Cardio Training

Choosing the Right Cardio Machine

Picking the right cardio machine can be a difficult task. Today there is an endless number of machines to choose from and making the right choice can be overwhelming. There are several factors to consider when deciding which machine is right for you. First, lets look at some of these factors that may impact your choice of machine and then we will discuss the pros and cons of the most popular pieces of equipment available.

The first criteria you should look at when purchasing a machine is your current fitness level. If you’ve been stuck on the couch for that past five years you’re not going to be able to jump on a treadmill and run for an hour a day. Also, you need to consider your weight and the impact a cardio machine may have on your joints. The machine should be able to offer different levels of difficulty in order to increase intensity as your fitness level improves.

Second, you have to enjoy using the machine that you purchase. If you dread your workouts your not going to continue using the machine. It will end up an expensive clothes line in your basement and your goals of getting fit will suffer. Make sure you test out the machines you are considering in the store before you make a purchase. Everyone looks excited and happy to use the machine in the infomercials. Don’t take someone else’s word for it, get on the machine so you can make an informed decision.

The third criteria to consider is space. Some of these machines are big; like large sofa big. Measure the space you have before going out and looking at machines. Measure not only the space in which the machine will sit but the doorways and path it must travel to get to that spot. The first elliptical I purchased required me to remove three doors in the house and that was after we dismantled the machine.

The last criteria is cost. Budgets are tight these days and exercise equipment can be very costly. A cardio machine is a big investment but also a very important one. Nothing is more important than your health so make sure you take that into consideration when deciding how exercise fits in your budget. That being said, you don’t have to break the bank to find a machine that offers what you need. Do the research and you can find an affordable machine. The second hand market for exercise equipment is huge. If a new machine isn’t feasible, look at Craigslist or eBay. Just be sure that you test out similar new pieces of equipment before making a purchase.

Now let’s look at the pros and cons of three of the most popular pieces of equipment:

Treadmill

The treadmill is probably the most popular and easy to use piece of equipment available.Whether you’re new to exercise or a fitness enthusiast, the treadmill offers a good workout option for all fitness levels. For a fitness novice walking on a treadmill is the safest and easiest way to start getting healthy. For those of us who live with below freezing winters walking outside can be a frigid method of staying in shape. Having a treadmill allows you to get exercise when you want in a controlled climate. For the fitness enthusiast treadmills today come with incline control, heart rate monitors and a variety of challenging programs built into the machines.

There can be drawbacks to the treadmill as well. Some people don’t want to walk in place and find the treadmill to be too boring. Also, if you are going to eventually run on the treadmill, you need to consider the impact on your joints. Being a former college and professional athlete, this is a big consideration for me. My joints have taken a beating over the years so I have to be careful that I choose a treadmill that has a softer deck. This is an option that can be quite costly so make sure you test before you buy.

Some things to consider when buying a treadmill are weight capacity, the amount of time it will be used daily and the number of people that will be using the machine. Be sure that the machine you purchase is rated highly enough to handle your weight. If you weigh over 300 pounds you are going to need a machine that is rated to handle that much weight. If you choose a machine that is only rated for 250 pounds you will burn up the motor and waste your money. The time you spend on the machine and the number of users also factor in. Make sure you consider how much use the machine will get when deciding on what level of machine you purchase.

Elliptical Trainer

In recent years the elliptical trainer has made a huge surge in popularity. Elliptical trainers allow users to burn a similar number of calories to treadmill users without the impact to the joints. The motion of the elliptical trainer mimics that of walking or running however your feet never leave the pedal. This makes the piece of equipment very low-impact. For individuals who have joint pain or struggle with running due to weight, this machine is a great way to burn up the calories without the pain. Another advantage of the elliptical trainer is the upper body workout. Most elliptical trainers today come with handles that simulate a cross county skiing action. This allows users to get an upper body workout and burn even more calories.

When using the elliptical trainer be sure to keep good posture. This will put less strain on the back which can be a complaint for the elliptical trainer. Also, be sure not to lean into the handles too much. Working the arms is great but don’t try to support your weight with the handles. Let you lower body do the heavy lifting and your back will thank you.

Know what to look for when purchasing an elliptical trainer. Check the stride length. Some machines only come with a 14 inch stride which is too short for most average sized users. Try to find a machine with an adjustable stride length that extends to 20 inches or so. If you are over 6 feet tall this is a must. Next, get on the machine and see if the motion is smooth. It should feel like you’re gliding on air. If the motion is jerky or awkward move on to a different machine. Find an elliptical machine that has an upper body option. Most machines today have this feature as well as static bars for those times when you want to focus only on your legs. Other options to consider are adjustable incline, adjustable resistance, and interactive features such as heart rate monitors and customized workout programs. Weight capacity is also a key factor in the purchase of an elliptical trainer. Again, be sure that the machine is rated high enough to accommodate your weight or your machine will not hold up.

Stationary Bike

There are two types of stationary bikes to consider: upright or recumbent. Regardless of which type you choose, both styles offer a good lower body cardiovascular workout.  Let’s look at the upright bike first. The upright stationary bike is very similar to your average bicycle. The feel of the upright bike more closely imitates riding an actual bicycle. The most common complaint regarding the upright stationary bike is that the seats are not comfortable.

The recumbent bike places the body in a more reclined position with your feet out in front of your body. Recumbent bikes are definitely more comfortable than the upright bikes due to the chair or bucket style seats on a recumbent. These bikes are generally safer and easier to use than an upright bike. Recumbent bikes are a great choice for the fitness novice, individuals who are obese, and the elderly because the ease of use and comfortable, safe seats.

Go to the store and test each style of bike to be certain which type suits you best. After you’ve made your decision, there are several things to consider before you buy. Think about the space available in your home for a stationary bike. The recumbent bikes take up considerably more space, so be sure to measure the bike before buying. Also, check the stability of the bike. The upright bikes are more “tippy” than the recumbent bikes. Make sure to check the base of either type of bike. If the base isn’t wide enough the bike may not have the needed stability. Handles are another place to check for comfort in both types of bike. The padded handles are more comfortable but obviously don’t wear as well as the hard handles. Lastly, look over the console and programs for the bike. Make sure the console is easy to read and navigate. Most bikes offer at least 5 different programs and some as many as 20. Cost will likely determine the how many programs and extra features are on the bike.

Other machines that are worth taking a look at include rowing machines and stair climbers or steppers. These machines can offer great workouts as well. Whichever machine you choose be sure it fits your lifestyle. The last thing you want in your home is a $500-$1000 clothes rack. If you can’t see yourself using the machine several times a week it won’t be worth the cost. However, if you decide to make the purchase and can commit to using the machine, it will pay for itself quickly. With increasing gym membership costs it doesn’t take long for the money to add up. Also, your time is valuable and the time savings are wonderful. Shop smart and enjoy your road to fitness.

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