495e13e6197798755c8c2ff677d627d7Whether you’re a seasoned gym rat or have never set foot on anything more challenging than an escalator, chances are you’re aware of at least some of the exciting advances in today’s exercise technology. No one can escape the commercials and ads featuring perfectly sculpted paragons of fitness gliding along effortlessly on sleek machines, almost as if they are floating on air. For decades, the trusty treadmill has been a workout mainstay for millions, but it was only a matter of time before progress caught up and offered us a variety of ways to shake up our cardio routine. But what, exactly, is so good about the new way of doing things?

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The Rise of the 3-in-1 Workout Machine

Let’s face it, everyone is looking for more bang for their buck these days, so a single machine that offers multiple workouts and myriad benefits seems like a no-brainer. But there are some big differences between the top sellers, so it’s important to know how they stack up against one another.

The Bowflex TreadClimber

With several new and used models available, the Bowflex TreadClimber is unique among 3-in-1 machines due to its build. Imagine a treadmill made up of 2 smaller, individual, side-by-side tread belts (one for each foot) that operate independently of each other. They are set at an incline and, as one falls, the other rises to give a sensation that most describe as walking up a sandy hill. The TreadClimber combines the motion of a treadmill, stair stepper and an elliptical to deliver a workout that manages to be low impact while building endurance AND burning more calories per session than a treadmill or elliptical (set at the same speed). Pros:

  • 3-in-1 workout for multiple results (cardio, endurance, definition)
  • Low impact action makes this a great choice for people with joint issues
  • Burns up to 2.5x more calories per session than single purpose machines when set at the same speed
  • Adjustable speed and tension
  • Available in several new and used models at several outlets
  • Ease of finding used models can lower cost
  • Easy enough for a beginner to use


  • Pricing can run high, depending on the model
  • With a maximum speed of 4 to 4.5 mph, running is out of the question
  • Unlike the FreeStride, the fixed handles mean little to no upper body workout
  • Not as much workout variation as the FreeStride

Bowflex TreadClimber Models and Where to Get Them

If you choose to buy directly from Bowflex, they are currently selling 2 models. The more economical option, the Bowflex TreadClimber TC 100, starts at $2199.00, while the TC 200 starts at $3299.00. The good news is that special features like multi-user tracking, a built-in media shelf and USB charging port are standard in both models, but only the Bowflex TreadClimber TC 200 boasts 5 separate workout programs, a wireless heartrate monitor and Bluetooth connectivity that syncs with the (free for this model) TreadClimber App so you can set and track your fitness goals. Let’s say you’re interested in a new machine, but don’t need all the bells and whistles. The Bowflex Treadclimber TC 10 is solid machine that offers the same speed and tension settings as it’s swankier siblings and features a simple LCD screen that tracks speed, distance, time, and calories. It is currently available on Amazon for around $1600.00 and at Walmart for $999.00. There are also used and refurbished Bowflex TreadClimbers available on Amazon, eBay, Overstock.com and Fitness Superstore that run the price gamut from $700.00 to $1899.00, depending on the model. Some of these models are out of production and may present customer support and repair issues, so buyer beware.

The NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer

This artfully designed 3-in-1 machine also offers its own combination of a treadmill, stair stepper and an elliptical, but in a different way than the TreadClimber. The NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer is more elliptical than treadmill, with cushioned pedals that move on belts. The ‘floating stride’ mechanism allows the users to change the length and trajectory of their stride at will. FreeStrider users can switch from short, up-and-down strides to longer strides of up to 38 inches, therefore changing the type of workout they get at any given time. And, because the pedals are attached to belt rather than fixed, there is virtually no impact. Pros:

  • 3-in-1 workout for multiple results
  • Offers even lower impact than the TreadClimber
  • Easily adjustable range of motion, speed and incline
  • Moving ‘ski pole’ handles provide upper body workout
  • Slightly cheaper than comparable TreadClimber models
  • Much greater workout variation than the TreadClimber
  • Easy enough for a beginner to use


  • Pricing is high, compared to machines that offer only one type of workout
  • NordicTrack has yet to run testing as to calorie-burning performance, so we don’t know how it really compares to the TreadClimber’s
  • Only 2 new models currently available and only at NordicTrack

NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer Models and Where to Get Them

Right now the only way to purchase a new FreeStride Trainer is directly from NordicTrack and, of the 3 models offered, only 2 are currently in stock. There are also a few used options on eBay. The NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS7i, at $1999.00, is the more cost-effective choice and features integrated handle controls, a 7-inch, web-enabled color touch screen, 35 different workout apps and 24 resistance levels. Add 3 more workout apps, a 10-inch touch screen, 2 extra resistance levels and a higher weight capacity and you’ve got the NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS9i, retailing at $2999.00. Both machines come enabled with iFit, which in NordicTrack’s ‘smart fitness’ home training brand. It allows you to access things like training resources, custom workouts, Google Maps training routes, social media community, etc.

But Are There Cheaper 3-in-1 Options?

If a you crave a 3-in-1 option but don’t want to break the bank, there is another way to go, but it doesn’t offer the simultaneous workouts that the TreadClimber and FreeStride Trainer offer. Fitness companies such as Body Flex Sports, Body Rider and Body Power have all developed their own versions of a 3-in1 Trio-Trainer which allow you to work out in recumbent bike, stationary bike or elliptical modes. They range in price from just below $300.00 to nearly $700.00 and finding one is never hard, since they are available at places like Amazon, Walmart, Sears, Kmart, Hayneedle, Jet.com and many others. No matter how much or how little cash you spend, though, any one of these machines has the potential to be one of the wisest investments you can make. Setting aside time for a fitness routine will enhance and improve your life by aiding in weight loss, increasing stamina, boosting health and elevating your mood. Now you just need to decide which one you want.

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