Tips for Using Cardio Machines

Yesterday, I went to the gym and did what I affectionately call the Cardio Sampler. I did 10 to 15 minutes on each of the elliptical, the stair climber, the rower, and the treadmill. (Since I go to spin between one and three times per week, I skipped the stationary bikes.)

So many people pound away on some of these machines, looking for various results, but have issues that will significantly hinder their progress. Let me help you not be one of those people!

On the treadmill, elliptical, and especially the stair climber — let go of the rails! You want your weight to be on your legs. The more weight you take off your legs, the less effective using the machine is.

“But I can’t go as fast when I don’t lean.” That’s exactly the point.

Also, leaning takes away some of the balance component. Maintaining balance uses your core, so hanging on or leaning robs you of the opportunity to work your core a bit and to strengthen your balance skills. (Yes, balance is a skill.)

Go only as fast as you can without holding on.

The exception is the elliptical machine with arms that move. Grab on and use them! Often, people will just hold on. Instead, pump your arms and legs. You’ll need to increase the difficulty level, as pushing and pulling with your arms will take some of the work away from your legs, and, as we’ve already established, you don’t want that. This is one way to get a full-body cardio workout.

One final note: when you use the treadmill, make sure always to have at least a tiny bit of incline. Your calves are worked differently since your walking surface is moving. Some incline helps to re-engage the calves.

If you’re going to bother to go to the gym, you might as well use good form, make it hard, and get the most out of your time.

Now go do it!

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