.
When I’d finished my demo, I was so impressed I wanted one. Space is at an issue at the moment with the conservatory (where the rest of the home gym equipment is) currently being used as storage for kitchen stuff (the kitchen’s currently being demolished/decorated) but also The Zero Runner isn’t cheap at £2,699 at the time of writing. No decent piece of gym equipment is cheap though and this is a multi-purpose machine which, as well as a running machine, can be used as a cross-trainer (you can change the resistance on the arms) and skiing machine. You can also strength train on it with the included resistance band which can be attached at 7 points.
Zero impact to protect your joints
Replicates road running
Fully customisable flexible stride options
Ideal for runners who want to avoid injury or are coming back from injury
Great supplement to outdoor training
No energy bills
More fun than a treadmill
It’s a big machine
I can’t afford one
To see the Zero Runner in use by someone who knows what they’re doing, watch this video.
The Zero Runner is exclusive to Fitness Superstore. To arrange a demo at one of their stores in Leeds, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells, Frimley, Gloucester or Northampton, contact them on 01604 673000 or visit their website at www.fitness-superstore.co.uk/zero-runner for more information.