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Our Dream Piece of Fitness Equipment

We are fairly certain that it is every pregnant runner’s dream to be able to run throughout her pregnancy. So when a few easy miles start to feel less than dreamy, finding an alternative that still delivers a runner's high is essential. And while low-impact running options like elliptical trainers, water jogging and even super-fancy anti-gravity treadmills are out there, few things are as good as the real thing.

Octane Fitness knows this all too well, which is why the Minnesota-based company invented the Zero Runner—a sleek hybrid of a treadmill and an elliptical trainer that approximates running with, you guessed it, zero impact. Athletes have flocked to it, including Olympian and soon-to-be mom of three Carrie Tollefson (who is a fan and a face of the brand) and elite runner and mom Kara Goucher. The newest addition to the fold, the high-performance ZR8 ($4,299), is taking no-impact running to a new level. We tried it.

Take a Load Off

The ZR8's benefits are clear for runners who want to train smarter and more efficiently without risking injury, and those advantages pertain perfectly to moms-to-be (and new moms alike) that want to do the same. Light aluminum legs and unique hip and knee joints allow for two things that elliptical trainers don’t: a full stride and heel kick. And unlike the moving belt of a treadmill, which helps move your legs along, the ZR8 forces your hamstrings to engage continuously. (There's a dose of that increased efficiency.)

Accustomed to feeling somewhat boxed in by the predetermined pattern of ellipticals, we found our new-found freedom—the range of motion is remarkable—both thrilling and a bit unfamiliar. Take it slow in the beginning. During our maiden voyage, we felt like a kid trying out ice skates for the first time: a little unsure, a little unsteady. But once in the groove (moving handles offer added stability), you'll feel right at home. A variety of resistance levels lets you control the workout and a SmartLink app traces your stride length and heel-kick height so you can view your mechanics in real time and adjust accordingly. (Garmin smartwatches can be connected to the ZR8 so all your workouts can be documented.) A gym version will debut later this year, but be prepared in the meantime: A few miles on this and you might never return to the treadmill or elliptical again.

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